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


Memorandum by London First (IT 141)

A NEW DEAL FOR TRANSPORT

INTRODUCTION

  London First is a business campaign group, founded in 1992, whose objects are to:

    —  engage business leaders in decision making about London's future thereby stimulating new solutions to London's development and enabling focused action;

    —  attract resources to London through championing London as the world's number one city.

  London First has been working, with others, to develop processes that involve boroughs, other key London players and the private sector in working together on a wide range of issues to deliver results. We have encouraged the private sector to lead and/or participate in a range of partnership initiatives including, for example, the establishment of an inward investment agency for London (London First Centre). London First currently has just over 300 members.

  From the outset, lack of investment in infrastructure, especially transport, has been seen as one of the main problems facing London. Transport in London is essential to its competitiveness, which is essential for the success of the UK economy as a whole. The world's major cities are competing for business and the success of London is critically dependent on improving its transport system. Our objective is for London to have a world class transport system by 2010.

  The proposals in the Government's White Paper go a long way towards enabling this objective to be achieved. In particular, the establishment of a Greater London Authority (GLA) with overall responsibility for transport in London and with the power to introduce road user charges will, for the first time, create the conditions to reduce congestion and pollution, improve public transport and make cycling and walking safer and more attractive. However the need to reduce traffic congestion and improve inadequate public transport is urgent. Action to tackle immediate problems and establish a clear strategy for the future cannot wait until legislation is enacted and new institutional structures become effective. The comments which follow on specific elements of the White Paper are made in this overall context.

ROAD USER CHARGES

  London First strongly welcomes the proposals to allow local authorities to introduce charges for road use and workplace parking. We were delighted with the Prime Minister's confirmation in his speech at the Labour Party Conference that the Mayor will have such powers and that the revenue would be used to improve public transport. It is essential that these powers should be included in the legislation to establish the GLA so that the Mayor will be able to introduce such charges as soon as practicable.

  However, acceptance of the principle of 100 per cent hypothecation is absolutely crucial and represents a major breakthrough. Extensive consultation with London First member companies in 1997 established that businesses in London were prepared to accept new charges provided that the revenue was dedicated to improving the transport system. This finding was confirmed by the results of a study of business attitudes to charges for workplace parking carried out in conjunction with the University of Westminster earlier this year: 90 per cent of respondents considered it would be acceptable for the proceeds to be ring-fenced and invested by the local authority to invest in the area, whereas 84 per cent considered it unacceptable for central government to treat the revenue as a contribution to the national budget. A summary of the findings is attached.

  There is a sound economic basis for this response. The findings of The London Congestion Research programme (Government Office for London 1995) indicated that the annual revenue from congestion charges would exceed the economic benefit from reduced traffic congestion. For commercial traffic which is essential to the London economy congestion charges may well exceed the value of improvements in operating conditions, leading to a net increase in costs. In economic terms therefore—and for business in particular—road user charging can only be justified if the revenue is used to improve the transport system and so increase London's overall competitiveness.

  We therefore strongly support the Deputy Prime Minister's reference, in his statement to Parliament on 20 July, to "new powers for local authorities to levy charges for the use of congested roads, and on workplace parking" with the proceeds "re-invested in local transport through a ring-fenced fund". It is essential that this principle is firmly embedded in the legislation governing road user charges. In particular such charges must be governed by four conditions:

    —  they should be wholly dedicated to transport in the area: there should be no question of the Treasury keeping a percentage or redistributing the revenue between areas through the operation of the rate support grant

    —  the revenue should be additional to existing funding: it should be earmarked for specific programmes which could not be funded within existing resources (including additional finance to upgrade London Underground if this cannot be achieved on the basis of commercial revenue alone);

    —  the benefits of improvements to the system must be felt at the same time as charges are imposed, i.e., the "carrot" and the "stick" must go together;

    —  therefore it must be possible to raise capital for early investment on the strength of the income stream without being constrained by local authority capital controls.

RAIL

  The franchise arrangements are at present mainly geared to preserving the existing pattern of service. While privatisation has allowed new passenger and freight services to be developed on a commercial basis, it is difficult to determine priorities for use of the existing network where there are capacity constraints or to progress investment in new infrastructure. So, for example, it has not been possible to exploit the potential of the West London Line for local passenger services which could provide an alternative to the congested Earls Court Road corridor or to reach a decision on the future of CrossRail.

  London First therefore welcomes the creation of a Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) to fill this gap, and of the Infrastructure Investment Fund and the Rail Passenger Partnership scheme. So far as London is concerned, however, there remain difficult issues about the role of the Mayor in relation to the national rail system and the interface between the rail system and the Underground. One million people travel into central London every morning, 400,000 of whom do so by rail. Nearly half of them transfer to the Underground (Transport Statistics for London 1997). At the same time, London's commuter market is the biggest business sector of the rail system—British Rail's former Network South East accounted for over 40 per cent of total rail passenger travel (Transport Statistics for Great Britain 1996).

  The White Paper "A Mayor and Assembly for London" proposes that the Mayor will be able to:

    —  fund additional services;

    —  give guidance to the SRA;

    —  promote or fund improvements;

    —  require operators to join ticketing scheme;

    —  be consulted on timetable decisions in order to ensure co-ordination.

  But London will have to be consistent with national priorities. The SRA will have the last word. Given the importance of commuter rail services for London—and London's large share of the total rail market—there is a need for a mechanism to ensure that the Mayor has a clear locus in relation to the SRA—for example at least equal to that of Scottish and Welsh interests.

  Similarly the new regulatory regime for the railways must ensure consistency between rail, Underground, and light rail in terms of fares, ticketing, information and service obligations. Integration is at the heart of the White Paper and nowhere is this more important than in securing a coherent rail, Underground and light rail network to serve London.

  If road traffic is to be reduced, the capacity of public transport systems, which are already overcrowded, must be increased with greater reliability and higher standards. New facilities such as stations around M25 with secure car parking will be needed to provide an alternative for car commuters.

  Above all there must be a clear rail strategy for London. The present system can barely cope with existing demand. Major new investment is needed to enable it to cater for increased demand generated by the growth of London's economy and reduced car use. There has been no shortage of studies and proposals but not enough commitment. While work is about to start on the first phase of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL), the timing and financial commitment to the second phase, which brings most benefits, are still uncertain. As a result, the future of Thameslink 2000, which depends on integration with the St Pancras CTRL station, is thrown into doubt. There is continuing uncertainty whether CrossRail will ever proceed, and the Chelsea-Hackney Line remains no more than a number of possible options.

  In the meantime, there is continuing planning blight along the line of these projects and investment in regeneration of key sites such as Kings Cross and Stratford is delayed. There is no focal point of responsibility for taking decisions on these projects. While we look to the SRA to ensure that major new projects are carried out, the present uncertainty must not be allowed to continue until legislation has been enacted to set up the SRA and it can discuss with the Mayor the transport strategy for the London city region. The strategy must be settled now and underwritten by the Government.

EAST THAMES RIVER CROSSINGS

  The White Paper says that an integrated package of new river crossings could help to stimulate regeneration in the Thames Gateway and ease congestion, but goes on to say only that "we are considering the options and the way forward so that decisions can be taken by the Greater London Authority". In effect this means that construction of these crossings will be set back by at least three years.

  The three crossings are:

    —  an additional Blackwall crossing for road traffic;

    —  a Woolwich rail crossing linking the North London and North Kent Lines;

    —  a Thames Gateway Bridge between Beckton and Thamesmead for road traffic and light rail or guided busway.

  Together these crossings represent an integrated transport package to overcome the barrier presented by the river in east London and improve access to encourage regeneration in the Thames Gateway. A study carried out for the Government Office for London concludes that with tolls on the existing and new Blackwall Crossings and on the Thames Gateway Bridge, it should be possible to fund the crossings with little or no public sector contribution.

  Preparatory work should be put in hand now and consultation undertaken with local authorities and other interested parties so that a fully worked-up scheme is ready for decision when the Mayor is elected. London First is working with potential funders and construction interests to develop the business case for the scheme and propose a project structure. However it is clear that a public sector promoter is required to define the objectives, determine risk allocation and support preparatory work. DETR should take on this role, or nominate an agency such as English Partnerships to do so, so that no time is lost.

BUSES AND TAXIS

  In the short-term it is buses which can make the greatest contribution to improving public transport. In London much is being achieved through the operation of the franchising system, the creation of the bus priority network, investment by LT Buses in real time information (Countdown) and other facilities, and by the operators in new buses with better access and improved environmental performance.

  With reduced car use, buses have the potential to provide much of the extra public transport capacity that will be needed by offering an improved alternative to the Underground and suburban rail services, as well as catering for a wide variety of journeys which cannot easily be served by fixed track modes. To achieve this however there must be flexibility to plan new routes to meet strategic needs and to make changes to respond to new needs and opportunities, for example as proposed by West London Leadership and SWELTRAC. The concept of "quality partnerships" must be applied in London so as to create high capacity corridors with a combination of more radical priority measures, high quality buses and customer focused information and marketing.

  The essential part which taxis play in London must also be recognised, particularly if public transport is to match the door-to-door convenience of the car. The concept of "quality partnership" needs to be developed in relation to taxis, with improved environmental performance and better facilities. In particular, it is important that good provision should be made for taxis at public transport interchanges. The regulation of mini-cabs in London should similarly be implemented so as to ensure a high standard of service and environmental quality.

FREIGHT

  The White Paper concentrates heavily on the environmental impact of road freight movement. So far as London is concerned the maximum use should be made of rail, river and canal transport, particularly for bulk movements such as aggregates and waste. There is also a need for rail/road interchange depots to facilitate the maximum use of rail for distribution in London. To a large extent the use of these modes depends on planning decisions to protect suitable sites from other development, for example through strategic planning guidance for the River Thames. While freight facilities help to promote more sustainable transport, their local environmental impacts are often unpopular and it is important that the Mayor for London—and planning authorities in the surrounding area—should be able to take a strategic view.

  Even with the maximum use of other modes however most distribution to businesses in London, and also servicing, will be carried out by road. London First has campaigned for measures to mitigate the environmental impact of lorries and vans, including higher noise and emission standards for new vehicles, a reduction in vehicle excise duty for their use, and favourable tax treatment for cleaner diesel and gaseous fuels, and welcomes recent decisions to introduce these.

  The White Paper does not however give sufficient recognition to the importance of increasing the efficiency of deliveries and servicing and minimising their cost. So far as London is concerned, this means rationalising the lorry ban which, as operated at present, adds to costs and can be counter-productive in terms of environmental impact. The Transport Committee of the Association of London Government is at present reviewing the extent of the exempt route network and in determining the extent of the strategic road network in London the Government should consider the application of the lorry ban in the light of the ALG review rather than leave this as yet another issue on which will await decision by the Mayor beyond GLA elections in 2000.

ROAD MANAGEMENT

  Efficient deliveries and servicing also depend on rationalising parking and loading controls and enforcing them effectively. It is essential to make the best use of the finite amount of roadspace available. London First supports some reallocation of roadspace in favour of buses, cyclists and pedestrians while ensuring that deliveries and essential services can be maintained efficiently. Significant progress with changing priorities therefore depends on action to reduce traffic demand, for example through road user charging, and better management through tighter discipline over roadworks and better enforcement of traffic and parking regulation.

  The arrangements for notification and co-ordination of public utility works under the New Roads and Streetworks 1991 have never been fully implemented. Good progress is now being made in setting up an electronic notification system. However there remains a need to secure effective co-ordination in London not only between public utilities but also between highway authorities. It is important that the GLA should have adequate powers to secure such co-ordination.

  London First welcomes the proposed consultation on options for an incentive system, with penalties, to minimise disruption. Existing powers under the New Roads and Streetworks Act to charge utilities if they take an excessive time to complete roadworks have never been implemented. If drivers are to be charged to use roads in congested areas, there are obvious implications for public utilities which occupy roadspace to gain access to their apparatus.

  An integrated transport policy must also include effective enforcement of traffic and parking regulation. This is particularly important in relation to road safety and the effectiveness of the bus priority network. Traffic enforcement does not figure in the key objectives of the police service. In London the creation of a new police authority should help to ensure consistent priorities between police and transport policy. However it will remain difficult for the police service to devote sufficient resources to traffic enforcement unless the Home Office takes this into account in its funding.

  The boroughs will remain responsible for parking enforcement on their roads. De-criminalising parking offences and allowing revenue from penalty charges to be used to fund enforcement has facilitated a great increase in enforcement activity. However this has not been sufficiently applied to keeping the bus priority network clear—not only bus lanes but also congested roads which are too narrow to allow bus lanes. Performance standards for keeping bus routes clear should be an essential element in local transport plans.

TOWARDS IMPLEMENTING AN INTEGRATED TRANSPORT STRATEGY

  As indicated above, action to tackle immediate problems and establish a clear strategy for the future cannot wait until legislation is enacted and new institutional structures become effective. London First welcomes the initiative of the Government and ALG in setting a "pre-GLA agenda" of actions which can be implemented in the next 18 months, and of the Government Office for London in setting in hand preparatory work on the options for road user charges. To contribute to this work London First, with The Centre for Management of Transport and the Environment, is commissioning a short study of the practical application of road user charging in London to be completed by the end of January.

  The London Development Partnership, which brings together all the representative organisations with an interest in London's economy, has begun the task of preparing an agreed economic development strategy to pave the way for the Mayor. This economic strategy will need to be complemented by a transport strategy. London First will work with the other members of the Partnership to identify the elements which all agree should form the basis of any transport strategy for London.

October 1998


 
previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1999
Prepared 28 April 1999