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

Memorandum by The Chartered Institute of Transport in the UK (CIT UK) (IT 16)



  The Government's transport White Paper A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone, published on 20 July 1998, was prepared in the face of high expectations, but also a range of widely differing views, from organisations and individuals. The White Paper manages to achieve a good balance: it sets the right tone and right direction, and identifies opportunities for radical policy measures. The Chartered Institute of Transport in the UK (CIT UK) welcomes its publication as a real achievement marking a watershed in the approach to transport in the UK.

  Many of the proposals reflect the Institute's policy recommendations, notably:

    —  commitment to congestion and trunk road tolling, with the revenues dedicated to investment in transport development and infrastructure;

    —  strengthening the role of local authorities, through local transport plans;

    —  improvements to the structure of the national railway system, through evolution rather than wholesale revision;

    —  commitment to improving local bus services through Quality Partnerships on a statutory basis;

    —  development of regional transport responsibilities in England, devolved strategies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the new transport arrangements for London;

    —  the creation of a body to monitor progress in achieving an integrated policy to provide a strategic view;

    —  far closer links between land use and transport planning, especially through focusing development on public transport corridors.

  But, welcome though the White Paper is, achieving its aims will come only through implementation; and it is here that possible doubts and serious weaknesses start to appear. The rest of this paper reviews some key elements where CIT UK considers that this is the starting point and that much work needs to be done.


  The White Paper will only succeed it if commands general support, so that the many decisions of public authorities, businesses and individuals follow the new direction consistently over time. The momentum to do this must be kept up, through clear commitment to the necessary action and investment. While the White Paper stresses the importance of local strategies, and of a regional dimension, it does not actually provide a strategic overview itself. There is thus little indication of exactly where it aims to go over the next 10—or 20—years, or what strategic framework will be used to achieve this change. So there is no point of reference for development of local transport plans, or regional strategies either, nor is there a defined basis on which to assess local transport plans. Although the value of integration with land-use planning is emphasised, there is no clear direction. CIT UK considers that a formal national strategy pulling all strands together must be developed for formal adoption by Parliament, to form the framework for implementation.

  This strategy should focus on outputs, in the form of targets and objectives. The White Paper proposes targets and objectives, and it quotes some individual examples. But it does not propose any formal mechanism for their production and use. The White Paper does propose an annual monitoring exercise will be carried out; from the example of Dutch practice, this could prove a valuable tool for moving things forward. These possibly useful elements seem likely to be the responsibility of the Commission for Integrated Transport (CfIT); this body should have a potentially valuable function, but a lot depends on its membership, responsibilities and powers, all of which remain undefined.


  CIT UK welcomes the importance attached to the regional dimension, including devolution for Scottish and Welsh interests, the proposal for transport strategies in the English regions, and the role for the Greater London Authority. However, CIT UK is concerned that the arrangements proposed for regional transport strategies see them limited to establishing guidelines on components of local transport plans. Some regional planning conferences have drawn up transport strategies but these have achieved little because there are no powers for their implementation; the White Paper's proposals do not change this. CIT UK believes that the proposed new regional responsibilities should be supported by specific mechanisms enabling achievement of regional transport strategies within national policies. They should provide formal links between regional strategies and local transport plans.


  Most (passenger) journeys are local, within the area of one local authority, or two adjacent ones. Even longer journeys, and most freight movements, start or finish at places which have large numbers of local journeys. Thus all transport is subject to local conditions. So the Government's proposal for local transport plans is logical in terms of transport policies, and of related matters such as land use planning.

  The local transport plan is given a very substantial role in the White Paper, whose Foreword defines it as a key policy. Two separate sections outline the approach to be followed, and references to the local transport plan permeate the White Paper, as the basis for funding and action in most spheres of transport; it is also identified as an important factor in land use planning and development. Government intend to formalise the local transport plan by statute, but they expect the first plans to be drawn up in 1999 prior to legislation, as a basis for the transport planning cycle for 2000-01 to 2004-05 (in England).

  However, for such an important component of policy, the White Paper is not very specific about principles and practice. Some local authorities have developed the necessary strategic thinking, but for most they will represent a sea change. Instead of purely technical lines of responsibility and preparation of bidding documents, local authorities will have to formulate strategy documents incorporating objectives, structures and well stated methodologies. These require thought and understanding, and it seems probable that relatively few local authorities have many staff with the necessary background or culture. It will take time to build up expertise and thinking in this field. There will be a vital role in education and training, and in the provision of "best practice", both on plan preparation and on transport policy elements. CIT UK will be happy to contribute to this.


  Quite a lot can be achieved through Government decisions and actions under existing legislation: these include directions to regulators, local authorities and others, and changes to standards, through Orders made in Parliament; changes to planning guidance; decisions on local authority funding. The more progressive transport companies and local authorities will need little encouragement to act. Educating and informing businesses and the public may have some effects, in conjunction with other actions. Government can use positive results from such a "shadow" situation to promote the value of its policies, and they will generate material for a growing portfolio of "best practice". But ultimately such gains may only be temporary: the key changes need a legislative basis, and any real delays in establishing this may undermine the potential opportunities which the White Paper aims at.

  It is probable that legislative powers are needed for a number of key actions to be set in hand. These include:

    —  introduction of road charging and workplace parking levies by local authorities and other bodies, with the revenues from this being used for investment;

    —  conclusion of contracts by local authorities with private sector companies for bus Quality Partnerships;

    —  establishment of the Strategic Rail Authority and changes to existing rail bodies.

  At present there is no firm undertaking to introduce any of the necessary legislation to Parliament this autumn. The Institute is concerned at the implication of legislative delay for the achievement of the White Paper's aims.


  Whatever measures are taken to restrain the growth of demand for road transport, very substantial new investment remains necessary. This should cover additions and improvements to the inter-urban highway network, improvements to rail capacity (including those which do not offer a commercially identifiable return), and substantial works throughout the many local authority areas. To ensure successful implementation of the White Paper's aims, Government must see that the necessary funding is produced. Encouragement of more private funding and the increased use of public-private partnerships will play an important role, as the White Paper recognises; but private investors must find an obvious basis for a sound return, and this often requires a commitment by public partners (whether Government or local authorities). A formally adopted strategy will assist in securing private funding (hence the importance of formal transport plans in some other European countries); but contribution of funds by the public partner is likely to be much more persuasive.

  There are also many policy areas, notably at local authority level, where no opportunity exists for commercially rewarding projects. Prior to publication of the White Paper, Government announced that there would be an additional £1.8 billion for transport over the next three years. However, CIT UK have estimated that an extra £3 billion per annum needs to be invested in the UK surface transport infrastructure if the widely shared aspirations for much improved transport, which the White Paper seeks to reflect, are to be achieved. Any significant shift from car use to public transport will require major investment, in infrastructure, vehicles and facilities (such as interchanges), a lot of it at local level. The White Paper's failure to quantify the funding requirement is disappointing, and CIT UK hopes this will soon be rectified.


  Part of the White Paper focuses on trunk movement, looking at development of railways and management of trunk roads: both have been considered further by subsequent policy documents—A New Deal for the Railways and A New Deal for Trunk Roads in England. The institute welcomes the establishment of the Strategic Rail Authority but considers that its role appears largely aimed at improving management of the existing railway organisations rather than providing them with a truly strategic vision as a basis of effective investment. The Institute is concerned that

    —  the levels of new investment planned for rail and trunk road will be less than is necessary;

    —  charging and investment evaluation principles for the two modes remain very different, so that overall operations and use of funds are less efficient than they might be.


  A high proportion of the UK population lives in cities and towns, and many of the local transport elements in the White Paper will necessarily concern urban transport. Policies such as bus development through Quality Partnerships, congestion charging, encouragement of cycling, and review of land use planning are primarily of importance in urban surroundings. However, it is also essential to develop transport policies for rural areas; but in areas of low density the changes in modes and attitudes that Government seeks are not realistic.

  Even within cities and towns the White Paper puts too much emphasis on dealing with peak period travel and trips to central areas, which usually form a small proportion of total movement within urban areas. A lot of urban travel is within and between suburbs; much of this is diverse, and any significant changes of mode would require much more closely considered policies than the White Paper suggests. Goods movement into and within urban areas also requires careful assessment if effective policies are to be developed. In these aspects especially the White Paper appears to be addressing today's problems rather than those which will need attention over the next 10 years. In particular the policy proposals do not directly consider the difficulties of achievement in a car oriented culture which is still encouraging urban sprawl rather than concentrated development.

  This perhaps indicates a certain lack of understanding in the White Paper's otherwise practical focus. Public concerns over congestion and pollution reflect growing affluence, which has raised people's expectations of quality in their surroundings. But this trend has also raised their commitment to a car based lifestyle, and their wish for a range of goods whose ready availability rests largely on road freight. Current projections of continued road transport growth reflect forecast increases in consumer demand which will be very difficult to change without commitment to radical policy changes and higher investment funding.


  Effective implementation requires a commonly held pool of knowledge and expertise if it is to be implemented on broadly similar lines across a range of authorities and companies. The White Paper quotes various examples of the measures which it envisages. But it does not include suggestions for building a portfolio of "best practice" for development by public authorities, transport companies and others involved. The whole area of "best practice" forms one which should be developed, so that the various bodies responsible for taking forward the White Paper can choose from within a bundle of policy measures those which are most appropriate to their strategic aims. Pilot schemes may offer a valuable opportunity to develop both experience and momentum in changing transport patterns.


  The White Paper briefly mentions the role of the European Union in action on a common European front. It does not mention the developing transport policy of the European Union, which is surprising, as the European Commission has pursued a consistent line of policy development for most of this decade. The key reference was the 1992 Communication on the Common Transport Policy, which was followed in 1996 by three key documents: consultations on public transport and on infrastructure pricing and a White Paper on railway policy. The policy directions indicated have now been put into effect through two documents published at the same time as the UK White Paper: the Communication Developing the Citizen's Network (setting out the range of Community actions intended on public transport); and the White Paper Fair Payment for Infrastructure Use defining a firm action programme on infrastructure pricing. Both address areas which are at the heart of the UK White Paper. They offer scope for providing guidance and information but they may also have significant implications for the implementation of UK policy. It is by no means clear that the UK Government has taken into account these implications. CIT UK considers that they should do specifically in guiding implementation of the White Paper's policies.


  CIT UK welcomes the White Paper as a genuine landmark document in overall terms and is keen to see it implemented with the positive thrust that it deserves. However, CIT UK has important reservations over the extent to which the White Paper's policies can actually achieve an effective and integrated transport system, for several reasons:

    —  there is no national strategy to guide action and investment on an integrated basis;

    —  regions are not given the powers to implement regional strategies;

    —  considerable responsibilities are placed on local authorities to achieve results through their local transport plans but most authorities lack the experience and staff skills needed;

    —  several of the fundamental measures require legislative change but commencement of the Parliamentary process has been delayed;

    —  implementation requires very substantial increase in funding, not all of which offers a commercial return, but there is no assessment of these funding issues;

    —  current travel patterns and attitudes will be far more difficult to change than envisaged without radical shifts in policy and funding;

    —  comprehensive guidelines on "best practice" in a range of areas needs to be established;

    —  there is little mention of European Union transport policies, but these need to be understood and addressed.

  Therefore CIT UK urges that Government guides implementation with commitment and understanding. This must involves building a good strategic framework, with mechanisms geared to successful outputs. It also requires the necessary legislation and funding to be identified and enabled rapidly. The Institute has long enjoyed good relations with Government, and close working with DETR officials on various policy areas has evolved over the last year. On this basis it looks forward to contributing to the White Paper's implementation over the coming months and years.

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Prepared 28 April 1999