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

Memorandum by the Road Traffic Reduction Bill Campaign (IT 73)



  1.1 Any strategy has two parts—its aims and the policies that seek to achieve those aims. Any comments, therefore, can address either or both of these issues. This applies to the White Paper as much as to any other strategy or overview document. There are a whole raft of policies and ideas in the White Paper, and there are the aims of those policies. It is on this latter point only that this submission concentrates. What are the aims? Are they the right aims? If not, how should they be changed. Those are the matters commented on in this response.


  2.1 The aim of the White Paper, as regards the crucial issue of the amount of traffic on our roads, is to achieve (or certainly allow) more traffic on our roads; road traffic increase. This is stated explicitly in paragraph 1.35 of the White Paper which states that "we need to reduce the rate of road traffic growth." It is repeated in paragraph 2.25: "The New Deal for transport therefore sets the framework to reduce road traffic growth."

  2.2 Let us be quite clear about this: "reducing road traffic growth" is, in fact, road traffic increase. Put more, bluntly, therefore, paragraph 2.25 could well read "the New Deal for Transport therefore sets the framework for road traffic increase." It is, of course, true that later on the White Paper states that the new Commission for Integrated Transport (CIT) will be asked to advise the Government on "setting national road traffic and public transport targets" (White Paper page 92 paragraph 4.4). But there are two serious flaws in this approach:

    (i)  the Commission is set up as part of the White Paper in order to assist the aims and policies in the White Paper: unless, therefore, it steps outside its brief, the targets it will set will be for reducing the level of road traffic growth and not for reducing the absolute level of traffic;

    (ii)  indeed, it is, we suggest, significant that the targets mentioned are for "national road traffic" and not for road traffic reduction.

  2.3 In this submission we argue that this is totally unsatisfactory for the following reasons:

    (i)  it is essential road current traffic levels are reduced significantly: we argue by 10 per cent on 1990 levels by 2010 (i.e., approximately 16 per cent on current levels);

    (ii)  quite apart from that, as road traffic is set to grow by more than a third in the next 20 years (as stated in paragraph 1.10 of the White Paper), reducing this growth to 30 per cent could be considered a policy success—an almost frightening thought;

    (iii)  the aim of reducing growth completely reneges on Government promises to reduce road traffic. These are promises made:

      (a)  As Election pledges;

      (b)  by individual Ministers; and

      (c)  as recently as April this year in parliament by Transport Minister Glenda Jackson, during the progress of the Road Traffic Reduction (National Targets) Act;

      (d)  as recently as July this year by the Deputy Prime Minister who told MPs that the Government had the "objective of reducing car use." (Hansard Written Answer, 20 July 1998, column 378).

    (iv)  it ignores the views of the overwhelming majority of the House of Commons, this Committee and its own consultation.

  2.4 This submission thus argues the following points in detail in the following order:

    (i)  firstly how the White Paper the reneges on Government pledges;

    (ii)  secondly how it ignores views of the House, the consultation and the members of this Committee;

    (iii)  thirdly why road traffic reduction is crucial; and

    (iv)  fourthly why road traffic reduction targets must be set.

  2.5 We do not argue what those targets should be (our own view is 10 per cent on 1990 levels by 2010) because this submission is about the White Paper only. If the Select Committee would like a further detailed submission in support of 10 per cent traffic reduction targets we will happily supply this. Such arguments were submitted by this Campaign to the Government during their consultation on the White Paper.

  2.6 We therefore recommend and urge the Select Committee to:

    (i)  express its concern that the Government has not kept its road traffic reduction pledges;

    (ii)  demand that the Government does so forthwith;

    (iii)  express its support for road traffic reduction in accordance with the wishes of the House of Commons and of the majority of the members of the Committee itself;

    (iv)  demand that the Government sets, or asks the Commission for Integrated Transport to set, road traffic reduction targets, not targets for reducing the rate of growth.


3.1 Labour's Election Promises

  Labour fought the General Election on a pledge to reduce road traffic: the New Deal does not deliver on that promise. This promise was made in three separate Labour Election publications:

    —  Labour's Election Internet Site, accessible by millions of people, which explained that Labour's aims are to "reduce and then reverse traffic growth" (our emphasis)


    —  Labour's Policy Handbook, sent to all election candidates and other Party activists for guidance on the policies on which Labour was fighting the Election. In paragraph 2.10.3 under the title "Labour's Plans" candidates are told that "our strategic aims are to . . . reduce and then reverse traffic growth" (our emphasis).

  So the Election promise was explicit to reduce and then reverse traffic growth. That is road traffic reduction. The New Deal in the White Paper omits the second part of that promise: it promises only to reduce traffic growth: it fails to deliver on the "and then reverse" promise.

3.2 Individual Promises Made by the three Transport Ministers

  All three Ministers who were involved in the production of the White Paper have individually promised support for road traffic reduction:

    —  On 23 January 1997, just three months before the General Election, Glenda Jackson MP, in response to requests from constituents, signed House of Commons Early Day Motion No. 289 calling for 10 per cent national traffic reduction targets based on 1990 levels to be set by the Government. On 8 February, in Hampstead High Street, watched by local voters, she signed the Road Traffic Reduction Bill national petition calling for the same targets.

    —  On 17 January 1997 former Secretary of State for Transport Gavin Strang MP wrote to Kay Allen, Scottish Traffic Reduction Campaign Organiser saying "I strongly support the objective of this Bill. There is an urgent need to reduce road traffic" (our emphasis). The "objective" of the Bill "strongly supported" by Mr Strang was that the Secretary of State should draw up a National Road Traffic Reduction Plan to achieve 10 per cent road traffic reduction based on 1990 levels.

    —  And Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott MP, launching the Integrated Transport consultation document said "we have to face up to the challenge of using the car less" (DETR Press Release 21 August 1997). The aim of the New Deal—to allow road traffic increase—does not "face up to" Mr Prescott's "challenge" of using the car less.

    —  Mr Prescott repeated this as a Government objective as recently as 20 July this year. Replying to a PQ from Mr Tom McNulty he again referred to "our objective of reducing car use" Hansard 20 July 1998 column 378. Again, the aim of the White Paper does not deliver on this objective.

    —  Mr Prescott also promised, just a month after taking office, that "I will have failed if in five years time there are not many more people using public transport and far fewer journeys by car. Its a tall order, but I urge you to hold me to it" (Guardian 6 June 1997). We urge this Select Committee to do just that.

3.3 Promises made in the House this year by Transport Minister Glenda Jackson MP during the passage of the Road Traffic Reduction (National Targets) Act

  The issue of reduced traffic growth (i.e., road traffic increase) versus road traffic reduction was raised many times during the passage of the recent Road Traffic Reduction (National Targets) Act. Some examples are quoted below:

    —  During the debate on the Money Resolution of the Bill, while replying to objections raised by Tory MP Eric Forth and others about the possible costs of the Bill (now Act) Ms Jackson berated them by pointing out that "there was not one word from them on the costs that are already being incurred by the failure of their Administration for 18 long years to do anything about reducing road traffic" (our emphasis) (9 March 1998, Hansard column 287).

    —  During the three debates that made up the Committee Stage of the Bill, Ms Jackson repeatedly stated the Government's support for traffic reduction. "We wish to see a reduction in road traffic" (11 March 1998, Committee Hansard column 21). "The Government are committed to reducing road traffic" (18 March 1998, Committee Hansard column 54). "[The reports produced under the Bill] will push forward the reduction of the number of vehicles on our roads with all the concomitant benefits" (19 March 1998, Committee Hansard column 97).

    —  Ms Jackson repeated her promises that the Government would reduce traffic at later stages, criticising Tories who claims such a policy was unrealistic during the Report Stage saying "I do not share the philosophy of despair . . . that it will be impossible to reduce an over-dependence on the private car. Public transport, allied with other policies will reduce traffic on roads" (27 March 1998, Hansard column 858). And at the Third Reading she stressed again how crucial traffic reduction is—"The country cannot continue as it is—"there must be a reduction in road traffic." (24 April 1998, Hansard column 1119) (our emphasis in all quotes).

    —  Lest there be any remaining doubt about Government promises made during the passage of the Act, let us now clear that up by quoting two further parts of the Committee debate. Firstly in response to a direct question by the Tory transport spokesman Christopher Chope the Minister gave an unequivocal reply (18 March 1998, Committee Hansard column 55). Mr Chope asked if:

    "She (i.e., the Minister) is also unwilling to tell us whether an absolute reduction in road traffic is Government policy . . . Will the Minister answer the question: does she agree with absolute reductions in the United Kingdom's road traffic, or not? . . .

  To which Glenda Jackson replied:

    "I thought that I had made the position clear . . . I shall have to be infinitely more precise in my choice of words . . . my argument—which, I am sure will be endorsed by all Committee members—is that there should be a reduction in road traffic" (our emphasis).

  Thus, this was no chance remark or slip of the tongue or loose comment by the Minister. It was a reply to an unambiguous question, in which the Minister was being "precise" in her "choice of words".

    —  And secondly, when Mr Chope tabled amendment No. 24, which focused on what he rightly called "the vital issue of the difference between road traffic reduction and reduction in the rate of increase in road traffic" (11 March 1998, Committee Hansard column 36) Ms Jackson again made her position absolutely clear. Mr Chope's amendment said leave out "road traffic reduction" and insert "reducing the rate of increase of road traffic" (18 March 1998, Committee Hansard column 49). To which Ms Jackson replied that "I strongly urge all members of the Committee to vote against" this amendment (18 March 1998, Committee Hansard column 55).

  So the Government's promises in March 1998 were absolutely categoric: they supported road traffic reduction, and actually voted against a decrease in the rate of growth. The New Deal fails to deliver on that.


4.1 The explicit wish of the House of Commons

  In this Session of Parliament (i.e., since the General Election) 365 MPs have signed EDM No. 18 in support of 10 per cent traffic reduction targets. Another 20 have written letters of support. That is a clear majority of MPs. Indeed, over the last two years (i.e., in the run-up to the General Election and since) 435 current MPs have backed 10 per cent traffic reduction targets: a majority of landslide proportions—greater even that the Labour Government's majority at the General Election. If all MPs turned up for a vote in the House of Commons, this would result in a massive 217 vote victory for the Bill!

  Yet the White Paper's New Deal ignores this.

4.2 The Government's own consultation

  Before Christmas the Government issued its consultation paper on its proposed White Paper. The responses to this were published in July 1998, as a separate document, entitled "The Government's Consultation on Developing an Integrated Transport Policy: a Report". It reported that the consultation exercise had received 7,300 replies (Consultation Report page 7) of which "almost everyone wanted to see a reduction in road traffic" (ibid paragraph 40 page 12). In effect, therefore, the Government consulted—and as regards the major problem of traffic on our roads, received the same reply from "almost everyone"—and then ignored it by publishing a White Paper whose aim is to increase road traffic!

4.3 The views of the majority of this Committee

  In this Session, 12 of the 17 Members of this Committee have signed EDMs calling for a 10 per cent reduction in road traffic to be achieved via a national plan drawn up by the Secretary of State. In addition every one of that 12 who was an MP before the General Election also signed at least one (and in some cases, four) previous EDMs with the same target. In the light of this we again call upon the Committee to support 10 per cent road traffic reduction.


5.1 Definition of Road Traffic Reduction

  5.1.1 In this Section we explain the need for road traffic reduction. Although many of the reasons will be generally accepted, it is important to spell them out as they will assist us to demonstrate why, road traffic reduction, rather than road traffic increase (even if described as reducing the rate of growth) needs to be the aim of an integrated transport strategy.

  5.1.2 We begin by defining what we mean by road traffic reduction. We do not mean public transport; we do not mean cycling or walking; and we do not mean vehicles for people with disabilities. When we use this term in this document we mean (with the exception of vehicles for people with disabilities) private care and freight transport on roads.

  5.1.3 We believe that this distinction is non-contentious, but we have spelt it out for the sake of clarity. Below we list many of the reasons why transport policy must aim to achieve road traffic reduction, and in doing so we emphasise that the problems we describe below relate to current traffic levels, not projected growth.

5.2 Reason No. 1: Sustainability

  5.2.1 The greatest challenge facing us all as regards future policy is to achieve sustainability. And, as regards traffic on our roads we welcome Labours recognition in their policy document Consensus for Change that "the current situation is unsustainable." (our emphasis).

  5.2.2 It follows, therefore, that if the current situation is unsustainable, then any policy that permits things to get worse, or even allows the current situation to continue, is, by definition, unsustainable. Thus, in order to achieve sustainability, one aim of policy must be to improve the current situation. In this case, that means reducing road traffic: the White Paper, however, aims for (or at least allows) road traffic increase.

5.3 Reason No. 2: CO2 Reductions

  5.3.1 The greatest issue facing this country and, indeed the world, is co2 emissions, which cause dangerous climate change. The Government has set a target of 20 per cent CO2 reductions (based on 1990 levels) by 2010. The Prime Minister, at the New York Session and in the House of Commons (Hansard 24 June column 688) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Environment Select Committee 29 October) have both stated clearly that this is an unconditional target.

  5.3.2 The Government has correctly argued that an integrated transport policy is required in order of its CO2 target to be achieved. We absolute agree with that view: but we would add to that the extra point that such a policy must also include traffic reduction targets because CO2 targets cannot realistically be met without road traffic reduction. This is crucial: the point is not simply that "the transport sector" must deliver CO2 reductions, but that road traffic reduction itself is needed to achieve the reductions required from that sector.

  5.3.3 For instance a report for the Electricity Association by Dr Joanne Wade and Imperial College, shows in detail that, taking into account all negative-cost (i.e., where the economic benefits over the lifetime of the measure outweigh the investment costs) technological measures for CO2 reduction in all sectors will result in CO2 reductions by 2010 of less than half of the Government's 20 per cent target. The Report indicates that whereas considerable CO2 savings can be achieved in the other sectors, the transport sector is the area where considerable extra initiatives are most needed and concludes that policies to change demand for road travel are required in any realistic strategy to meet the 20 per cent targets.

  5.3.4 There are welcome indications that the Government accepts this point. Giving evidence to the Environment Select Committee on 29 October 1997 the Deputy Prime Minister was asked about policies to achieve the 20 per cent target, and specifically about the role of transport targets. The Deputy Prime Minister asserted that targets for the increase in the use of public transport, or the use of rail freight were examples of policies in the transport sector to help achieve the 20 per cent CO2 reduction.

  5.3.5 From this it must follow that the Government accepts that road traffic reduction is required to reach its CO2 targets. The aim of a police to increase the use of public transport, for example, could be to provide people who currently have no means of transport with a greater means of getting about. This could be achieved simply by increasing the use of pubic transport, without decreasing road traffic. But if the purpose of increasing the use of public transport is to reduce CO2 emissions, then it must follow that the aim of this policy is to get people to switch from their cars to public transport: that is road traffic reduction. Similarly with getting freight onto rail. If the purpose of this is to reduce CO2 emissions, then it must follow that the aim of this policy is to reduce freight on roads: that is road traffic reduction.

  5.3.6 In other words, the Government has accepted that road traffic reduction is necessary in order for CO2 targets to be achieved. We agree. But this is not reflected in the White Paper.

5.4 Reason No. 3: Air Quality Targets

  5.4.1 The previous Government, in its Air Quality Strategy, accepted that air quality targets for at least three of the pollutants could not be achieved without road traffic reduction. As regards nitrogen dioxide the National Air Quality Strategy said that "further measures [i.e., in addition to "green cars" and technological improvements] will be necessary to make up the shortfall, which is currently estimated to be 5-10 per cent." With particulates a similar situation prevails—"there will be a 5-10 per cent shortfall". And similarly with ozone, the secondary, and most dispersed, pollutant.

  5.4.2 As regards these shortfalls the National Air Quality Strategy argued that "the Government accepts that a further contribution should be sought from national and local measures on vehicle maintenance and traffic management" (our emphasis), and then defined traffic management as "promoting alternative forms of transport . . . and reducing incentives to drive." In other words the air quality standards cannot be met without road traffic reduction.

  5.4.3 Many people, including the current Government, believed the previous Government's National Air Quality Strategy was too lax. Labour's early action to look at ways the Strategy could be improved and to bring forward the planned review of the Strategy was therefore particularly welcome (DETR Press Release 17 July 1997). However, it follows that if the current Government wants to improve on the Air Quality Strategy, and that even to achieve the standards in the original strategy, road traffic reduction was required, then the current Government must accept that road traffic reduction is required to in order to meet the higher air quality standards it believes are necessary.

5.5 Reason No. 4: Keeping Faith

  5.5.1 We believe it is important as regards people's faith in politicians and the political system that commitments made by politicians when seeking election are kept. We have detailed the evidence above that road traffic reduction was a Government Election Pledge, and that that pledge has been repeated on many occasions since the Election.

  5.5.2 Let us be clear: we are not claiming that slavish adherence to out of date policies is essential. There may be occasions where circumstances change and policies should be altered as a result; but in this case the only change is perhaps that the circumstances that prompted the commitments in the first place have got worse. Thus, there can be no excuse for the Government not including traffic reduction as one of the aims of the integrated transport policy.

5.6 Reason No. 5: Child Health

  5.6.1 Children make up over a fifth of the population; they are the future of our society. If sustainability (looking after the future) means anything, it means looking after the health of today's future adults—children.

  5.6.2 We believe that children's health is being threatened by current traffic volumes. One of the leading experts on child health and development, Dr Ian Roberts, the Director of the Child Health Monitoring Unit at the Institute of Child Health at Great Ormond Street Hospital recently wrote in a letter to all Members of Parliament:

    "Research evidence shows that traffic volume is by far the most important environmental risk factor for child pedestrian injury. Pedestrian injury risk increases steeply with increasing traffic volume. Evidence from the USA and New Zealand shows that when traffic volumes fall, such as it did at the time of the 1974 energy crisis, there are substantial reductions in child pedestrian death rates.

    The present Government has signalled a strong resolve to tackle inequalities in health. The pedestrian death rate for children in social class V is five times that of children in social class I. This is because children from families without cars cross more roads and are exposed to greater injury risk. Reducing road traffic must be an integral part of any strategy to reduce social class inequalities in child health.

    Death rates for child pedestrians and cyclists have fallen over the past decade, but research at the Institute of Child Health has shown that this is because children walk and cycle much less than they used to. Between 1985 and 1992, the average distance walked in a year by a child aged 0-14 fell by 20 per cent, and the average distance cycled fell by 26 per cent. Reduced walking and cycling is a major contributor to declining levels of physical activity in children, which in turn is associated with increasing levels of childhood obesity. The curtailment of children's independent mobility that has resulted from traffic danger may also have adverse effects on children's mental and emotional development. As a result of the tremendous growth in road traffic, the urban environment has become an increasingly hostile environment for children.

  5.6.3 Dr Roberts has supplied us with the statistical and research data on which he bases these points. And we would stress that these points relate to current traffic volume: no amount of "greener" cars or technology can alter them.

5.7 Reason No. 6: Community Breakdown

  5.7.1 The recent BMA publication "Road Transport and Health" (BMA September 1997) has once again highlighted how traffic volume adversely affects the lives of all people living in busy streets. They quoted a survey which examined the effects of traffic volume on "liveability"—noise, stress, pollution, levels of social interaction, territorial extent, environmental awareness and safety. The results were dramatic: "heavy street [traffic] had led to a process of environmental selection and adaptation in the street's residential make-up which had changed significantly . . . as a result of the hostile traffic environment. Residents kept very much to themselves and had withdrawn from the street environment . . . there was less sense of community . . . elderly people . . . became "locked in" (page 43).

  5.7.2 The BMA Report also referred to studies in Oslo and Edinburgh which showed that "the environmental impacts of traffic . . . (were that) . . . both the elderly and families with young children stress that road traffic results in insecurity." The BMA Report concluded (on page 44) that:

    "In general the severance effects of motor traffic reduced access to health promoting facilities for those on foot or travelling by bicycle, including shops, health facilities, parks and friends. The old and the young are likely to be the least able to cope with such danger and either curtail activities themselves or, in the case of children, are restricted by their parents."

  5.7.3 There are other similar studies and problems: small towns and villages wrecked by heavy lorries. Busy roads "deter pedestrians from crossing them so that communities may become divided in two."(The Environmental Quality of City Streets. D Appleyard and M Lintell. American Institute of Planners Journal. 1972) Busy street have less social interaction and less social support networks, and this can lead to increased psychiatric disorder, physical morbidity and mortality from all causes. (Social Origins of Depression, Brown and Harris, 1978; Psychological Assets, Nuckolls, Cassell and Kaplan, 1972; Social Networks and Mortality, Berkman and Syme, 1979).

  5.7.4 We are talking about the lives of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of our fellow citizens. And again we emphasise that these are problems of traffic volume not pollution, and we ask what can be done? Push traffic onto other roads with one of two possible effects—either making it someone else's problem (if the other roads are residential streets) or increasing congestion on main roads? There is, we suggest, only one answer—road traffic reduction.

5.8 Reason No. 7: "Rat-running" and "Outsider Parking"

  5.8.1 Again an as yet unquantified problem, but, we suggest a large one. Millions of people's quiet streets are being wrecked by rat running and outsider parking. The recent television programme First Sight (BBC 2 South East Region, 23 October 1997) showed what has almost become "the battle of Chiswick" with commuters and residents literally fighting it out for space. The programme showed commuters actually timing their arrival to coincide with mothers taking their children to school, so they can steal their parking space; it showed residents "retaliating" by having a stock of full dustbins (not empty bins, because people are more reluctant to move full bins because of the dirt and smell), old fireplaces and the like, to put in their space when they go out. A similar story was recently printed in the Guardian magazine "Space" (31 October 1997), this time reporting on problems in Clapham, Fulham, Putney and Wimbledon.

  5.8.2 This is, we suggest, madness. We can either ignore it; or we can push it elsewhere to somebody else's street—or we can ensure that the integrated transport policy includes road traffic reduction measures. That is the choice we face. The White Paper does make the choice—for road traffic increase.

5.9 Reason No. 8: Health

  5.9.1 Up to 15 million people could be suffering health problems caused by traffic fumes, according to researchers at Lancaster University. (Dr John Whitelegg, Department of Geography). Up to 24,000 people die prematurely every year as a result of air pollution according to the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP). As Melinda Letts, the Chief Executive of the national Asthma Campaign wrote to all MPs on 14 July 1997:

    "1 in 25 adults and 1 in 10 children suffer from asthma They can avoid cigarette smoke by going out of rooms; they can avoid cats, and do a avoid cats; but they cannot, and should not, be expected to stay prisoners in their own homes in order to avoid exhaust pollution."

  5.9.2 Again we emphasise that these are the problems of current traffic levels, not of projected increases

  5.10 Reason No. 9: Congestion

  5.10.1 Congestion on our roads costs the economy £19 billion per year, according to the CBI (Missing Links, CBI 1995),, and although this exact figure has been questioned by some, it is accepted by all to be at least an indicative figure which shows the vast losses caused by congestion. Lost days at work and further costs of traffic accidents add £6.3 billion more to the nation's bill (Road Transport: An Environmental Issue, Transport 2000).

  5.10.2 The British Road Federation suggest that congestion reduction targets are needed to deal with this—and, if this is considered useful we do not disagree. But a major method of improving congestion is reducing the amount of traffic on our roads: and that is road traffic reduction.

5.11 Reason No. 10: Social Equity: People without cars

  5.11.1 About 33 per cent of all households in this country have no access to a car. This has two effects, one immediate and one long-term:

    (i)  the immediate effect is that those without cars have become increasingly immobilised as public transport has declined. It is often elderly people and poorer people, who face increased fares and lack of services and are left with no way of getting about. We concede that this problem can be solved, or at least eased, simply by providing more public transport: but if we opt for that solution without decreasing car use, then emissions of CO2 will increase. Thus, unless we reduce road traffic, we are stuck between a rock and a hard place: we either abandon the elderly and the poor who have no access to cars: or we increase CO2 emissions. Road traffic reduction is the solution.

    (ii)  the long term effect is that as many of those on low (or no) incomes become better off, they will want to drive cars. Unless there are policies both to reduce (by persuasion and alternatives not compulsion) this future increased demand for cars, and to reduce the use of cars to be purchased in the future by these people, then the future scenario is a nightmare scenario.

  5.11.2 We must act now, therefore, to reduce potential future demand. Once again this means road traffic reduction policies.

5.12 Reason No. 11: Because, as regards CO2 reduction policies road traffic reduction is the most socially equitable.

  5.12.1 The transport sector will be required to play its role in achieving the Government's CO2 targets—but as with all policies, the "other effects" of CO2 reduction measures must be taken into account.

  5.12.2 A study by Dr Joanne Wade in 1996 ("Policy Instruments to Reduce Passenger Transport CO2: An Integrated Analysis") looked at three CO2 policy options in the transport sector—fiscal measures, technological measures and urban traffic restraint based on the Amsterdam policies of cutting traffic by 25 per cent—and them measures these options in terms of CO2 savings and social equity. The policies were shown to be fairly equal in delivering CO2 reductions, but only urban traffic restraint scored positively with regard to social equity.


  5.12.3 The Government issued a consultation document before the White Paper was produced. It stated clearly that one policy aim is to take full account of all sectors of society, including the disadvantaged and those with impaired mobility (paragraph 6). This is also repeated in paragraph 10, which lists "reducing social exclusion" as one of the aims of an integrated transport policy. In order to achieve this, road traffic reduction is the best CO2 reduction policy in the transport sector.

5.13 Reason No. 12: Protection of the Natural Environment

  5.13.1 Many Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Parks are threatened by current national road schemes. The dropping of a number of road schemes by the current Government has reduced the immediate pressure on some areas, however if traffic grows as planned for in the White Paper pressure for these roads will inevitably grow again. Some may be revived, perhaps as local authority schemes. Demands for bypasses to relieve villages from "traffic hell" are widespread and perfectly understandable. the British Road Federation is calling for 600 new bypasses (Britain's Bypass Progress 1995; see also the Independent 21 July 1997 to relieve current problems of congestion: the impact of such a policy on the natural environment would be catastrophic.

  5.13.2 We recognise the terrible dilemma the Government faces when faced with a choice between incurring the wrath of environmentalists and wildlife lovers by building a bypass in these situations; or appearing to leave large numbers of local people in "traffic hell" by not building a bypass. We believe however that reducing traffic does offer a way out of many of these extremely difficult choices, as it would alleviate traffic problems in many towns, reducing pressure for bypasses and avoiding the difficult decisions that the Government has already faced at places like Salisbury and the previous Government faced in places like Newbury.

5.14 Reason No. 13: Noise Pollution

  5.14.1 Sixty-three per cent of people are exposed to night-time noise levels above WHO "asleep" criteria. During the day 52 per cent of people suffer levels exceeding the WHO recommended levels to prevent significant community annoyance. Traffic is the most frequently reported cause of external noise in homes (The Noise Climate Around Our Homes, BRE, December 1993).

  5.14.2 Once again road traffic reduction is one part of the answer. It is possible to make roads and vehicles quieter—but the cost is astronomic, particularly in urban areas (where traffic reduction is especially needed for the other reasons explained in this Section) and the fact that work on making roads and cars quieter would solve only one problem makes this an uneconomic policy alternative to road traffic reduction.


  6.1 Having set out the reasons we believe traffic reduction, rather than traffic growth as envisaged by the policies in the White Paper, is important we now explain why we believe that the setting of targets is also crucial. There are, we submit, 13 reasons why traffic reduction targets are:

    (i)  important in themselves;

    (ii)  an integral part of any integrated transport policy; and

    (iii)  important in achieving other policy commitments, e.g., CO2 reductions; air quality, health, etc.

6.2 Reason No 1: Because an integrated transport policy must not only be integrated—it must be a policy. . .

  6.2.1 We argued above that an integrated transport policy must have aims, otherwise it is quite literally, aimless. We argued, too, that it could not be considered integrated if it did not address the issue of traffic on our roads. And we concluded that the only sensible aim was to reduce road traffic. Therefore, there must be targets set, otherwise the public, local authorities and businesses will have no knowledge of what Government aims are. This is, totally inconsistent with the Government's policy of increasing public awareness as stated in paragraph 10 of the consultation document "Developing an Integrated Transport Policy—An Invitation to Contribute".

6.3 Reason No 2: Because, if the policy aim is for traffic reduction there will be traffic reduction "amounts" anyway

  6.3.1 There are two reasons why any policy which is designed to result in road traffic reduction should include targets:

    (i)  because if thee are no targets, the policy aim will, in effect, be "promote public transport, cycling and walking, etc., and hope these policies will result some road traffic reduction" with the desired or estimated amount unstated. With no target the aim of policy will be unspecified. Such an ad hoc approach to the results of policy is, we submit, neither integrated, nor a proper way to determine policy, nor sensible.

    (ii)  In fact it is highly unlikely that the Government will proceed in such a way. We believe that the Government will assess likely effects of its policies of promoting public transport, cycling and walking, etc. The degree of road traffic reduction that the Government thinks will result will be estimated anyway, so there will be targets behind the scenes and must be unacceptable. We believe that making these targets public will make the policy more effective as it will involve the public and achieve what is described as a "crucial" aim of the integrated transport policy—"promoting great awareness of the issues" (paragraph 10 of "Developing an Integrated Transport Policy—An initiation to Contribute").

  It is therefore important to state publicly that these "amounts" are the intended or estimated targets.

6.4 Reason No. 3: Because there will be in effect, be national traffic reduction targets anyway, by virtue off the Road Traffic Reduction Act 1997 ("the 1997 Act").

  6.4.1 The 1997 Road Traffic Reduction Act requires all local highway authorities to set local targets appropriate to their area. Indeed, this is highlighted by the White Paper itself. At paragraph 1.29 it is stated clearly that "the New Deal for transport means new local transport plans . . . local targets e.g., for . . . road traffic reduction." Thus, in a year or two when all these targets have been drawn up, the sum total will in fact constitute a de facto national target for road traffic reduction, and the steps taken to implement the measures contained in the local reports will, de facto, be the sum total of the attempts to achieve that target.

  6.4.2 That is the current situation: but it has fundamental weaknesses which are not only weaknesses per se, but also are inconsistent with an integrated transport policy. Those weaknesses are explained below.

  6.4.3 Firstly, the measures suggested in the local plans and therefore adopted will be confined to those measures that it is within the power of a local authority to take. Any additional measures, outside the powers of local authorities, will, however desirable, be excluded from consideration. This is not an integrated transport policy.

  6.4.4 Secondly, there is the possibility of traffic displacement from local roads actually on to national roads. We give two examples to illustrate this point:

    (a)  The South Circular road round south London passes through the London Boroughs of Richmond, Wandsworth, Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham and Greenwich. All those boroughs will soon have local traffic reduction plans and targets under the 1997 Act: but those plans and targets will not deal with traffic on the South Circular because it is a "national road". While we would not expect local authorities to deliberately draw up a local traffic reduction plan that "dumped" traffic onto the South Circular, these authorities may be faced with residents urging them to stop "rat-running". The current situation cannot ensure that a local authority will arrive at the right balance of policies between those roads for which it has responsibility and those roads for which it has not. The existing situation, whereby local roads are covered, but national roads are not, cannot ensure the correct balance of policies. It is, in fact, the very opposite of an integrated transport strategy.

    (b)  exactly this situation has arisen in practice between the London Boroughs of Lewisham and Greenwich, regarding the notorious Trafalgar Road in Greenwich. Faced with unrelenting pressure from residents about air pollution (including a High Court case) Greenwich has imposed a lorry ban on Trafalgar Road (a local road)—with the result that traffic has been driven onto the nearby A2, a "national" road in Lewisham. Lewisham has now complained that pollution for its residents has worsened as a result.

  6.4.5 Although such rows will seldom reach the public, the current situation can only be a force towards such an unsatisfactory situation. Indeed, the Chair of Lewisham's Regional Development and Regeneration Committee, Councillor John Paschoud put the point very succinctly writing in the local News Shopper on 27 August 1997:

    "Lewisham Council will continue to oppose such a `not in my back yard' solution that just passes the problem on to someone else. Lewisham Council will not be implementing its own lorry ban unless it is part of a traffic strategy for south east London (or Greater London) as a whole."

  This is exactly the point: all highway authorities and all roads need to be involved for a policy to be properly integrated. This means extending the Road Traffic Reduction Act 1997 to all roads and all highways authorities (i.e., including the Secretary of State) and thus drawing up national targets.

6.5 Reason No. 4: Because there will be no regional or national input into the de facto national targets that will arise pursuant to the 1997 Act.

  6.5.1 Local authorities will advance plans under the 1997 Act which are in their local interest. But there will be no input of the national interest or regional interest into the local plans and the resulting de facto national targets. True, in some areas local authorities may form a consortium in drawing up their local plans, and thus a wider interest may be represented, but a situation where there is no mechanism for the national interest to be included, and where a regional or sub-regional interest may be included is not an integrated transport policy.

6.6 Reason No. 5: Because for one part of the UK there will in fact be national targets.

  6.6.1 The 1997 Act does not extend to Northern Ireland: but the previous government agreed, as a matter of policy, to apply the Act to Northern Ireland. (Official Report, Standing Committee C, column 38, 19 February 1997). The current Government has agreed to this also in letters to FOE Northern Ireland (from W J McCoubrey, 29 August 1997 and David Small 2 September 1997).

  6.6.2 Thus, for Northern Ireland there will be national traffic reduction targets. Similar targets should be set for the other three parts of the UK.

6.7 Reason No. 6: Because traffic reduction targets are necessary in order for CO2 targets of 20 per cent by 2010 to be reached.

  6.7.1 The Government has, correctly, argued that an integrated transport policy is required in order for its CO2 target to be achieved. Such a policy must also include traffic reduction targets. We showed above both how the Government's CO2 target cannot be met without road traffic reduction and that the Government accepts this point. This is crucial: the point is not simply that "the transport sector" must deliver CO2 reductions, but that road traffic reduction itself is needed to achieve the reductions required from this sector.

  6.7.2 We believe that this means that road traffic reduction targets are essential. If, as is the case, the Government accepts that traffic reduction is needed to achieve CO2 reductions, in order to draw up a long term policy based on all sectors there must be an assessment of the share of the required CO2 reduction that is expected from road traffic reduction, and the amount of road traffic reduction that will be needed to achieve these CO2 reductions. These assessments are in effect targets.

  6.7.3 We believe an approach on the above lines is inevitable, as we do not believe that the Government could proceed to achieve its most important policy commitment to CO2 reduction on an ad hoc basis. Without carefully assessing the CO2 reductions required and the traffic reduction necessary to achieve this cut, the approach would effectively be one of "doing it and hoping to achieve the necessary CO2 reductions". This would be neither integrated, nor indeed a policy. So traffic reduction targets either public or unofficial are inevitable if traffic is part of CO2 reduction policies.

6.8 Reason No 7: Because traffic reduction targets are required to achieve air quality targets.

  6.8.1 The argument here is similar to that used above regarding CO2. If, as shown in section 5.4 above, road traffic reduction is needed in order that air quality standards are met, then in order to achieve the required air quality standards, policies will have to be set which result in the traffic reduction necessary, and unless those policies are simply based on a "do it and see what happens" basis, there must and will be an assessment of the traffic reduction effects of those policies.

  6.8.2 There must, therefore, be targets either behind the scenes or in public. Once again we submit that only the latter is a tenable policy.

6.9 Reason No 8: Because the Government has set targets for almost everything else.

  6.9.1 The Government has set targets, or has stated its intention to set targets in a large number of areas. In addition, the Deputy Prime Minister suggested that targets may be set to increase public transport use and freight on rail when he appeared before the Environment Select Committee on 29 October 1997. Targets have also been promised for reducing road casualties (DETR Press Release, 15 October 1997). We believe it is inconsistent, and the opposite of an integrated transport policy to set targets for other major areas of transport and not for road traffic levels which are at the root of so many other problems.

  6.9.2 To set targets for the effects of excess traffic (air pollution, noise, congestion, CO2 emissions etc.) is to deal with the symptoms without dealing with a major cause. To use a medical analogy, it is rather like having a target to reduce the number of boils on the skin, without having a target to purify the blood that is causing the boils.

6.10 Reason No 9: Because the amount of road traffic reduction required (i.e. the target) will affect the extent of any policies adopted.

  6.10.1 Government Ministers have already been urging people to use public transport, leave their cars at home where possible etc. This is, in effect, a policy of encouragement—but how much does it want to influence people's actions? This is extremely important, as it will affect the extent of the policy adopted. If the aim is only to persuade people to take the occasional journey by bus then one or two speeches by Ministers might achieve this. However, if the intention is to achieve a larger shift than this, it will take more than just one or two speeches to achieve the desired end; it might take speech after speech and constant reminders. If the aim is to promote a larger still shift to public transport, it might take speeches and a large advertising campaign stressing the dangers and/or undesirability of pollution, noise, rat-running etc. and the advantages of public transport, walking and cycling to persuade people to use their cars less.

  6.10.2 The point we are making here is simply that the amount (i.e. target) of traffic reduction that the Government decides is required will influence the extent of the policies that are adopted.

6.11 Reason No 10: Because the amount of road traffic reduction required (i.e. the target) will affect the nature of any policies adopted.

  6.11.1 The amount (i.e. target) of traffic reduction desired will not just influence the extent of the policies, it will influence the nature of those policies. Let us continue the scenario commenced above. It may be that the Government concludes that no amount of encouragement will achieve the traffic reduction required. Thus other policies are needed—perhaps more bus lanes, other public transport initiatives, policies to encourage freight onto rail, motorway tolling or road pricing or whatever.

  6.11.2 Therefore the amount (i.e. target) of traffic reduction that we decide is required will influence the nature of the policies that we adopt.

6.12 Reason No 11: Because the use of targets is an effective tool in assessing the cost effectiveness of policies when deciding whether or not to continue them.

  6.12.1 Targets will also enable assessment of the cost effectiveness of particular policies and enable informed decisions on which policies should be extended and which should be reduced or dropped altogether. For example, with the CO2 targets the Government has already set, even with the best advice, the Government is unlikely to be able to introduce policies in the next year or so which achieve their 20 per cent reduction without amendment or modification at some point before 2010. There will be constant analysis of the policies and their effectiveness, so that in, say 2002 or 2004 they can be amended where necessary to ensure that policy aims are met. New technology may also lead to changes in policy, especially if it makes more effective policies available.

  6.12.2 In other words every individual policy will be assessed in order to determine how effectively it will contribute towards the overall policy aim—i.e. towards a target. The criteria for every individual policy will not just be confined to a future review: it will also influence the adoption of the policy in the first place, for when adopting policies the Government will as a matter of course take into account the assessed effect (i.e. target) against estimated cost.

  6.12.4 In other words the issue is not whether each individual policy will have a traffic reduction target in order for its effectiveness to be assessed, but whether that target is made public. And if each policy has a target, there will be, in effect, an overall target which we believe should be made public.

6.13 Reason No 12: Because if it will send a signal to the whole country.

  6.13.1 A stated target will in itself send a signal to the whole country, which will set the national tone and thinking on this issue, and thence actually help to achieve the target.

  6.13.2 The target will, for instance, have a direct bearing on local authority bids under the TPP system and pursuant to the Road Traffic Reduction Act 1997. We submit that a stated 10 per cent reduction overall national target (to be achieved by a mixture of local and national action—see the Bill and the Act) will produce different TPP bids from local authorities than a stated target of, say 1 per cent reduction. Local authorities are hard-pressed: they have to allocate resources (including staff resources) on what in their opinion is both necessary and achievable. Thus a 1 per cent reduction target will signal that more is achievable as regards successful bids than a 10 per cent reduction target, and so will influence how the local authorities allocates staff resources in preparing the TPP bids. This, in turn, will assist the Government in achieving the target set.

  6.13.3 The situation will be the same in industry. Businesses are entitled to know what national policy will be, so they can make the necessary adjustments. Given time businesses can make the necessary adjustments—but they do need to know what is expected. That is not to say, we stress, that targets and policies should simply be arbitrarily imposed on business. The Secretary of State should consult with the business community. But, having done that the target (or targets) need to be stated to give industry the maximum time to make necessary adjustments. This will assist industry, and also assist the Government in meeting the targets, as those "adjustments" will clearly differ according to what any targets are.

  6.13.4 Or take individuals: we believe that traffic reduction is supported by the vast majority of people. As we reported in Section 4.2, it was recommended by "almost everyone" who responded to the Government's consultation. The public is fed-up with the scourge of current traffic levels. But we are also realistic and honest: we are not claiming that this desire to see less traffic directly translates into support for every individual traffic reduction policy. We accept it does not. Some policies may be unpopular with some people—at least initially. But if those policies are genuinely "sold" as being carried out in order to achieve x per cent traffic reduction and so make your lives, your street, your air better, then those policies will be and become more acceptable. The very setting of the target, and the better life it entails, will in itself, increase public acceptance of the policies. The White Paper recognises this, saying (in paragraph 5.52) "We cannot expect people, business and communities to make changes in their own use of transport if they do not understand what difference it makes."

  6.13.5 The Minister of State for the Environment, Michael Meacher MP, has also recognised the importance of signalling clearly to the public the effects of policies. He has suggested a high profile group of indicators which could be broadcast in much the way that unemployment figures are currently (DETR Press Release, 18 September 1997). One of the targets the Minister suggests is that of traffic volume. In the press release he suggests that such indicators be used to "set targets and monitor and report progress towards them" and also suggests that reporting road traffic volumes "would direct attention towards people's personal responsibilities and on the kind of actions we would like them to take." We welcome this approach, and agree that clear targets and regular reporting on progress towards them would enhance the effectiveness of the policies aimed at reducing road traffic.

6.14 Reason No 13: Because national targets will set a "level playing field" for local authorities and businesses

  6.14.1 Many, if not most, local authorities are keenly aware of the need to reduce traffic but, when drawing up their TPP bids, or in setting planning policies and the like, they are also concerned that if they "do too much" their area may suffer because another area is not pursuing such stringent policies. "If we reduce parking provision too much in this town our businesses will suffer because the next town has less strict policies" is the type of worry we are hearing. National targets, perhaps with regional variations if considered appropriate, would certainly send a "level playing field" signal and thus be a force for persuading local authorities to adopt the policies they might like to, without worry about "the next town" benefiting. We would argue that this is the very essence of an integrated transport policy.

  6.14.2 The same would apply to business. A large store, for instance, might be quite prepared to consider building another outlet with less car parking spaces and more public transport—but Jones and Co. are seeking to build a store with 2,000 parking spaces and this could affect us. Once again a national target or regional targets would help establish a level playing field, and make companies more ready to accept traffic reduction policies.


  7.1 As stated above we do not deal with this here. It is our view that targets of 10 per cent on 1990 levels are necessary, practicable and desirable, and can be achieved without increases in the price of petrol if so desired. And we believe that there is an overwhelming body of evidence that measures adopted to achieve such targets would also help industry, benefit the economy and reduce social exclusion. We can submit detailed evidence on all these points if the Select Committee wishes.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1999
Prepared 28 April 1999