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

Memorandum by the City of Sunderland (IT 64)


  I understand, from discussions that took place at the recent CSS STEP meeting, that the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee are inviting comments on the recent Transport White Paper. At a meeting held on 17 September 1998, the City Council's Environment Committee considered a report which outlined the details of the White Paper and its possible implications for Sunderland. The Committee have asked me to forward comments to the Select Committee.

  Whilst the general tone of the White Paper is most welcome, the City Council's main areas of concern may be summarised as follows:

    —  The emphasis of the White Paper is very much on the traffic congestion issue, perhaps reflecting problems faced by London and the South East, rather than on the more global issues relating to transport.

    —  The initiatives outlined in the White Paper are not to be immediately backed up with the necessary legislative changes or any indication of a legislative programme. There are indications that legislation is unlikely in the coming Parliamentary session due to an already crowded legislative programme relating to other policy areas and, as a consequence, expectations of change may be raised without local authorities being given the power to deliver it.

    —  The spending plans do not involve any significant increase in transport expenditure until 2002.

    —  many of the bolder initiatives such as road pricing or private non-residential parking charges are initially limited to trial or pilot schemes;

    —  much of the detail is left to "daughter" documents or guidance resulting in continuing uncertainty (for example in the precise role of the PTEs in Metropolitan District Local Transport Plans);

    —  it is likely that the regional framework will take some time to put in place making co-ordination of policies between authorities more difficult;

    —  it doesn't adequately deal with wider concerns such as competitiveness between neighbouring districts, possible effects on economic development initiatives and the political acceptability of car restraint measures at the local level. These concerns might be exploited by those with a pro car agenda to prevent the White Paper objectives from being achieved;

    —  whilst not a criticism of the White Paper per se, the downgrading of the transport ministerial post to non Cabinet status, when Gavin Strang was replaced by John Reid, suggests that transport does not seem to have moved up the Government's agenda in relation to other policy areas. This rather begs the question whether it really is a "New Deal for Transport"?

  I trust that these comments will assist the Select Committee in its deliberations.

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