Memorandum by Keith Rogers Esq (IT 119)
THE 1998 TRANSPORT WHITE PAPER
This paper makes some suggestions for strengthening
the proposals in the Government's transport White Paper.
The Government's proposals are aimed at moderating
traffic growth by:
making the benign modes (walking,
cycling and public transport) more attractive;
curtailing the road programme;
integrating development planning
with transport (and vice versa);
strengthening the pricing and regulatory
signals which travellers receive.
The White paper includes a wide range of specific
proposals, although some of them will require primary legislation
and/or more work before they can be applied.
My own suggestions are intended to strengthen
the Government's proposals, and can be summarised as follows:
there should be an infrastructure
programme for the railway similar in scope to the programme which
has developed the road network in recent decades;
local public transport networks are
likely to be best integrated if they are specified by locally
accountable authorities and operated by contractors;
the integration of development planning
with transport requires an active land-use policy;
the Government should take a lead
in encouraging cycling by providing parking at the sites (e.g.,
hospitals and courts) which it runs or funds itself;
there is a case for a limited number
of short new links on the waterways.
These suggestions draw on experience elsewhere
in Europe, practice by progressive local authorities in Britain,
and my own observations as someone professionally involved in
planning and transport over many years.
AN INFRASTRUCTURE PROGRAMME FOR THE RAILWAY
In recent years, public investment in transport
infrastructure in Britain has been targeted on the road network.
The road programme, involving both trunk roads and local authority
roads, has brought many benefits:
Britain now has a basic network of
reasonable-standard roads between the main centres;
numerous towns and villages are now
bypassed and through traffic has been reduced in sensitive areas;
the road network has developed from
the one which Dick Turpin knew to include new estuary crossings,
new roads in developing areas, and new routes serving the ports
There has, however, been no equivalent programme
for the benign modes. In particular, there has been no programme
to systematically improve the rail network by creating new links,
rationalising inherited facilities and providing new facilities
in areas of new development.
British practice is out of step with practice
elsewhere in Europe. The new high speed lines in France and Germany,
and the dedicated trains which use them, are well known. Perhaps
less well known, but more relevant to Britain, are:
the co-ordination of new development
around rail lines in the capital cities of Scandinavia and in
the construction of short new links
to provide more direct routes (e.g., Mannheim-Stuttgart);
the development of local public transport
networks, with the result that quite small cities like Nantes,
Geneva and Würzburg have retained or built high quality networks
featuring through ticketing and segregation from traffic;
the focusing of city public transport
networks on the main station, so that the local and regional/national
networks reinforce each other and make public transport journeys
as seamless as possible.
Britain's rail network has many strengths, including:
several well-aligned main lines,
such as the East Coast Main Line north from Kings Cross and the
Western Main Line from Paddington, so that there is little need
for new main lines;
a dense network of routes and stations
in suburban London, far denser than in Paris;
There are some deficiencies, however, which
several capacity bottlenecks, such
as those around Birmingham and Bristol, as Annex F of the White
services split between two lines/stations
at several places, including Bradford, Canterbury, Falkirk, Glasgow,
Manchester, Warrington and Worcester;
circuitous main lines such as Exeter-Plymouth,
which is much longer than the direct trunk road;
one of the lines linking Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds
and Hull is electrified;
the excessive number of central stations
in London, which imposes tiresome interchanges on passengers,
absorbs huge areas of land, and requires complicated service patterns;
disruption of normal services on
In addition, there are at least two corridors
which have a busy motorway but where the lack of rail lines/connections
prevents rail services from being operated. These are:
the M1/M6, with the result that services
andLondon-Luton-Bedford-Coventry-Birmingham are not possible;
the M90 (Forth Bridge-Perth), with
the result that services between Edinburgh and Perth (and onward)
have to take indirect routes via the Fife towns or Stirling.
Furthermore, many of the inter-city rail services
are run essentially as shuttle services to/from London, so that
intermediate journeys are penalised and interchange is difficult.
For example, the West Coast Main Line connects Liverpool, Manchester
and Birmingham with London and en route the WCML serves Stoke
and Coventry. However, journeys such as Liverpool-Stoke and Manchester-Coventry,
which involve major towns and are simple on the M6, are inconvenient
or impossible by rail.
These problems are evidence of neglect. The
road network has benefited from constant intervention by the government
over many years. Problems and opportunities on the road network
have resulted in individual schemes being designed and built in
rolling programmes of investment so that, over time, the network
has been improved.
By contrast, it does not look as though anyone
in government has managed the railway in a similar way, solving
problems and seizing opportunities.
A NETWORK DEVELOPMENT
The White Paper proposes an investment fund
for the railway and this appears to be aimed at resolving the
capacity problems identified in Annex F of the White Paper.
Capacity problems are important as they limit
the frequency which can be operated, and frequency is very important
in making public transport services attractive. In the next section,
I suggest that the regulatory authorities should be moving to
a more detailed specification of the services to be operated,
if the rail system is to become more attractive and the natural
choice for middle and longer distance journeys in Britain.
However, for the moment, I want to stay with
network gaps which prevent self-evidently sensible services from
being operated. If a rail network infrastructure programme were
in place, I would expect it to include schemes for short new lines
Buxton-Matlock (reopening), so that
services such as Manchester (and the north)Stockport-Buxton-Matlock-Derby-Nottingham/Leicester
could be run, giving rail access to the Peak National Park from
the nearby cities and improving links between the East Midlands
and the North West.
Forth Bridge-Perth and Exeter-Plymouth,
following the main roads, to speed up these services by providing
much more direct routes.
Crossrail in London, so that suburban
passengers on the Paddington, Marylebone/Baker St and Liverpool
St lines can continue through to stations nearer their ultimate
destinations and so that through services, facilitating journeys
such as Ealing-Stansted Airport, can be run.
Upgrading lines around Falkirk, so
that the Glasgow-Edinburgh trains which call at Falkirk use the
central station in Falkirk (Grahamston) and not the peripheral
station (Falkirk High).
Bradford (Forster Square-Interchange),
so that Leeds-Skipton (Aire Valley) services can call at Bradford
instead of skirting it and so that Bradford has a single central
station with some critical mass.
so that trains from Merseyside, Chester and North Wales can access
Manchester via the airport.
Harborough/Leicester and Bedford-Northampton (parallel to the
M1 in both cases), so that services from St Pancras can run to
Birmingham and services from Euston can run to Leicester, making
journeys such as Watford-Nottingham and Luton-Coventry, which
are simple by motorway, possible by rail.
In addition, there are capacity problems in
and around Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol. Glasgow
and Manchester also have the problem that services are split between
north and south side networks, so that journeys such as Kilmarnock-Stirling
and Chester-Rochdale, which are simple by motorway, are impossible
by rail. These issues will need to be addressed if frequencies
are to be improved.
In the case of both Glasgow and Manchester,
and perhaps Birmingham, I can imagine schemes being devised which
link the existing radial routes via new lines crossing the city
centre. Such schemes would provide:
additional capacity for more frequent
new stations, taking travellers closer
to their destinations;
new routes to carry new services
crossing the city centre.
All of this would make public transport more
attractive, The schemes in the programme would be funded through
property development, reductions in the road programme, and savings
in rail support costs, as the services on the new routes reduce
costs and attract more usage.
Developing an infrastructure programme for the
railway will be one of the tasks for the new Strategic Rail Authority,
but creating the authority will require primary legislation. Any
network planning would take some time to get started, and any
specific schemes would take some time for design, consultation,
permissions and construction. To minimise delay, I therefore suggest
that the committee recommends that:
the Government itself (i.e., the
DETR) in consultation with Railtrack and the existing regulators
drafts a network development plan for the railway;
invites contributions from local
authorities and the public;
collates the responses;
commissions initial feasibility studies,
to provide broad cost estimates;
firms up the proposals and confirms
that development plans should include them.
All this seems rather radical in view of the
limited interest which previous governments have shown in developing
the rail network. However, my model, is simply the trunk road
network, where governments have developed and implemented plans
for the main roads across the country for many years. The time
has come for something similar for the rail network, particularly
given the success of this approach elsewhere in Europe.
The White Paper suggests that the new regulatory
regime which the Government plans will allow the authorities to
specify in more detail the services to be run. Without going into
details about individual services, I suggest that the rail services
in Germany and the Netherlands could be a model for services in
appropriate parts of Britain.
In Germany, a network of intercity train services
is operated which traverse the country, e.g., from Hamburg to
Munich. All the services are hourly, although on some routes,
more than one intercity service is run, thereby increasing the
frequency. The services are run dogmatically at even intervals,
which, for any given frequency, minimises the waiting and lost
time and makes for memorability.
Just as important is that Germany's intercity
rail services are timed to provide interchange (usually cross-platform)
at designated stations such as Würzburg and Mannheim. In
addition, interchange at the major cities such as Frankfurt and
Cologne is easy due to the sheer frequency of services. The intercity
services are fed by local rail services, including those sponsored
by the provinces (LaÏnder), as well as city metro, tram and
Applied to Britain, it is easy to imagine national
hourly services intersecting at locations such as Birmingham,
Newcastle and Sheffield. If the "M1/M6" rail links mentioned
above were built, for example, Milton Keynes could emerge as an
interchange point for services based on London's Euston and St
In the Netherlands, each stretch of line typically
has both all-stations and limited stop rail services which feed
into and out of each other at the major towns. Many rail services
split and combine, to make the most use of limited track capacity
(train paths). In nearly all towns, the single main station is
the focus of public transport routes. In Amsterdam and Rotterdam,
additional stations on the national rail network are fed by the
local metro and tram services.
The dominant feature of the Netherlands rail
network is not speed, since the geography of the country prevents
high speeds resulting from long hauls. Rather, the emphasis is
on frequency. This approach minimises waiting and lost time and
mimics as closely as possible the instant availability of the
private car. Schemes have been built to accommodate high frequency
by increasing track capacity, such as the flyovers at the rail
junctions at Utrecht.
It is not difficult to imagine the Netherlands
approach being applied to the north of England, with three or
four trains per hour connecting the major cities of Liverpool,
Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and Hull, serving intermediate towns
and new parkway stations along the way and using a range of routes.
The same approach could be adopted in central Scotland. However,
it would be necessary to enhance the infrastructure, not for markedly
higher speeds, but for greater capacity. This is where the infrastructure
plan comes in.
LOCAL PUBLIC TRANSPORT
The difference in trends in public transport
usage between London, where the local public transport network
is managed, and the rest of Britain, where deregulation applies,
is striking. The White Paper itself noted that London has steady
or increasing patronage, whereas the trend elsewhere has been
downwards. Although a case can be made that this downward trend
is a continuation of earlier trends and is not due to deregulation
as such, there seems little doubt, especially when European practice
is considered, that a managed network has many advantages. In
a managed network, of course, the actual services may be operated
by private contractors, as in London.
Current legislation outside London was intended
to encourage "open access". The costs of entry to the
bus business are low, and deregulation was intended to allow small
companies to start up services and provide competition to the
big operators. It is well known, however, that bus passengers
seldom choose to wait for services run by particular operators
and instead take the first relevant bus that arrives. This means
that a small operator, perhaps running old or unsuitable vehicles,
is almost guaranteed a number of passengers (and some revenue),
especially if he runs on a busy corridor where the usage has been
built up over a period, by other operators. The effect of "on
the road" competition is that investment by an individual
operator, say in new vehicles or new ticketing equipment, does
not get a full return since some of the traffic on the route will
always go to other operators. The result can be "lowest common
denominator" services on a route or network. This is not
the way to increase public transport usage.
In the early years of deregulation, there were
numerous examples of:
excessive numbers of buses on streets
in city centres
competitive driving at bus stops
unsuitable vehicles such as coaches
being used for bus services
Since then, the big operators have become bigger.
Indeed, there are now local monopolies, as anticipated by commentators
at the time. The result is that, although a town or city may have
more than one operator overall, any individual resident is likely
to be faced with a single supplier of bus services. This tendency
towards monopoly has recently been reinforced by the emergence
of return and season tickets specific to particular operators.
However, the legislation still assumes "on the road"
A managed network works in a different way.
The network is planned (or, more likely evolves from earlier networks),
and the authority is responsible for specifying, e.g:
the level and structure of the fares;
the associated tickets.
as well as the services. The network manager typically
ensures that the services are marketed as a network, with common
liveries, logos and publicity.
The issue of fares and ticketing is particularly
important. It is highly desirable, if the network is to be made
attractive, for tickets (or at least the great majority of tickets)
be bought off-vehicle in advance,
which can be arranged by giving discounts for multi-journey tickets,
day tickets and season tickets (or pricing single tickets with
be valid for the whole journey, including
for any second service, which can be arranged with time stamping
of tickets and time limits on their validity.
All this is rare in Britain but routine elsewhere
A fare structure with free interchange between
services and most tickets bought in advance has several advantages.
the network will be perceived as
a seamless network of interconnecting services;
as interchange becomes more common,
it becomes easier to simplify the network, reducing the number
of separately identified services but increasing their frequency;
boarding is faster, reducing delays
at stops, which speeds the services and makes them more competitive
with the car;
buses can have more doorways, as
there is no need for all passengers to enter past the driver,
which again speeds boarding.
The corollary is that inspection is by roving
inspectors who have powers to levy substantial penalty fares.
Inspectors have a cost, but the benefit is faster journeys and
a more attractive network.
I believe that the ideology underlying bus deregulation
is a false analogy between local public transport (short and frequent
journeys) and intercity or international public transport (longer
and infrequent journeys), which may be by coach, rail, ship or
For intercity and international journeys, it
is indeed true that passengers weigh up the costs and benefits
of all the features of the journey for a range of options. For
an intercity coach journey in Britain
may be preferred to train because of its lower fare, even if the
journey time is longer;
a particular airline may be preferred
because of its meals or its hub airport.
For the great majority of local public transport
journeys which are by bus, however, passengers do not weigh up
the pros and cons of a journey by a particular operator because
of the peculiar features of that operator's services. This is
because there are hardly any peculiarities, due to the "lowest
common denominator" and local monopoly effects which prevail
under "competition". It is therefore more appropriate
for passengers' interests to be protected through the management
of the network and its services by an authority which is responsible
to the public through the electoral process.
The Government has recognised in the White Paper
that stability is needed in local public transport networks and
that "competition" can militate against the attractive
network which is necessary to meet the real competition, the private
car. Quality partnerships are suggested as the way forward. Such
partnerships would be between bus operators, who would invest
in new vehicles, etc., and the local authorities, who would deliver
bus priorities, etc.
However, such partnerships would sit uneasily
with current legislation, which assumes that any competent operator
can introduce a service on any route, providing it is registered
with the authorities. New legislation is therefore suggested to
reconcile partnerships with competition requirements.
There seems no reason, however, why local authorities,
either singly or with their neighbours, and via the PTE/As in
the metropolitan areas, could not have the powers to manage their
local public transport networks on the London model.
This would mean that authorities would:
specify the services that would constitute
specify the level and structure of
procure the services from suitable
operators and organise revenue protection;
accept the financial consequences
of the resulting costs and revenues.
The central government would have a role in
this, by promoting best practice, as it has for many years on
Such a regime seems essential if local public
transport networks are to fulfil non-commercial objectives such
as increasing their patronage or moderating growth in motor traffic.
Moreover, the taxpayer cannot be expected in invest in network
infrastructure, such as bus priorities, if the resulting revenue
increases and cost savings accrue exclusively to private firms.
This is what would happen with simple deregulated competition.
The way forward is to manage the network to
a publicly defined specification, but with service provision mainly
through the private sector. If the legal framework for local public
transport is to be changed, managed networks should be the aim.
INTEGRATING DEVELOPMENT AND TRANSPORT
The White Paper suggests that development planning
should be more integrated with transport (and vice versa). I believe
that if this is to happen, the Government, with local authorities,
will have to pursue an active land-use policy. As a minimum, this
would involve ensuring that new developments are suitably located
and planned. However, ideally it would also involve starting to
reverse poor decisions from the past.
Plans will have to specify the location, size
and design features of new developments so that travel by the
benign modes (walking, cycling and public transport) is maximised
and car-dependence is minimised. These requirements point to:
focusing destination-type land-uses
at centres, both existing and new;
giving new developments sufficient
size to ensure some self-sufficiency.
Substantial new developments should normally
be located on major public transport routes, and grouped around
nodes such as stations. The internal design of new developments
should promote access on foot, by cycle and by public transport.
Amongst other things, this will involve planning for personal
security (See and be seen) as well as safety in a simple engineering
Growth in motor traffic is likely to be moderated
most where suitable land-uses are concentrated. Concentration
allows public transport to reach the critical mass of quality
which is necessary to attract those people who have transport
choice, i.e., access to a car. In addition, substantial car-use
cannot physically be accommodated in many centres, which reinforces
restraint. The land-uses traditionally in centres, including shops,
offices, further/higher education, the arts and entertainment,
should therefore continue to be there for transport reasons, even
if other reasons for concentration, such as face-to-face contact
in business, have become less important.
Many centres will have a bus and/or rail station.
Ideally, they should be close to each other and close to the centre;
bus services to/from the centre can then provide access to the
regional or national rail network. The poor co-ordination of these
facilities which has occurred for example in Telford should be
avoided. In Telford, the bus station was built on one edge of
the centre. The rail station is both at the opposite end of the
centre and severed from the centre by a dual carriageway.
The role of centres has been undermined in recent
years by the development of out-of-town facilities which rely
on car access. Since car-ownership has been steadily increasing
for many years, it is scarcely surprising that many of these developments
have been, in their own terms, successful. If policy is unchanged,
increasing car-ownership will by itself make such facilities more
attractive over time.
The previous government realised the seriousness
of these trends and introduced the sequential test for central-area
type uses. However, this test only applies to new developments.
I therefore suggest that consideration should be given to two
new policy instruments which could help to deal with the hangover
of poor decisions inherited from the past. They are:
the compulsory decommissioning of
Both instruments would encourage more sustainable
patterns of development.
Quotas would be applied to those land-uses,
like cinemas, which should be located in centres and of which
there are many examples which are not in centres. I envisage that
quotas would work in the following way.
The proportion of cinema screens which are in
centres in each region is in principle knowable. All cinema operators
in each region would have, say, three years to reach this quota.
Operators above the quota (i.e., with more cinema screens in centres
than the regional average) would need to do nothing, but operators
below the quota would need to open new screens in central areas
and/or close down screens in non-central areas to meet the quota.
Five years later, however, the quota would increase by 10 per
cent in each region, and so on.
Quotas would give a very clear message to the
development industry that land-uses which should be in centres
would indeed become more concentrated in centres over time. The
effect of the quotas for cinemas would be that more trips to cinemas
would be by public transport, and the other land-uses which complement
cinemas, such as other entertainment, cultural and recreational
uses, would benefit. Despite this strong policy steer, however,
the initiative for re-siting cinemas would rest with their operators
and owners and not with the planning authorities or government.
(b) Compulsory Decommissioning
For larger inappropriate developments, of which
there may be only one or two examples in a region, a simple time
limit could be introduced for certain types of planning permissions.
This instrument is aimed at developments which are a hangover
from the past and would not now be permitted. A period could be
allowed for developers, who have acted in good faith under the
rules previously in force, to make a reasonable return on their
investment. However, after this time, these undesirable developments
would be decommissioned and redeveloped.
This policy instrument is particularly aimed
at out-of-town regional shopping centres, where a lifespan of
say 15 years seems quite sufficient. These developments:
originated in a period when strategic
planning had been disabled by the abolition of conurbation-wide
planning authorities, and/or;
were timed to benefit from recently
completed or committed road investment in the immediate area,
funded by the taxpayer, and/or;
were approved because of their location
in enterprise zones and/or development corporation areas, where
any development was considered to be "a good thing".
It was well known at the time, and it is still
the case, that regional shopping centres are usually inconsistent
with the inclusive social and transport policy objectives expressed
in the White Paper.
The suggestions made above for quotas and for
decommissioning inappropriate developments are aimed directly
at benefitting centres. However, there is some scope for changing
the urban structure outside centres in ways which are likely to
promote the aims of the White Paper. Two more suggestions follow.
(a) Demonstration Projects
The recent generation of development corporations
has generally been successful in renewing areas with problems
and this approach still has potential. Several cities have at
least one corridor which would benefit from co-ordinated action
improve public transport;
consolidate central area functions
at public transport nodes;
create new routes for pedestrians
and cyclist and improve personal security on existing routes;
relocate inappropriate landuses,
such as land-hungry car dealerships;
deal with the gap-toothed shopping
centres caused by retail change.
Similarly, there are many new residential areas
are poorly designed for public transport
and rely on car access;
lack specific measure for pedestrians
lack shopping or community facilities
and rely on facilities elsewhere where access is exclusively by
The Government could invite local authorities
to submit proposals for demonstration projects to address these
issues. The projects would be monitored and evaluated to identify
best practice. Such projects would then become part of mainstream
(b) Regional Airports
Successful airports can be engines for economic
development, as Britain's biggest airports demonstrate. However,
the development of regional airports and services is often hampered
by the poor location of airports and excessive competition between
small neighbouring facilities.
For example, Newcastle airport is poorly located
to serve Teesside, which has its own facility, and the airports
at Cardiff and Bristol are inconvenient for the other city.
Perhaps the worst case, however, is Yorkshire,
the location of Leeds/Bradford airport
prevents it from playing a regional role;
a small new facility recently opened
there is a Humberside airport, although
it is on the opposite side of the estuary from Hull, the main
recent press reports suggest that
a former RAF facility near Doncaster is to be developed for civil
The situation in Yorkshire has evolved over
the years but it is clearly a mess. Yorkshire has a population
similar in size to Scotland or Denmark; Yorkshire could support,
and benefit from, an airport which is:
accessible to the whole region;
not hampered by competition from
and with the critical mass to have:
regular daily flights to/from the
principal hubs in Europe (including Britain);
other scheduled flights, charter
flights and general aviation (e.g., club and training activities
etc., and executive flights);
good public transport (preferably
rail) access, for staff and passengers.
Over the years, the government has taken a keen
interest in airport policy in the south-east. The Government,
with the new RDAs, could now encourage a more concentrated and
focused structure for local airports elsewhere. This will involve
forming partnerships, rationalising existing facilities and developing
In the context of current planning practice,
some of the above suggestions are radical; some would require
new legislation, which would be controversial. My suggestions
are preliminary ideas which will need development. We can expect
some discussion about what constitutes a centre, who would decide
the land-uses subject to quotas, and which authorities would have
the locus to initiate decommissioning.
However, if measures (such as the sequential
test) aimed at reducing car-dependency are limited only to new
developments, it will take a long time to have any effect. Indeed,
one paradoxical effect could be that the more that current best
practice is applied to new developments, the more the value of
existing car-friendly developments will increase as car-ownership
increases over time. At least some of these developments should
therefore be decommissioned and replaced.
The White Paper makes the case for green travel
plans, in which the benign modes are actively encouraged, and
suggests that government-run organisations, such as NHS hospitals,
would be especially suitable for early action. This is desirable,
but the scope for early action is wider than this.
One of the main deterrents to cycling is the
fear that the machine will be stolen at the destination. Secure
cycle parking is essential if cycling is to be encouraged. Cycle
parking equipment is simple and cheap, and it can be sited at
many types of location. In town centres, parking stands should
be dispersed. Large numbers of small clumps of cycle stands are
more attractive than smaller numbers of larger clumps.
The Government runs or funds, directly or through
agencies, hundreds of establishments throughout the country, including
hospitals, surgeries, tax and benefit offices, courts, post offices,
military bases and universities, as well as miscellaneous outfits
such as the Ordnance Survey and the Met Office. All these establishments
generate traffic, by staff, clients and visitors. They all need
cycle parking facilities.
I therefore suggest that a programme of review
and investment is started so that any site receiving government
funding is eligible for funding for cycle parking. This would
not be difficult to organise; it is primarily a question of determination.
The aim should be that:
every member of a jury going to the
every member of the public going
to a post office, art gallery or museum;
every student or employee going to
a school, college or university;
every employee or visitor going to
every patient or employee going to
a doctor's or dentist's surgery;
should be able to go by cycle if they wish, with
security of the parked cycle not being a problem.
The Highways Agency is the government's agency
for direct action on the road network, but the agency will have
a reduced role with the decline of the road building programme.
Organising cycle parking throughout the country at government
funded sites would make good use of the agency's project management
Britain has an extensive network of waterways,
some commercial canals and estuaries,
such as the Manchester Ship Canal and the tidal Thames and Humber,
which are still important for freight;
several river navigation, like the
Severn, Avon, and Thames;
several hundred kilometres of narrow
(7 feet) and broad (14 feet) canals, built originally for freight
and now used mainly for recreation.
I want to focus on the second and third of these
types of waterway, ignoring for the moment the commercial canals
and estuaries and their associated ports.
This network of waterways is extensive and runs
through dozens of towns and cities across the country. It incorporates
hundreds of old constructions such as bridges, locks and aqueducts,
many of them the work of some of Britian's greatest engineers.
The waterways provide opportunities for quiet recreation in the
form of walking, dog-walking, jogging, cycling and angling, as
well as boating, and they embrace a range of wildlife habitats.
These varied aspects of the waterways are well captured in British
Waterways' logo, which includes a clump of rushes and an arched
bridge, portrayed in solid black on white, BW's colours.
Fifty years ago, the prevailing government attitude
was that most of the canals had served their purpose and should
be left to die. However, voluntary action in the form of campaigns
and practical work to reopen waterways persuaded many people that
their own right for their low-key vernacular architecture, their
wildlife, and their leisure uses. In some valleys, the canals
were in any case an integral part of the drainage system and could
not be completely closed.
More recently, the realisation has grown that
a waterside setting can enhance development. Many of Britain's
attractive town and city centres are on river navigations, including
the Thames (London, Henley), the Severn (Worcester), the Avon
(Bristol) and the Yorkshire Ouse (York), and waterside property
commands a premium in numerous city centres.
In addition, many successful urban regeneration
projects have been based around water, including:
former dock areas in coastal ports,
such as Cardiff, Leith, and Southampton;
former warehouse areas in the centres
of big cities such as Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, and Manchester.
On a smaller scale, but locally important, the
reopening of formerly closed canals, such as the Kennet and Avon,
has benefitted smaller towns, in that case, Devizes and Bradford
Several reopening projects are currently underway,
the Forth and Clyde and Union Canals
in central Scotland, linking Glasgow and the Forth via a new boat
lift at Falkirk;
the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, connecting
Ashton in Greater Manchester with Huddersfield in West Yorkshire
via an existing tunnel under the Pennines (Britain's longest canal
the Rochdale Canal, linking Manchester
with the West Yorkshire network via Rochdale.
At least three short new connections have been
mooted in the past, including:
a link between the Warwickshire Avon
and the Grand Union, where they intersect at Leamington;
a link between the Bedfordshire Ouse
and the Grand Union where they intersect at Milton Keynes;
the conversion of the Northampton
branch of the Grand Union (currently "narrow gauge")
to broad gauge.
The second and third of these links would connect
the waterways of Eastern England in the area stretching from Peterborough
and Kings Lynn to Cambridge and Bedford with the main canal network
via the Grand Union.
I would like to suggest two other links, namely:
between the Thames near Windsor and
the Grand Union Canal around the Greater London/Buckinghamshire
between the Rochdale and Ashton canals,
parallel to the M60 motorway which is now being built in Greater
Both these schemes would be short, but they
would support employment and create new waterway rings, wildlife
corridors and quiet routes for pedestrians and cyclists.
It is possible to argue that new waterways in
Britain have little to do with transport and that such schemes
have little relevance to reducing traffic, either passenger or
freight, on the roads. However, I consider that the waterways
and their associated paths, structures and verges are important
helping to make our towns and cities
more attractive as places to live and work in;
providing routes for walking and
cycling, including "purposeful" walking and cycling,
e.g., to work;
providing a setting for development
and regeneration, particularly in the biggest cities;
providing a unique linear reservation
for wildlife which also incorporates numerous features of architectural,
engineering and industrial archaeological interest.
It is easy to imagine all the schemes suggested
above being the spines of corridors for the benign transport modes
and for wildlife, linking towns with open spaces and woodland,
and incorporating quiet and safe routes for pedestrians and cyclists.
In short, such projects are multi-modal, multi-purpose, integrated
Although, with some waterways undergoing restoration
and with BW's budget constrained, it would be optimistic to expect
early action on any of the suggestions for new links, I would
nevertheless suggest that the committee recommends that:
funding is found for preliminary
feasibility studies on all the proposed new links, for completion
say within a year;
that BW issue a draft development
plan which lists not only the new links, but also the reopenings
already underway, including those assisted by volunteers, for
that new links, like new road schemes,
are given statutory protection in plans, so that they are protected
from conflicting development;
that schemes are prioritised for
implementation in line with available funds in a final development
plan, which would be issued say within two years.