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


Memorandum by the Transport Planning Society (IT 38)

A NEW DEAL FOR TRANSPORT—BETTER FOR EVERYONE

1. INTRODUCTION

  The Transport Planning Society was established on 1 October 1997 to fill an acknowledged need for an independent multi-disciplinary forum to address transport planning issues and is supported by the Chartered Institute of Transport, Institute of Civil Engineers, Institution of Highways and Transportation and the Royal Town Planning Institute. Members are practising professionals drawn from diverse backgrounds and are united in their professional commitment to deliver a sustainable and integrated transport framework. Consequently, the Society has no modal, commercial or other interest to promote.

2. THE VISION OF THE WHITE PAPER AND ITS IMPLEMENTATION

  At the root of transport policy must be an overall vision at the national, regional and local level encompassing the wider social, economic and environmental aims of the community. Such a vision can only be determined by society's elected representatives reflecting current public opinion. Effective integrated transport provision is vital to the delivery of these goals.

  Transport Planners are professionally equipped to design integrated transport solutions and address the trade-offs between transport and other goals, but will be prevented from fulfilling this promise without a workable institutional framework. The absence of suitable means for the delivery is the main obstacle to the implementation of the integrated transport system sought.

  The Society is concerned that there shall be early establishment of the fundamental mechanisms necessary for the planning, implementation and management of an integrated national transport system and local sub-systems.

  The Society welcomes the white paper as an excellent definition of the overall policy context for integrated transport, particularly given a 20 year absence of a national framework. However, we are concerned at the lack of detail and the lack of clarity concerning the timescale for the vital legislation.

3. A REQUIRED FRAMEWORK FOR DELIVERY LOCALLY/REGIONALLY

  Having established a national framework for policy, delivery of many responsibilities in the white paper is clearly delegated to Local Authorities and Regional Planning Conferences through Local Transport Plans and regional transport strategies. The "daughter" documents need to amplify these, by setting out:

    —  a framework for planning and funding transport;

    —  co-ordination of transport with other Local Authority functions;

    —  local/regional targets within the government's overall policies;

    —  parameters for the successful determination and application of policy locally/regionally.

  It is important that any functions to remain at a national government level should be identified and clearly justified.

  The range of powers required by those accountable for delivery of the integrated solutions must include:

    —  Traffic management, control and restraint through congestion charging and parking restrictions at traffic generators.

    —  Funding through the proposed use of the charges levied for access to urban areas, motorway and trunk road tolls and parking licensing.

    —  Enforcement (including those for parking, speeding, bus lanes, red light violations and others)—clearly there is a need to encourage transfer of many enforcement powers to local authorities as the police consider such powers to be of low priority.

    —  Development Control (also there may be a need for more planning powers to influence the nature of existing land uses and not just future uses/developments).

    —  "Planning gain".

    —  Land purchase (CPO, etc).

    —  Traffic Regulation Orders.

    —  Construction of new infrastructure.

    —  Control of emissions and pollution caused by transport.

  It is essential that medium term plans and policies must be supported by appropriate funding mechanisms. These require both secure government financial support, appropriate public/private financial partnership arrangements and an ability to apply nationally and locally raised taxes and charges to implementing policies. Planning cannot be rational if the associated financing is unpredictable or volatile.

Establishing Methodologies for Decision Making

  The Society generally welcomes the revised evaluation framework for transport schemes applied initially in the roads review. To ensure its relevance to the needs of practitioners Government should consult widely on its formal implementation, its refinement to suit local and regional situations and its consistent application across all modes and by all agencies. This is essential to successful implementation of the proposed solutions in support of the above and as a guide to the allocation of resources. Clear "good practice" guidance is needed as soon as possible to local and regional authorities. Such a framework would provide a basis for decisions on spending and should be compatible with assessing and determining both private and public decisions to allow trade-offs on spending between disparate items of capital, investment and revenue support, for example; in both road and Light Rail Transit systems; in Intelligent Transport Systems for road users and public transport information; and in facilities for pedestrians and cyclists as well as highway users.

4. CUSTODIANS OF THE VISION AND ITS IMPLEMENTATIONNATIONAL FUNCTIONS

  The Society recognises the government's case for establishment of a Strategic Rail Authority but would prefer a National Transport Agency, reporting to the Secretary of State, which, in consultation with appropriate bodies, would also deliver on the following:

    —  determine the national interest relating to the provision of inter-urban road and rail networks for both passengers and freight including water transport;

    —  devise an integrated management strategy for those networks to meet agreed objectives;

    —  promote and facilitate a freight transport switch onto more environmentally-friendly modes (rail/water);

    —  allocate resources where necessary to fulfil a strategic need (including the making of Freight Facility and Track Access Grants) to meet needs not met by the normal market mechanism.

  If we are to have purely a Strategic Rail Authority, the government must establish a workable and identifiable structure within the DETR for those functions which go beyond rail, for example multi-modal information.

  The Society also welcomes the role of the proposed Commission for Integrated Transport. This should review all transport investment and funding and issue guidance on the following:

    1.  Principles for economic evaluation of schemes and spending of public funds.

    2.  Principles for public involvement in decision making and monitoring of policies.

    3.  Checklist of responsibilities for different policy areas and advice to the public regarding the appropriate body for directing complaints.

    4.  Safety, incorporating the current transport-related roles of the Health and Safety Executive and Traffic Commissioners.

    5.  Network management and priority measures for particular traffics.

    6.  Quality control, including monitoring responsibilities of the agencies.

    7.  Advising the government on taxing and charging of transport.

    8.  Advising the government on competition rules and where the market forces should be controlled.

  The Society believes a representative of transport planning practitioners should sit on this body.

REGIONAL FUNCTIONS

  The Transport Planning Society welcomes the new requirement for Regional Planning Conferences (RPCs) to prepare detailed regional transport strategies which will then set a context for both development plans and new Local Transport Plans and for decisions on major investment proposals including trunk road schemes. Regional Planning Conferences will need to address items as diverse as airports, ports, regional parking standards, the competitive context for road user charging by individual towns, regional transport parking management as well as handling the interfaces with RDAs. This will place regional transport planning firmly within the wider context.

  However, the Transport Planning Society is concerned as to whether the RPCs will have the financial, technical and administrative resources to assess, formulate, propose and deliver such a comprehensive integrated transport strategy. RPCs will need clear guidance from government on how to carry out their responsibilities, including the necessary advice on methodology.

  In addition, RPCs would need some of the resources currently available to DETR and the Highways Agency for scheme appraisal and development, including access to professional staff. As a result of all these concerns Regional Planning Conferences need to be put on a much firmer footing.

LOCAL FUNCTIONS

  The White Paper places great responsibilities on local authorities to implement its proposals, with Local Transport Plans forming the cornerstone of the policy. These plans are a natural extension of the current "package approach" and the opportunity they should provide for longer-term planning of a multi-modal transport system is clearly welcome. However, many of the aspects of these plans are subject to further guidance and it will only be possible to make a proper judgment when this is available. Delivery of the agenda set by the government will require:

    —  Adequate financial resources. (Additional funding promised so far ahead of any possible income streams from charging does not seem up to the task).

    —  Significant staff resources.

    —  Political will to make difficult decisions.

    —  Co-operation between authorities on a consistent approach to demand management (between major cities across Britain as well as within regions).

  Whilst the devolution of responsibilities to the regional and local levels is generally welcomed, care needs to be taken to avoid duplication and confusion of the precise responsibility for different actions, and to promote transport planning decision-making for cohesive areas respecting patterns of movement.

  The Transport Planning Society believes that there is a case for reviewing geographical basis for transport planning boundaries and establishing multi-council groupings. These could reflect, for example, common journey patterns such as travel to work, education, health, retail, leisure and freight movements. The use of journey patterns would ensure that factors such as the location of major centres of industry and transport magnets like large ports and airports were considered. However, boundaries should coincide with those of Local Authorities and where a majority wish to establish such a body, dissenting authorities should be obliged to participate.

  Whether transport plans are drawn up and approved by individual councils or the combination of Local Authorities, all interests (e.g., consumer and business representatives) should be actively involved. In this way the social and economic priorities for the area would be an integral aspect of a widely agreed transport plan.

  Free-standing towns and rural areas experience a different magnitude of transport problem and different institutional solutions could be applied. In some cases, e.g., extensive rural areas with scattered settlement, groupings of authorities might be appropriate, whereas in the case of free-standing towns single authorities might operate most successfully. In the initial stages of implementation of the integrated transport policy, demonstration authorities might be identified/set up as a model of good practice.

  To implement practical strategies at the local level, appropriate local authority plans are the cornerstone of the policy.

  As a necessary element in the new LTPs and to allow them to operate effectively, new powers in support of their strategies are needed, e.g:

    —  bus regulation/franchising for their area;

    —  rail support;

    —  private non-residential parking controls;

    —  road pricing/congestion charging;

    —  transport impact payments for development;

    —  statutory input to trunk road planning.

  The power to apply the revenues obtaining from the above aspects to transport tasks within the area is vital, as indicated in the White Paper. Although the above powers need to be placed on the statute book as soon as possible, the Society believes it is appropriate that they should only be approved for use locally when the authority's established plan has been completed and has been accepted by the government as in keeping with the overall regional and national vision.

5. PRACTICAL ASPECTS OF THE NEW USER CHARGING AND PARKING TAXATION PROPOSALS

  The Society is pleased to note the commitment by Government to longer term stability and the additional funding allocated to public transport and local transport initiatives. However, we are concerned at the overall further reduction in transport spending since we had hoped that a reduction in the capital road programme would be more than matched by an increase in other areas.

  In view of the previous lack of investment in public transport, maintenance and local transport we would urge Government to re-consider whether further resources can be made available. The Transport Planning Society welcomes the new autonomy that is to be given to Local Authorities to raise additional finance from road user charges/parking levies. However, we are concerned that no clear date is given for the necessary legislation for this.

  The Transport Planning Society is also concerned that non-workplace parking (i.e., for customers and visitors to retail and business facilities, hospitals, schools, etc.,) has been excluded from the proposed parking levy legislation. These areas are the ones experiencing most growth and where the provision of large out of centre car parks encourage car dependence. The parking levy legislation should be drawn as widely as possible to allow its extension to non-workplace parking.

  We also strongly commend to Government the potential for substantial additional revenue and an incentive to minimise disruption to be raised by providing powers to charge the utilities, such as gas, water, telephone, cable, etc., for routing their services and placing their plant within road transport corridors. The principle is already well established through payment for the use of canal towpaths and railway lines.

6. THE ROLE OF TRANSPORT PLANNERS

  To take forward the Government's agenda a considerable resource of transport planning skills will be necessary. The TPS has made a priority commitment to review the training and development of suitably skilled individuals with both the academic institutions, local authorities and consultants and other employers. The Society's objectives are to promote best practice and to maintain and raise quality and standards within the profession. The Society (together with its sponsoring institutions) is committed to working with the universities and employers in the field towards these aims, providing for improvements in both academic training and continuing professional development. Government support for such an approach would be highly beneficial to its successful implementation.

  The resource of a new generation of transport planners would thus be made available to the authorities in the delivery of their policies. Private agencies/advisors could have a major role in running the transport provision (as distinct from policy-making and control) and would build on the approach of enabler and provider with a common professional approach.

  The Society is also concerned that the voice of transport planners is properly heard. Too often in the past sound and sustainable transport policies and plans at both local and national levels have not been realised, either because these have not been presented effectively or because decision-makers have failed to appreciate schemes' objectives and impacts. The Society is therefore keen to ensure that MPs, locally elected members and those officers in health, education and community organisations are fully informed about transport planning practice. An exercise in consultation and information will soon take place—again, Government support for this initiative would be highly beneficial to its successful implementation.

7. CONCLUSION

  The strength of the Government proposals lies in the creation of a clear and cohesive vision and the ability to relate the funding requirements for its delivery to appropriate sources of revenue. Such mechanisms for funding streams must be put in place as soon as possible to underpin the vision and to enhance the opportunities for private finance, reducing the burdens on the treasury.

  Transport Planning has been the subject of prevarication for too long. There has been continued debate, but no real direction. What is now needed from government is clear leadership which can flow into Local Authorities and other agencies responsible for the delivery of an integrated approach.

  The Transport Planning Society believes that the only way of dealing with this is to get the powers and funding for different levels of transport provision (national, regional, local) in place as soon as possible.

  As this submission indicates, the Transport Planning Society believes that the White Paper has provided a good framework. However, it needs much detailed work to ensure that its aims can be implemented and the Society is more than willing to play an active role in that development.

September 1998


 
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