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


Memorandum by Devon County Council (IT 145)

TRANSPORT WHITE PAPER—A NEW DEAL FOR TRANSPORT

  The Environment Committee of Devon County Council considered the Government's White Paper at its meeting on the 22 September 1998.

  Overall the publication of the White Paper is welcomed by Devon County Council. It continues the development of a policy framework which has its origins in "This Common Inheritance" and which can be traced through the publication of PPG13, PPG6 and legislation such as the Environment Act 1995 and the Road Traffic Reduction Act. The White Paper builds upon this framework and proposes new measures which will support and encourage the realisation of a truly integrated transport system.

  A substantial number of the proposed measures set out within the White Paper require legislation (either primary or secondary) to be put in place. Any delay in the approval of legislation associated with these measures would be a matter of some considerable concern to Devon County Council.

  The replacement of the annual capital bidding process (through the Transport Policies and Programme) by five year Local Transport Plans which embrace both capital and revenue expenditure on transport, is warmly welcomed. It is assumed that as Local Transport Plans will be a replacement for the TPP, the County Council will take the lead in its preparation. However the importance attached to ensuring the widest possible ownership of the content of the Local Transport Plan through the involvement of all sectors of the local community is strongly supported. In this respect the importance of ensuring the early publication of clear and concise guidance on the development of Local Transport Plans cannot be underestimated. Devon County Council strongly urges that the draft guidance on Local Transport Plans is published at the earliest possible opportunity.

  The measures outlined to support the development of public transport services are a key feature of the White Paper. The importance attached to the development of quality partnerships is welcomed. The longer timescale associated with Local Transport Plans should enable private and public sector investment in public transport services to be co-ordinated more effectively than at present.

  The proposal for a national minimum standard for local authority concessionary fares for elderly people on buses is welcomed in principle, however there are a number of concerns which need to be addressed in more detail. In particular it is unclear how the cost of such a scheme would be covered. Experience of the Countywide scheme in Devon has highlighted a reluctance on the part of the transport operators to agree to unrestricted half price travel, principally because of concerns as to the lack of capacity during the peak hours. Devon County Council is concerned that the proposed national scheme does not appear to extend to scheduled rail services, unlike the existing Countywide scheme in Devon.

  The proposals associated with the development of the rail industry are to be welcomed. Devon County Council is particularly keen to obtain more details of the two new schemes announced in support of new investment proposals.

  Devon County Council notes the suggestion that all airports with scheduled passenger services should lead an Airport Transport Forum tasked with the development of an access strategy for the airport. It supports the establishment of such a forum for Exeter Airport.

  The announcement of proposals to introduce legislation which would allow local authorities to introduce road user and/or workplace parking charges attracted considerable attention at the time that the White Paper was published. Details of the proposed charges are limited within the White Paper and Devon County Council will have to await publication of the associated consultation paper before being in a position to form an opinion as to whether the introduction of either charge is appropriate in Devon.

  Notwithstanding the need to await publication of the consultation paper, Devon County Council is concerned at the apparent suggestion that road user charging might be an appropriate mechanism for managing access to popular tourist areas.

  Devon County Council is keen to pursue the suggestion that local authorities should work with retailers and operators of leisure facilities to identify measures which reduce car dependency. In particular it welcomes the indication that the introduction of these measures should be funded by the private sector.

  The proposal to establish a national public transport information system is supported. Public confidence in such a service will be dependent on the accuracy of the information provided In this respect careful consideration should be given to the need to ensure that the service is sufficiently detailed at a local level, whilst forming part of a national service.

  The requirement to ensure that information about bus services is available in their areas places an additional responsibility on local authorities that will have a financial implication. Similarly the suggestion that local highway authorities should provide free of charge the roadside information that drivers need to make effective use of the highway network, is a requirement which brings with it a financial implication. Greater clarity is sought by Devon County Council as to whether or not additional resources will be forthcoming in response to these additional requirements.

  The White Paper identifies a key role for Green Transport Plans as part of an integrated transport policy. In particular the commitment by Government to work with local authorities to help secure widespread voluntary take up of Green Travel Plans through partnership with business and the wider community is welcomed.

  Devon County Council is actively supporting a business led initiative in Exeter which could form a model of good practice for achieving this objective. The Exeter Initiative, on behalf of the Exeter Business Forum, is facilitating the development of the Exeter Business Travel Plan, a framework which encourages local businesses to develop their own travel plans and their co-ordination at a city-wide level. The development of the County Council's own Green Travel Plan is being co-ordinated with the development of the Exeter Business Travel Plan.

  In noting the publication of the report the Environment Committee resolved, inter alia, that:

    "the Committee welcomes the publication of the White Paper and requests the DETR to publish `Guidelines for Local Transport' urgently; and whilst the Committee firmly supports the idea of a national concessionary fares scheme, the Local Government Association be alerted to the cost implications for those schemes, such as the Devon Scheme, which are self supporting and also that the LGA investigate the possibility of concessionary fares for rail."

  I trust that the above comments are of assistance.

Martin Tugwell

for County Environment Director

12 October 1998


 
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