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

Memorandum by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (IT 140)



  1. The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) welcomes the decision by the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee to conduct an inquiry into the proposals on integrated transport contained in the recent Government White Paper, "A New Deal for Transport". This short memorandum is an attempt to offer comment on the safety implications of integrated transport. PACTS would be happy to provide further information if requested.

  2. PACTS is a registered all-party Parliamentary group and a registered charity. It seeks to identify research based solutions to transport safety problems and to act as a link between transport safety research and public policy. Its members include the public and private sector, voluntary and professional groups and university researchers.

  3. Last November, during the consultation period on integrated transport conducted by the Government, PACTS hosted a seminar on safety and integrated transport. This was attended by some 30 professionals from a range of backgrounds. Its conclusions were debated with Baroness Hayman, then Minister for Roads, and formed part of the background documentation to the White Paper.


  4. In 1997, 3,599 people were killed on the roads in Great Britain. In all, 327,544 people were killed or injured during the course of the year. In terms of lost output, emergency services time and cost to society, road casualties amount to £10 billion per year. Although the number of killed and seriously injured is much lower than it was 10 years ago, road casualties remain a major human and financial drain on society.

  5. Any integrated transport policy must have at its core the need to reduce road deaths and injuries. In crude terms, any attempts to reduce car usage and encourage more benign modes such as bus or train should lead to a reduction in road casualties. However, encouragement of more vulnerable modes such as cycling and walking, without any additional safety interventions, may well result in casualty trends rising rather than falling.

  6. As an organisation focused on safety, PACTS does not have a brief to encourage one mode of transport at the expense of another. Rather, it accepts that all road users have the right to look for an environment that is as safe as reasonably practicable. In addition, all road users have the responsibility to act sensibly and to take appropriate precautions while exercising their preferred mode of transport. The success of road safety depends upon a partnership between road users.


  7. In its encouragement of a sustainable and integrated approach to transport, the Government will need to undertake two key pieces of research. The first will be into the real level of risks experienced by people making similar journeys by different modes. While it is true that bus and coach are safer modes for passengers than cars, the walk to the bus-stop and the wait for the bus expose pedestrians to higher levels of risk. It is important to research into the risk level of the whole journey rather than that of the specific mode.

  8. The second research project should be undertaken into the effects of encouraging modal shift among the driving population. It is not unreasonable to hypothesise that those most likely to accept Government exhortation to switch to walking and cycling will be more conformist, socially responsible citizens. If the result of modal shift is fewer cars driven faster by drivers who are more likely to be involved in crashes because of their risk-taking behaviours, road casualties may rise rather than fall. That kind of unexpected and wholly counter-productive outcome of modal shift should not be encouraged.


  9. Paragraph 3.259 of the White Paper announces a review of the arrangements for transport safety. PACTS welcomes this announcement, particularly as it offers an opportunity for a full and balanced discussion of the benefits of a single independent authority with responsibility for the regulation of safety across the modes. What will be important in this discussion will be a close analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the current bodies involved in safety regulation and accident investigation.

  10. PACTS believes that the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) offers a relevant model here. The AAIB is wholly independent of government, retaining the right to make public recommendations and to comment on progress (or otherwise) towards implementation. Any new body will need to have the confidence of the travelling public and will need to act without fear or favour and without let or hindrance by other bodies whether public or private. The recent comments by the Health and Safety Executive about the failure to include the removal of Mark 1 rolling stock as a condition of franchise letting during privatisation suggest that other government agencies do not experience such freedom of action. Those involved in safety regulation must be independent of both commercial and political pressure.


  11. The publication of "A New Deal for Transport" offers an opportunity to rethink and to redirect policy on transport. However, the majority of decisions about transport will be taken by individual citizens making specific decisions about particular routes and preferred modes. Some of these decisions will be influenced by fiscal measures such as car park charges or petrol prices. Some will be shaped by congestion and length of journey. Others will be made on the basis of actual or perceived safety of specific modes.

  12. In the encouragement of other more sustainable modes than the car, Government needs to understand what prevents or discourages cycling and walking. Funds will need to be made available to make cycling and walking safer. This might be undertaken via "Challenge Fund" style moneys available to local authorities for innovative schemes to encourage vulnerable modes while preventing potential rises in casualties.

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Prepared 28 April 1999