Memorandum by the National Association
of Local Councils (IT 125)
A NEW DEAL FOR TRANSPORTBETTER FOR
GOVERNMENT'S WHITE PAPER ON INTEGRATED TRANSPORT
1. The National Association of Local Councils
is the national voice for Town, Parish and Community Councils.
It is a federation of 50 County Associations of Local Councils
in England and Wales with 7,500 Town, Parish and Community Councils
in membership. It provides a desktop legal, financial, technical
and policy advisory service to member councils free at the point
2. The Association is therefore pleased to be
able to respond to the Government's White Paper on Integrated
Transport; a long awaited and much needed review of the transport
system in the UK.
3. The Association's response to the White Paper
is rooted in the following factors:
That Local Councils as the first
tier of local government and most closely representative of the
local community, have a detailed, in-depth and acute knowledge
of the needs and requirements of the local transport system;
That Local Councils are largely located
in rural areas where the provision of public transport has been
neglected and the reliance on cars has necessarily increased.
That the transport needs of those
rural areas are fundamentally different from the needs and requirements
of urban areas.
That the transport policy in rural
areas must necessarily arise from a careful balance between social
inclusion of rural communities and preservation of the rural environment.
4. Whilst the Association welcomes many of the
principles and ideas on which the Transport White Paper is based,
the Association believes that it does not go far enough in terms
of what is needed in the way of public transport and road infrastructure
in rural England and Wales.
A NEW DEAL
5. The Association agrees that there is a need
for a new approach to transport. This Association has long advocated
for measures to be put in place to reduce CO2 levels,
improve public transport, lower traffic speeds and make better
use of the land and the environment in which we live. The Association
welcomes many of the aims and objectives set out in Chapter 1
of the White Paper.
6. However insufficient recognition and awareness
has been made of the decline and disregard of public transport
in rural areas. Although the Government advocates "better
buses" and "better trains", it is not significantly
acknowledged that where urban areas now need quality, rural areas
are often in need of quantity.
7. Whilst the Government gives detail as to
how buses and trains in urban areas are to be improved, there
is little indication as to how the equivalent, often non-existent
service, is to improve in rural areas.
Local Transport Plans
8. The Association welcomes the principle of
local transport plans. It supports the idea that local government
in co-ordination with national government guidance is best placed
to interpret and provide the transport needs of local people.
The Association strongly urges however, that Local Authorities
shall have a statutory duty to consult Town, Parish and Community
Councils in the creation, development, and approval of these plans.
It is essential that principal authorities ensure that all areas
of the authority receive attention and not just the main towns
9. A stronger consultative relationship between
principal authorities and Town Parish Councils would not only
make the local transport plans subject to wider consultation with
increased involvement of the local community, it would also make
transport more accountable to the local people. The Association
strongly believes that in order to gain more socially inclusive
and sustainable society all tiers of local government should be
consulted and their views considered.
10. This Association welcomes the principle
of sustainability. In particular, we welcome the Government's
recognition that an efficient and far reaching infrastructure
is vital for a prosperous economy. It is important that industry
is encouraged into rural areas in order to alleviate rural poverty.
This can only be achieved with an efficient and effective rail
and road infrastructure. This Association supports investment
in rail infrastructure and hopes that the Government places this
investment as one of its top priorities. Improved infrastructure
in the countryside would bring industry, employment, skills and
prosperity to some of the most rural areas in England and Wales,
currently suffering from agricultural decline and industrial closure.
11. This Association also supports the use of
technology in improving the transport system.
12. The Association welcomes the initiatives
proposed in this chapter and in view of the "regional"
nature of the Government's proposals, urges the Government to
consult Local Councils widely on all aspects of the integrated
13. We are pleased to note the proposals for
a National Strategic Rail Authority. In our response to the Green
Paper we expressed a wish that the residual rural services should
be at least maintained at their present level, since in more remote
areas, they provide an essential link, particularly during inclement
weather. These rural services would be better used if the concept
of the "seamless journey" was given the highest priority,
and feeder services were co-ordinated more effectively with the
mainlines services. In this context the more flexible bus services
described above, the better, since the more scheduled fixed time
services expected to co-ordinate with each other, the more likely
it is that the chain of co-ordination will break down. An element
of flexibility early in the chain can more readily cope with failures
Walking and Cycling
14. The Association welcomes in particular the
promotion and prioritisation of walking and cycling. Town and
Parish Councils have considerable interest and involvement in
the maintenance, repair and lighting of public footpaths and bridleways
and welcome the Government's recognition of their importance to
the local community. However, once again it seems that the White
Paper focuses on the existence of footpaths in urban areas and
not rural areas. In many rural areas whilst the provision and
maintenance of footpaths and cycleways is desirable, it is difficult
to provide a footpath on a local road, not wide enough to warrant
a centre line and where verges are covered in bracken and nettles.
It is essential that Government recognises such difficulties faced
in rural areas and addresses them in legislation.
15. Similarly with regard to cycle lanes and
cycle paths, their provision and maintenance in the countryside
is much more difficult than in urban areas. Furthermore statistics
show that there are more accidents in the countryside than in
urban areas, possibly due to the difficulty and expense of providing
such cycle lanes. The Association would also welcome the opportunity
to be represented on the National Cycling Forum.
16. The Association is aware of the dangers
of pedestrians and cyclists sharing the same facilities. Often
there is little room to divide a footpath into pedestrian and
cyclist use. This is particularly concerning in view of the fact
that it is often impossible for visually impaired and blind people
to distinguish between the two areas, and concerning that elderly
pedestrians are often intimidated by cyclists haring past them.
The Association urges that proper guidelines be put in place in
order to address these problems.
17. This Association believes that bus deregulation
has to some extent eliminated the passenger base in those areas
which would permit the reintroduction of a viable bus service
running to fixed schedule, even with a generous subsidy. We urge
the Government to investigate new schemes which are flexible and
on request, targeted at sectors of the community and society that
are in need of bus services.
18. The Association supports the principle behind
quality partnerships and urges that Best Practice guidance be
produced based on models such as the work done by Norfolk County
Council and Edinburgh Council who have demonstrated that both
urban and rural areas are able to receive cost effective and efficient
19. The Association also believes that principal
authorities in co-ordination with Local Councils and private organisations
should look into a flexible approach to funding services on demand.
In areas of Norway, a concessionary bus service is provided which
is aimed specifically at young people. It picks up people in villages
and takes them to the local town for a Friday or Saturday night.
A similar services is provided for Saturday shopping trips, targeted
at elderly people and those without private transport. This Association
urges the Government to investigate similar projects and research
their applicability in the UK.
20. The Association hopes that the Countryside
Commission will consult widely in its management strategy for
the countryside and urges the Government to ensure that Local
Councils have a statutory right to consultation and are represented
in some form on the Rural Traffic Advisory Services.
Use of the Car
21. The Association believes that the Government
is not fully aware of how reliant people are on their car in the
countryside. In the absence of good, effective, safe and regular
public transport in rural areas, local people must necessarily
use their car. It is not a luxury and should not therefore be
taxed as a luxury good. Again, the Association is concerned to
note in this context that the White Paper is clearly more focused
on urban problems and solutions rather than rural problems and
22. The Association welcomes the Governments
proposals to reduce speed, an issue which has been constantly
on this Association's agenda. However, it is essential that these
measures are implemented in conjunction with a review of the enforcement
of traffic regulations.
23. In this context we draw attention to our
proposals for a thorough going and radical national review of
the system of road classification on a basis of usage and capacity
to handle such usage. At the same time we would expect to see
some of the inappropriate residual central bureaucracy dispersed
to the local level. A typical example of this is the continued
requirement to refer to the Secretary of State any proposal to
change the siting of individual "Stop" signs, which
is surely a decision best taken at the local level in light of
local experience. We would expect that Parish, Town and Community
Councils would be given a substantial role in drawing up of Local
Transport plans in their own locality particularly in light of
the recent allocation of new powers to Local Councils in this
area of activity.
24. In response to the Government's proposals
to implement the integrated transport system, the National Association
wishes to make it clear that it is essential that principal authorities
consult Local Councils as of right. It is also vital that Local
Councils are represented on the Commission for Integrated Transport,
the Strategic Rail Authority and at Regional Planning Conferences.
25. The National Association of Local Councils
believes that the principle underlying integrated transport has
potential to reform the infrastructure of England and Wales for
the better. However, the Association is concerned to note that
the White Paper has considered only the problems and solutions
of transport in urban areas in some detail. Whilst the paper recognises
that integrated transport and the idea of the "seamless"
journey necessarily implies the consideration of rural transport,
this paper does not go far enough. The transport needs of the
rural countryside, its current problems and much needed solutions
have not been fully recognised by the Government. It is therefore
essential that in drafting the legislation and corresponding regulations,
national government, principal authorities, regional development
agencies and any other national or regional agency set up to discuss
transport, consult Local Councils fully.