Memorandum by the Green Party (IT 113)
TRANSPORT WHITE PAPER
The Green Party welcomes the Integrated Transport
Strategy White Paper published recently but feels that it does
not go far enough or fast enough.
It is not sufficiently radical and it is vague
about timescalessome measures may not be introduced for
many years. People are facing transport problems now and they
need to be addressed urgently. The proposals do not do enough
to move away from dominance by the car and shift towards less
environmentally damaging alternatives such as public transport,
walking and cycling. Pressure from business and the road lobby
seems to have watered down the original proposals.
We do welcome some initiatives, for example,
a comprehensive public transport information system, better enforcement
of bus lanes and safe routes to school.
The Green Party is disappointed that there is
no commitment to targets for road traffic reduction. In opposition
the Labour Party promised, if elected, to "reduce and then
reverse" traffic growth. The proposals in the White Paper
will not deliver on this promise.
The Green Party wants real targets for traffic
reduction, 5 per cent reduction by 2005 and 10 per cent reduction
by 2010 on 1990 levels, as originally proposed in the Road Traffic
Reduction Bill, now the Road Traffic Reduction (National Targets)
Act 1998, by the Green Party, Friends of the Earth and Plaid Cymru.
The setting of targets is proposed to be left to a commission
to be set up at some time in the future. This is not good enough.
Such a commission may take several years to be set up and to report
and even then there is no commitment from the government to implement
the commission's recommendations.
There needs to be a commitment to bring forward
legislation in the next session of Parliament (1998-99) to enable
the proposals made in the White Paper, limited as they are, to
be implemented as soon as possible. For everyone the transport
problem is an urgent one, whether they be drivers concerned about
traffic jams, bus and train passengers concerned about punctuality
and reliability, cyclists and pedestrians concerned about road
safety or businesses waiting for deliveries. Legislation urgently
needs to be brought forward to create the Strategic Rail Authority
and to enable councils to tax workplace parking.
Leaving local authorities to decide about charging
for workplace parking is a cop-out. Local authorities might be
afraid to implement it in their area for fear of losing jobs to
neighbouring areas. It should apply everywhere and should have
been extended to car parking at supermarkets and out of town shopping
To encourage transfer of freight from road to
rail there should have been new charges for lorries related to
weight carried and distance travelled. This would provide a more
level playing field with rail.
The expensive and highly destructive Trunk Roads
programme should be scrappedno new roads or motorway widening.
The White Paper is silent on this issue but the Roads Review gave
the go ahead to 37 schemes. The money used to build roads cannot
be spent twice. It should be diverted to investment in public
We welcome the Strategic Rail Authority but
it needs to be more pro-active and have more funding to increase
the capacity of the rail network, remove bottlenecks and re-open
disused lines and stations.
In 1995 the UK government was committed to the
building of 500 new road schemes. In 1997 this was reduced to
140 and in July 1998 reduced yet again so that now only 37 schemes
remain in the pipeline. This particular indicator of sustainable
transport might well have a claim to represent one of the most
dramatic reversals of any government policy in any area in recent
years. More interestingly the reversal is associated with a great
deal of rhetoric about the need to reduce car dependency. One
well-known national transport campaigning organisation welcomed
the change in policy with the phrase "The White Paper marks
a welcome end to 30 years of car-based transport policies".
So is this all as good as it looks and should we in the UK be
out celebrating the success of 25 years hard work in turning around
the super-tanker of a land greedy,energy greedy, socially irresponsible
Sadly the answer is in the negative. The steep
reduction in new road schemes (the Roads Review) and the policy
change in the White Paper still miss the main points and carefully
avoid the most effective things that government could do if it
really wanted to reduce traffic.
The new roads will cost the tax payer approximately
£1.5 billion compared with the £1.1 billion that has
been allocated to everything else (public transport support, pedestrian
facilities, cycle facilities). The allocation of cash is at sharp
variance with the language and the rhetoric and every government
official and politician knows that cash "means business"
and words don't really amount to very much at all. In very crude
terms about 60 per cent of the cash the government is willing
to allocate to transport has been allocated to a particular form
of transport (mainly the car) which we have been told must be
reduced. This will ensure that the car continues to dominate the
choices that people make about how to travel and will continue
to act as a deterrent to a large mass of potential bike and foot
journeys which are there to be revealed but are suppressed because
the road, walking and cycling environment are so irredeemably
The White Paper skilfully avoids any commitment
to reduce traffic levels in spite of considerable popular and
parliamentary support for new laws in this area. It ducks a national
approach to parking standards and does not require local authorities
to reduce generous parking provision for places of employment
and out of town shopping centres. In short it offers nothing that
will turn off the engine driving the upward trajectory of car
use. It does nothing at all to ensure that small locally accessible
services (shops, doctors, post offices, schools) are well funded
and plentiful so that in rural areas especially there is less
need to travel longer distances.
It does nothing to give tax incentives to employers
and employees to switch away from car use for their commuter trips
and it leaves in place a historically complex but generous system
of incentives for using cars. It does nothing to curb excessive
speeds of vehicles and offers nothing to all those who are victims
of road traffic "accidents" and also victims of the
everyday discourtesies and stresses of trying to live alongside
polluting, speeding and irresponsibly driven vehicles. The White
Paper offers no relief for a countryside that will continue to
receive higher levels of traffic and towns that will continue
to breathe polluted air in a noisy and dangerous environment.
The roads left in the much reduced list of 37
schemes ring lots of alarm bells. There are widening schemes on
the busiest section of the M25 motorway in precisely those circumstances
where transport science, common sense and political acumen call
for serious road traffic reduction measures and an absolute ban
on more road space. Widening the M25 will encourage more cars
to use the increased road space in a neat and depressing demonstration
that the politicians have understood nothing of the transport
debate and not even understood their own rhetoric. Other road
schemes have gone ahead on grounds of boosting the economy and
aiding job creation when once again there is ample evidence that
either this does not happen at all or if it does its so weak and
expensive that numerous other policies would win out over roads
if we really wanted to target taxpayers money to create jobs.
Government has made much of the word "integration"
and yet has offered nothing to make sure it happens. Government
policies themselves are not integrated. The tax system encourages
car use and penalises cyclists. New hospitals (built with public
money) are built in locations which are inaccessible by public
transport, foot and bicycle. They are then provided with over
1000 car parking places to send the very clear signal that car
use is what is expected. Smaller hospitals closer to where people
live are rejected but they ought to be encouraged. Similar perverse
principles apply to schools.
Out of town shopping centres are still being
built (and multiplex cinema sites and huge leisure complexes)
and the White Paper excluded retailing completely from the discussion
about car parking taxes. Retailing is such an important pressure
for more car travel that it more than merits a national tax on
every car parking place, imposed immediately and the income stream
recycled to help public transport and small, rural and urban,
community based shops and post offices.
Integration means making sure that everything
government does pulls in the same direction to achieve government
policy objectives. It means the money follows the policy and it
means that we get to grips with traffic reduction. On this criteria
the White Paper is a monumental failure.
The acid test of a genuine government commitment
to solve transport problems in this country is immediate action
(this year) on three fronts:
1. Full support for the Road Traffic Reduction
Bill and its 10 per cent reduction target when this is introduced
in the Commons later this year.
2. Change the tax system so that company transport
plans can offer staff season tickets, commuter cards, bicycle
loans etc., without tax penalties.
3. Set national and regional parking norms as
part of a revised PPG13. These norms will set maximum levels of
car parking provision for every kind of development.
Failure to deliver on any one of these three
"pillars" of a sustainable transport policy will show
that we have a government that is very long on the rhetoric of
sustainable transport but a dramatic failure on delivery.
Alan Francis and John Whitelegg
Green Party Transport Policy Working Group
24 September 1998