Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by the City of Newcastle upon Tyne (IT 91)

THE GOVERNMENT'S WHITE PAPER ON THE FUTURE OF TRANSPORT

1. SYNOPSIS

  Newcastle City Council welcomes the Government's "New Deal" for transport. The objectives of the revised national transport policy are broadly in accordance with local transport policies adopted by the Council. The recent White Paper is viewed as a scoping document and it is anticipated that detailed guidance will be forthcoming in the "daughter documents". Local Authorities are well placed to lead the preparation of the new Local Transport Plans. Their current joint responsibility as highway and planning authority is highly appropriate for developing the co-ordinated approach to land-use and transportation planning envisaged in the White Paper. In Metropolitan areas such as Tyneside, the Passenger Transport Authority has a valuable but supporting role to play in the future development of public transport. Effective partnerships with neighbouring authorities, Government agencies and the private sector are essential to achieve integrated and sustainable transport systems. The City Council is keen to pursue pro-active strategies to improve transportation locally. In order to realised the potential benefits of these strategies, the Council is reliant upon Central Government to maintain the current momentum for and commitment to improving transportaton in the UK.

2. INTRODUCTION

  Government published its Transport White Paper, entitled "A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone" on 21 July 1998. The White Paper sets out Government's priorities for transport policy, representing a fundamental shift in emphasis from previous policies. The New Deal for transport is intended to maximise the benefits of efficient, sustainable and integrated transport whilst addressing the current and worsening adverse impacts that our demands for transport place upon our health, safety, communities and environment. Newcastle City Council welcomes the overall emphasis of Government's new deal for transport.

  Whilst the Government has been careful not to be portrayed as "anti car", it recognises the need to change the ways in which cars are used and the difficulty in achieving the necessary changes in culture and lifestyle. The emphasis of the White Paper is very much on the issue of traffic congestion, perhaps reflecting problems faced by London and the South East, rather than on broader issues relating to local transport problems. Consequently, implementation of the measures set out in the White Paper is perhaps most readily achievable in heavily urbanised areas.

  The broad scope of the White Paper precludes detailed analysis of particular transport issues. Hence, the paper is considered to be a framework document, outlining polices and illustrating good practice. Evidently, the commitment to present detailed policy guidance in a series of subsequent "daughter" documents is expected to elaborate and inform in greater detail on the mechanisms for delivering specific aspects of the New Deal. It is envisaged and hoped that there will be scope for consultation without precluding the timely delivery of this essential guidance. Newcastle City Council awaits the publication of the daughter documents with interest.

3. THE NEW DEAL FOR TRANSPORT

  The components of the New Deal for Transport are:

    —  better places to live;

    —  local transport plans;

    —  better buses;

    —  better trains;

    —  better protection for the environment;

    —  better safety and personal security;

    —  a more inclusive society;

    —  moving goods sustainably;

    —  sharing decisions and modernising local democracy;

    —  everyone doing their bit.

  In view of the objectives for transport policy as outlined in the White Paper, these elements are irrefutably appropriate and entirely desirable. Indeed, to a large degree they are consistent with the objectives pursued through both Newcastle's Transport Policies and Programme and successive Tyne & Wear Package Documents in recent years. Nevertheless these local priorities have been achieved with only limited success and publication of the White Paper is seen as a shift in national transport policy that will enhance opportunities to achieve local aspirations for the future development of transport systems.

4. MAKING IT HAPPEN

  At the local level, there are a number of key issues arising from the White Paper that will be fundamental to the future planning and implementation of transport policies in Newcastle. Each of these key issues is discussed in the following sections.

Local Transport Plans

  Local Transport Plans (LTP's) are the centrepiece of the Government's proposals for the creation of integrated and sustainable local transport systems. LTP's will replace the current Transport Policies and Programme as annual bids for capital spending for transport. The LTP will set out a five-year forward programme to meet local transport needs which is likely to be funded through a block spending allocation from central government. In particular, any improvement in the security of funding for major transport schemes will be most welcome. It is anticipated that within this five-year cycle, Authorities will be required to seek approval and report progress to Government periodically but it should be noted that the greatest possible degree of local autonomy is likely to be in the best interests of implementing the LTP.

  The geographical scope of a local transport plan is not defined in the White Paper. Implicitly, it may be considered that a local plan relates to the district level of local government in the Metropolitan areas and the County Councils in the two-tier framework. However, there are many important cross-boundary transportation issues between neighbouring districts, especially in the Metropolitan areas. Indeed, these cross-boundary issues and the need for integrated solutions were, at least in part, the rationale for a Package Approach.

  Newcastle City Council has established effective working relationships through a voluntary partnership with the neighbouring districts of Gateshead, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and the City of Sunderland. This partnership has led to the preparation of successive successful Tyne & Wear Package Submissions. Similarly, the Passenger Transport Authority/Nexus plays a valuable role in providing area-wide co-ordination of public transport throughout Tyneside. It is considered that these working relationships will be continued during the preparation of a Tyneside Local Transport Plan. Meanwhile, the City of Sunderland is likely to take the lead in the preparation of a Wearside Local Transport Plan.

  Nevertheless, the existing arrangements for planning local transport are not beyond improvement. In particular there is a growing need to consider cross-boundary travel beyond the Metropolitan area and it is hoped that arrangements for preparation of LTP's will be sufficiently flexible to enable consideration of issues jointly with those Authorities responsible for transportation in the hinterland of the Metropolitan areas. It is envisaged that authorities will be able to determine the most appropriate partnership arrangements for the development of their LTP's. Nevertheless, there is an implicit acknowledgement that comprehensive coverage at a regional level must be achieved through the combined coverage of relevant Local Transport Plans. There is a need for concerted co-operative working and co-ordination at the local level to achieve this.

Public Transport Improvement

  Fundamental improvements in the operation, co-ordination and efficiency of public transport services are an essential element in the delivery of the "New Deal" for transport. Throughout the Metropolitan area of Tyne and Wear, the Passenger Transport Authority/Nexus are responsible for the co-ordination of public transport provision. Evidently, the PTA/Nexus will continue to play a valuable, but supporting, role in the preparation and delivery of the Local Transport Plan. It is anticipated that the Planning and Highway Authorities will continue to lead the transportation planning process, which has a far broader scope than the development of an integrated public transport network alone. This is an especially appropriate arrangement as the public transport network itself is largely reliant upon the highway network.

  Provisions in the White Paper for the continued development of Quality Partnerships and the introduction of Quality Contracts are especially welcome and relevant to the improvement of public transport. Existing Quality Partnerships have proved beneficial in drawing together the different actors necessary for the delivery of quality public transport services. The potential for exclusive operations and greater enforcement of standards through Quality Contracts may be most appropriate for the introduction of innovative services, which, at the outset, may be of only marginal commercial viability. Greater powers of enforcement are especially welcome with regard to priority access to the highway and the valuable role this will play in the future improvement of public transport.

Charging and Funding

  The White Paper outlines the scope for permissive provisions, at some time in the future, for Local Authorities to raise revenues from either road-use/congestion charging or a non-residential parking levy. Newcastle City Council does not wish to impose any additional taxes on residents and visitors believing this to be both inequitable and unnecessary. The imposition of road use charging would promote access to the City on the basis of willingness/ability to pay rather than need. The City Council generally supports policies intended to promote access for all and, where there is good reason to control access, this is most equitably achieved on the basis of need. Introduction of road-use charges would be incompatible with these policies.

  The introduction of a Non Residential Parking Levy, as an alternative to Road-Use Charging, is essentially a further tax on business in the City. The City Council is keen to encourage inward investment to facilitate economic regeneration and secure future economic growth. These objectives appear incompatible with the imposition of further taxes on business. It is clear that to maintain a level playing field during the introduction of any Non-residential Parking Levies, permissive legislation needs to be as comprehensive as possible, incorporating all land-uses classes and locations, particularly out-of-town retail centres. In particular, the exemption of out-of-town retail parking from the proposed parking levy is a potentially severe impediment to the future effectiveness and equity of this measure. The White Paper deals inadequately with wider concerns such as competitiveness between neighbouring authorities and the impacts of economic development initiatives.

  Newcastle City Council proposes to restrain traffic and promote public transport use for access to the City Centre through progressive and innovative management strategies for public parking places within the City. Presently, the City Council controls some 70 per cent of public parking places in the City Centre, affording sufficient control over parking charges to make them an effective mechanism for affecting travel behaviour. Nevertheless, within the local Metropolitan area there are different pressures within neighbouring districts and some guidance at the regional level on future changes in public parking charges and the provision of parking spaces would seem to be highly appropriate.

Partnerships

  The White Paper outlines a framework for future planning and implementation of integrated and sustainable transport systems. This framework will deliver benefits for the health, safety, community and environment of the City's residents. With regard to these broad objectives, the Local Authorities are well placed to lead local planning under the new regime, focussing on the development of Local Transport Plans. Nevertheless, many different actors have significant impacts on local transport systems, meaning that it will be essential to develop partnership arrangements to ensure success. In the realm of public transport, the PTA/Nexus are especially well placed to contribute to planning partnerships alongside the major public transport operators. Elsewhere, there is need for considerable and rapid development of the mechanisms to encourage preparation of Green Commuter Plans by major employers. Similarly, robust mechanisms need to be developed for formal consultations early in the development of local transport plans. It is anticipated that these mechanisms will build upon current practice within the Local Authorities.

Co-ordinated Transport and Land-use Planning

  The White Paper is expressly a transport policy document. Whilst its objectives require co-ordination of land-use and transportation planning, there is no clear guidance as to how this may be achieved. At the regional level, Regional Planning Guidance will consider land-use and transportation issues to set a framework for local planning. Locally, Newcastle's land-use strategy is set out in the adopted Unitary Development Plan. Future transport planning will be in the form of a Local Transport Plan. As the Authority with joint responsibility for planning and highways, Newcastle City Council appears to be best placed to lead the necessary co-ordinated approach to future land-use and transportation planning.

5. IMPLEMENTATION AND DELIVERY

  Following detailed consideration of the White Paper, Newcastle City Council would wish to express its broad support for the fundamental shift in Government transport policy outlined therein. Meanwhile, accepting that further detailed information will be forthcoming in the series of "daughter documents", there are a number of important issues of concern to be raised regarding the implementation and delivery of measures to achieve the objectives of the White Paper.

Time-scales

  The White Paper sets out measures that are reliant on future legislation, in particular permissive powers for introducing road-use charging and non-residential parking levies. Presently, there is no committed time-scale for introducing the legislation necessary to empower Local Authorities to bring forward measures such as those advocated in the White Paper. In the meantime, Government is simply requesting proposals for pilot projects. The public profile of transportation issues was raised during the build up to publication of the White Paper. Presently, there is a strong desire for change. It is critical that Parliamentary procedures do not serve to delay and frustrate the abilities of local authorities to pursue changes described in the Government's White Paper.

Funding

  It is clear that the White Paper makes no direct commitment to increased funding for transport. Implicitly, there is the potential for central government funding to be replaced by locally generated revenues from either road-use charges or non-residential parking levies in the future. Newcastle City Council is most concerned that those authorities opting to impose neither road-use charging or parking levies as part of their traffic restraint strategies are not penalised by any future reduction in funding from Central Government. Clearly, the opportunities to raise revenues for transport locally would not be welcome as a precursor to total devolution of all responsibility for generating funding for transportation to local government.

  In many areas of transport planning, publication of the "New Deal" has raised local expectations for improvements. For instance, raising the profile of Home Zones places severe pressures on local authorities to provide transport and environmental improvements in residential areas, many of which are not readily justifiable under any current funding mechanisms. Whilst the invitation for pilot schemes is welcome, this alone will fail to satisfy local expectations and without future committed funding there is a serious risk of impasse and disillusionment at the local level.

Guidance

  Newcastle City Council accepts that detailed guidance will be forthcoming within the "daughter documents", to be published in forthcoming months. There are particular needs and interests regarding the forthcoming guidance on local transport plans, charging, buses, railways and transport safety. The City Council requests opportunities for extensive consultation and feedback during the preparation and publication of this guidance. Nevertheless, these opportunities should not be allowed to unnecessarily delay publication of guidance documents.

Targets

  Preparation of the new Local Transport Plans will require definition of a range of locally-assessed targets, some of which are required in accordance with other legislation e.g. Road Traffic Reduction Act 1997, Environment Act (Air Quality) 1995. Whilst it is appropriate that local targets reflect local circumstances, it is inadequate for local authorities alone to set and achieve targets. Partnerships and consultation procedures have a role to play in the definition of targets however, there is need for a lead from Central Government and its agencies. For instance, the setting of targets for local traffic reduction will only be effectively achieved if targets are compatible with those of neighbouring Authorities and the Highways Agency. Clearly, fundamental reductions in total road traffic can only be achieved through national policy measures. Although local measures can effectively manage local traffic, the fiscal and legislative measures required for traffic reduction nationally can only be introduced by central government. Regionally, levels of economic activity, traffic congestion and many other factors will affect the definition of local traffic reduction targets. Hence some regional guidance on the settling of these targets is appropriate prior to action at the local level.

6. SUMMARY

  Newcastle City Council welcomes the Governments "New Deal" for transport. The objectives of the revised national transport policy are broadly in accordance with local transport policies adopted by the Council. The recent White Paper is viewed as a scoping document and it is anticipated that detailed guidance will be forthcoming in the "daughter documents". Local Authorities are well placed to lead the preparation of the new Local Transport Plans. Their current joint responsibility as highway and planning authority is highly appropriate for developing the co-ordinated approach to land-use and transportation planning envisaged in the White Paper. Nevertheless, effective partnerships with neighbouring authorities, Government agencies and the private sector are essential to achieve integrated and sustainable transport systems. The City Council is keen to pursue pro-active strategies to improve transportation locally. In order to realise the potential benefits of these strategies, the Council is reliant upon Central Government to maintain the current momentum for and commitment to improving transportation in the UK.

J F Miller

Head of Planning and Transportation

September 1998


 
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