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

Memorandum by Keith Rogers Esq (IT 119)



  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.



  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 and airports.

  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 Netherlands;

    —  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;

    —  public support.

  There are some deficiencies, however, which include:

    —  several capacity bottlenecks, such as those around Birmingham and Bristol, as Annex F of the White Paper acknowledges;

    —  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;

    —  patchy electrification—not 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 Sunday.

  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 like:

    —  London-Watford-Milton Keynes/Northampton-Leicester-Nottingham 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.


  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 as follows:

    —  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.

    —  Manchester Airport-Knutsford/Mobberley, so that trains from Merseyside, Chester and North Wales can access Manchester via the airport.

    —  Milton Keynes/Northampton-Market 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 services;

    —  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 bus services.

  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 Pancras stations.

  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.



  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" competition.


  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 vehicles operated;

    —  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) to:

    —  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 a surcharge);

    —  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 in Europe.

  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 air.

  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 example:

    —  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 the network;

    —  specify the level and structure of fares;

    —  procure the services from suitable operators and organise revenue protection;

    —  market the network;

    —  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 highway matters.

  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.



  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 sense.


  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:

    —  quotas;

    —  the compulsory decommissioning of inappropriate developments.

  Both instruments would encourage more sustainable patterns of development.

 (a) Quotas

  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 to:

    —  improve public transport;

    —  develop disused sites;

    —  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 which:

    —  are poorly designed for public transport and rely on car access;

    —  lack specific measure for pedestrians and cyclists;

    —  lack shopping or community facilities and rely on facilities elsewhere where access is exclusively by car.

  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 practice.

 (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, where:

    —  the location of Leeds/Bradford airport prevents it from playing a regional role;

    —  a small new facility recently opened in Sheffield;

    —  there is a Humberside airport, although it is on the opposite side of the estuary from Hull, the main city;

    —  recent press reports suggest that a former RAF facility near Doncaster is to be developed for civil use.

  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 adjacent facilities;

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 new facilities.


  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 court;

    —  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 a hospital;

    —  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 skills.


  Britain has an extensive network of waterways, which includes:

    —  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 on Avon.

  Several reopening projects are currently underway, including:

    —  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 tunnel);

    —  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 boundary;

    —  between the Rochdale and Ashton canals, parallel to the M60 motorway which is now being built in Greater Manchester.

  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 in:

    —  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 and green.

  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 consultation;

    —  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.

September 1998

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