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

Memorandum by the Institution of Highways and Transportation (IT 24)



  The Government's White Paper, A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone, is welcomed by the Institution of Highways and Transportation. It is the first document for many years which recognises the scale of the problems to be faced and the vital importance of comprehensive and integrated land-use and transport planning. Three radical changes have been proposed: congestion charging and workplace parking taxation; Quality Bus Partnerships; and the commitment to a comprehensive spending review. The IHT recognises that the White Paper sets the scene for many years to come in and supports its aspirations. The Institution is pleased to see that many of its recommendations previously made in response to the consultation process in 1997 have been accepted. The following comments highlight some of the potential obstacles to progress in implementing the proposals contained in the White Paper.

  The overall goal must be to move progressively towards a sustainable integrated transport system: this will present many challenges for practitioners. Equally it presents many opportunities to develop innovative solutions in consultation with a broad range of providers and the public. The public has become used to an unrestricted, albeit progressively more congested, highway network. This is the major challenge which requires great political will to address. Nothing short of a culture change by the travelling public is needed to ensure any significant degree of success. The deteriorating physical condition of parts of the network is another major challenge.

  In the longer term there is the possibility of increased funding, but in the short term any progress will depend upon the creativity and innovative capacity of transport professionals. It must be clearly understood that doing nothing is not an option if we are to redress some of the damaging environmental consequences of forecast traffic growth. A lack of funding must not be used as an excuse for inaction. Because some of the necessary legislation may take several years to pass, it is important to identify the steps which can be taken ahead of legislation.


  Restraining the growth of road transport must form an integral part of the overall strategy. Substantial investment in the road network is needed, however successfully traffic is restrained, as well as significant additional investment for the alternatives to car-use. There is a consensus view that investment in transport infrastructure in the UK needs to be increased by 50 per cent a year for several years.

  Indications from the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) are disappointing: over the next three years capital spending will increase by about 25 per cent, which is barely equal to the recent decline. In real terms, while monitoring taxation has increased steadily, public expenditure on land transport has continued to decline.

  However, a much more optimistic position is outlined in the CSR, once the impact of private finance and the new revenue streams are allowed for from congestion charging etc., are fully hypothecated to the transport budget. If this happens the CSR estimates that by 2005-06 a total figure of some £8 billion could be available.


  Tackling some of the major problems in the longer term will require the development of new sources of funding using the charging mechanisms identified in the White Paper. To implement these will need considerable political courage, since the initial outcomes may appear to be counterproductive. A reform of charging regimes, combined with additional investment, will make matters better for everyone, including car-users, not for everyone else at the expense of car-users. The White Paper indicates that the Treasury has accepted the principle of hypothecation whereby additional funds raised are retained for use within the transport budget. Practitioners and local politicians will need to be assured that such funding will be additional to current central government financial support.

  It is regrettable that the legislation for the implementation of private non-residential parking, congestion charging and motorway tolling is likely to be delayed. The IHT is also concerned that there is an exemption from charges for parking at out of town shopping centres. This will exacerbate many of the current problems faced by urban centres and as such requires further consideration.

  Congestion charging may not be widely applicable other than in large urban areas. If this is so, the social exclusion resulting from inadequate public transport in rural and smaller urban areas will continue because of the lack of available funding.

  There is also the possibility that local politicians may use new sources of funding for other hard pressed programme areas and it will be necessary to ensure there are adequate controls to prevent this.


  Parliament should be encouraged to find time to enact the necessary legislation, but even if this proves impossible in the near future, much an be achieved under existing powers supported by Government decisions. Much progress can be made in delivering more sustainable and integrated transport by local action. For example, promotional schemes, such as Safe Routes to School and Quality Bus Partnerships, as well as engineering measures such as traffic calming and local safety schemes, can all progress.

  Other actions include directions to regulators, local authorities and others changes in standards, orders made in Parliament, changes to planning guidance, decisions on authority funding, etc. Where positive experience can be seen this could be used as an illustration of best practice to stimulate other, less innovative, authorities.

  Much greater compliance with road traffic law is essential, especially where this will enhance safety and reduce environmental damage. Hypothecation of income from fines to the transport budget would provide a useful source of funds.


  The Government has devolved the major responsibility for developing the consultation and planning framework and preparing Local Transport Plans (LTPs) to local authorities. The IHT welcomes the introduction of five year LTP's as a mechanism for delivery. While many authorities will welcome this responsibility, others will not as they will not have the capacity, either financial or technical, to address the problems.

  Local authorities will need support and time to develop LTPs and this requires a degree of stability. The recent announcement that one third of the members of each authority are to offer themselves for election each year will not help. To address local transport problems will need robust political will and support from the public.

  Another significant problem is the number of bodies with responsibilities for transport. There is a lack of clarity of responsibility between them, which needs resolution. Coherent co-ordinated approaches between local authorities are also needed, especially if workplace-parking charges are to be introduced. Fragmentation of responsibility will impede the development of co-ordinated network management and consistent approaches to transportation management. Regional bodies must have adequate powers to overcome such problems.


  The IHT believes that there is a lack of skilled professionals in all areas of the transport sector. This is an issue which must be addressed with some priority, to ensure that significant professional and technical expertise is available for planning, developing and maintaining the nation's infrastructure.

  Development of specialist maintenance experience must be seen as a priority. There is also the need to develop a greater degree of professionalism in this subject to ensure that the correct economic regimes are formulated and delivered.


  As the White Paper acknowledges, integrated land-use and transport planning has much to contribute. The IHT's guidelines Planning for Public Transport in Developments identify the need to apply three principles: locate developments where they can best be served by public transport; ensure that the layout of developments favours public transport; and ensure that the detailed design satisfies the requirements of public transport users. All new developments, as well as those undergoing redevelopment, should be subject to a transport impact assessment (based on the principles contained in the IHT's guidelines on Traffic Impact Analysis and Planning for Public Transport in Developments).

  Guidance intended to supplement the White Paper must support its aims. For example, a draft of Places, Streets and Movement could lead to developments which are fundamentally unsuitable for bus operations.


  Providing better facilities for pedestrians an cyclists (along with public transport improvements) must be central to all LTP's. The principles to be followed must be traffic reduction; speed reduction; junction improvement; the reallocation of road space; and dedicated facilities. Despite being substantially ignored and in some cases discriminated against, walking and cycling are the two most sustainable modes of transport available. The IHT welcomes the greater emphasis being given to improving provision for these groups. The IHT's series of guidelines (Cycle-Friendly Infrastructure, Cycle Audit and Cycle Review, and Providing for Journeys on Foot [forthcoming]) will assist practitioners to develop high quality infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists. As the IHT's guidelines Reducing Mobility Handicaps points out that designing for those with mobility impairments will help all travellers.


  With some justification the White Paper is hesitant about light rail due to the high costs of investment. Light rail, however, can be used with great success in areas where the layout and topography is appropriate.

  For buses to become the major component of the collective transport system, as the White Paper envisages, service levels and quality will both need to improve substantially. Quality Bus Partnerships are the best way forward and are critical to achieving modal shift. Legislation must not be delayed. Many of the present pollution problems from the noise and fumes of diesel engines must also be addressed. This is essential for improving air quality.


  Whilst there is a good case for redirecting significant tonnage of freight from road to rail, in urban areas the scope for delivery of goods to the point of sale by means other than road is limited. The growing use by industry of "Just in Time" deliveries increases freight traffic. Local distribution centres are being replaced by fewer and larger regional centres, resulting in longer delivery journeys.

  Unless there are weight or size restrictions, HGV's generally have right of access to the entire road network. This is an issue that requires examination. In parallel with the development of the national truck road network, consideration should be given to defining and developing a limited network where HGV's are permitted. The clear implication is that HGV's would not—unless there were special circumstances or permits—be allowed anywhere else on the network, except for local access.

  The progressive development of combined multi-modal (rail/lorry) movement is essential and could be linked with the development of restricted access concepts—especially in urban areas.

  Permitting HGV's to use bus-only lanes as priority movements of high economic value should be considered for further development. It is understood that trials on certain of the "Red Routes" in London have been successful.


  It is vital to ensure that the maintenance and management of the highway network is approached from rigorous economic principles. A comprehensive review of the present standards of maintenance is needed. Present standards were developed many years ago when investigation was much less detailed and sophisticated. The IHT recommends that all roads in a network are placed in a clear hierarchy and that levels of serviceability (standards/condition) defined for each.

  The House of Commons Transport Committee report on road and bridge maintenance showed an overwhelming case that spending was insufficient. It also indicated that future levels of spending will also be too low and urged central and local government to attach much greater importance to road maintenance. The IHT welcomes the support for this within the White Paper but are disappointed that additional resources do not appear to be likely to be made available.

  The continuing wasting of the highway asset, one of the country's more significant investments in infrastructure, is to be deplored. As the White Paper states "skimping on maintenance wastes money". Deferral does not make any economic sense. Delay in repair will incur progressively greater costs. As the highway condition deteriorates, the funding required increases at an exponential rather linear rate. Remedying this accumulated neglect will require innovative external funding an consideration should be given to the use of PFI concepts. Largely as a result of liability claims (and underfunding) local authorities have shifted from planned to unplanned maintenance.

  The New Roads and Streetworks Act 1990 should be urgently re-examined. Implementation has been fraught with problems and is not generally regarded as being successful. Unpublished research by the Transport Research Laboratory has confirmed that the existing specification and associated work practices do not restore repaired roads to their original structural condition: effectively every reinstatement is a weakening of the fabric.

  The reinstatement specification needs a substantial overhaul, and consideration should be given to a lane rental charge when a possession is taken of any section of the highway by any utility or other body. Consideration should also be given to a charge for utility apparatus within the highway. Progress in these areas could generate significant benefit at no direct cost.

  While dealing comprehensively with urban areas, the White Paper pays little attention to inter-urban travel. Revised forecasts of the growth of inter-urban traffic are needed, taking account of targets for the transfer of freight and passenger traffic to rail as well as the operational advantages of telematics and trip suppression. The de-trunking of certain trunk roads must not lead to decline in their maintenance. The DETR should set a level of service for users of the Strategic Road Network.


  The IHT welcomes the White Paper as the basis for developing transport policy for the 21st Century. Whilst disappointment must be expressed about the possibilities of delays to legislation and the possible lack of adequate funding, there is much which can be done in the short term to moderate of forecast traffic growth.

  It must be recognised, however, that achieving significant modal shift will be difficult; private car-use will remain the choice for significant number of journeys. It is therefore essential that our current highway network is adequately maintained.

  The White Paper seeks to make things "better for everyone". The IHT will be delighted to assist in ensuring that the principles espoused in the White Paper are turned into reality.

23 September 1998

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