Memorandum Submitted by Tyne and Wear
Passenger Transport Authority and Nexus (IT 131)
"A NEW DEAL FOR TRANSPORTBETTER
1. Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Authority
(PTA) and Nexus, its executive arm, are grateful for the opportunity
to submit evidence to the Committee's inquiry into the Government's
transport policy White Paper, "A New Deal for TransportBetter
2. We congratulate the Government for producing
a comprehensive analysis of the transport needs of the country
that recognises the important contribution that transport policy
must make to the wider goal of sustainable development.
3. We support fully the Government's call to
modernise and integrate the way in which the country's transport
needs are planned, provided for and financed.
4. We believe that the Government should affirm
its radical intentions through primary and secondary legislation
at the earliest opportunity.
5. We feel strongly that new primary and secondary
legislation should empower and enable democratically elected and
accountable local and regional authorities to make a direct and
tangible contribution to the Government's objectives.
6. We note that the Government intends to publish
a series of further consultation papers on the details of its
plans shortly but we are concerned that their consideration will
further delay the necessary legislation.
7. We are especially concerned about the Government's
financing the "New Deal for
delivering the "New Deal for
Transport" in the English metropolitan areas;
regulation of the bus industry;
safeguarding the interests of the
8. The publication of the Economic and Fiscal
Strategy Report (EFSR) and Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR)
marks a decisive shift away from the short term planning horizons
that have bedeviled transport policy making in the past. The new
arrangements for encouraging and protecting capital investment
are particularly welcome.
9. Yet of the extra £1.7 billion (in real
terms) pledged by Government for transport over the next three
years, only £100 million will be available in 1999-2000,
with the balance of £600 million and £1 billion coming
in 2000-01 and 2000-02 respectively.
10. We cannot help but note that:
projected national public expenditure
on transport in 2001-02 (£10.8 billion at 1997-98 prices)
will be 20 per cent less than it was in 1993-94 (£13.5 billion
at 1997-98 prices);
transport tax yields to the Treasury
are set to grow at a far higher rate than inflation;
the outstanding demands for local
transport investment are immense. As the Committee is aware, the
Local Government Association (LGA) has put a £5.25 billion
price tag on the cost of bringing local roads up to scratch.
11. Consequently, we feel that there is a noticeable
shortfall between the Government's expectations of local government
to implement "The New Deal for Transport" and the resources
available to local authorities to do so.
12. Without wishing to prejudice the Government's
commitment to abide by the "golden rule" of public expenditure,
we feel that there is scope for the Government to help bridge
the gulf between ambitions and resources by:
freeing local authorities from the
threat of Council Tax capping;
accepting the Committee's recommendation
of underwriting Public-Private Partnership transport projects
with Government guaranteed bonds where there is little or any
revenue risk involved;
increasing the penalty for bus lane
offences and channelling the proceeds of such fines back to local
authorities to pay for the cost of enforcing bus priority measures.
13. Looking ahead to the introduction of new
revenue streams to integrate local transport networks, we would
like the Government to:
rethink its intention to exempt non-workplace
car parking from the proposed charging regime;
confirm that it will not use the
opportunity of such streams to abdicate and/or transfer its own
14. The Government notes in its White Paper
that the English metropolitan PTGAs are "well placed to play
a leading role in delivering integrated transport objectives in
places which face some of the most serious environmental and congestion
problems outside London". While we are grateful for this
recognition, the PTA and Nexus are anxious to ensure that the
Government is fully alert to the scale of the challenge that PTAs
face in living up to Government's high hopes.
15. We referred above to the financing needs
of the "New Deal for Transport". For the English metropolitan
PTAs, the problem has an added twist in that they are dependent
for resources on hard pressed/cap threatened metropolitan district
councils. Since Central Government support for local public transport
services is not provided in a transparent form, the public transport
network must compete for money with other local authority front
line services such as education and personal social services.
The Government has not yet come forward with proposals for resolving
this state of affairs which is prejudicial to long term planning
and the pursuit of "Best Value".
16. In common with our fellow PTAs and PTEs,
we have been vigorous in forging voluntary partnerships with our
constituent district councils, local operators and other agencies
to improve the quality, attractiveness and convenience of the
local public transport network. Yet there are limits to how much
can be achieved through goodwill and good intentions. Bus patronage
is still on the decline in the English metropolitan areas and
we don't believe this will be reversed without underpinning the
principles embedded in partnerships with some regulation of buses,
particularly in busy town centres and on heavily used corridors.
17. The White Paper does suggest that Government
shares this view, but we would welcome more details about:
the relationship between the preparation
of Regional Planning Guidance, Regional Transport Strategies (RTSs)
and Local Transport Plans (LTPs);
the extent to which partners in the
preparation and implementation of RTSs and LTPs will be able to
veto and/or opt out from specification measures.
18. We welcome the emphasis on encouragement
to employers to adopt green commuter plans. However this would
be considerably helped if the Chancellor adjusted the current
status of subsidised public transport (season tickets) as a "benefit
in kind", hence liable to taxation. This does not currently
apply to car parking places provided by the employer!
19. The PTA and Nexus welcome the White Paper's
recognition of the pivotal role of local bus services in delivering
the "New Deal for Transport". We are disappointed that
the Government seems to under estimate the problems caused by
bus deregulation (especially in the English metropolitan areas)
and by the underlying suggestion that there is scope for meaningful
improvement without primary and secondary legislation.
20. Under the "Best Value" regime
for local public services the Government has rightly insisted
that, "A culture in which authorities decide what services
are provided on the basis of what suits them as providers is not
an option". Yet with bus deregulation and even with Quality
Partnerships, PTAs and local authorities have no option but to"put
up and pay up" for what best suits the commercial bus operators
in terms of service levels, vehicle quality, fares, ticketing
schemes, information and publicity.
21. The White Paper does hold out the hope of
more effective regulation of the industry through Quality Contracts
although it is not clear as to what criteria will have to be fulfilled.
Once that criteria is established then it surely should be decided
locally rather than require the consent of the Secretary of State.
22. We believe that this approach runs counter
to the Government's commitment to devolving power from the centre.
23. An integrated public transport system should
entail an integrated approach to responding to the needs and concerns
of its passengers as customers, stakeholders and tax payers. The
degree of redress available to passengers for poor performance
and/or service failure should not be a matter of operational and
bureaucratic convenience, still less should it be left to market
forces to resolve. Yet under the current patchwork of provision,
the rights of the passenger vary enormously between modes and
between different parts of the country.
24. The White Paper suggests that the Traffic
Commissioners should be given a role in strengthening the passenger
voice and hints at more use of the Consultative Committee framework
for the railways by involving bus user representative bodies.
These proposals imply that Government is alert to the problem
but confused as to the most appropriate way to resolve it.
25. The PTA and Nexus believe that a national
statutory watchdog is required to promote and protect the interests
of all public transport passengers as part of the "New Deal
T D Marshall
Tyne and Wear PTA
Michael J Parker