Memorandum by The High Wycombe Society
Transport Group (IT 83)
INTEGRATED TRANSPORT WHITE PAPER
We welcome the White Paper and applaud its concern
for environmental protection, including the threats from climate
change and toxic emissions, as well as the clear statement that
things could not go on as before.
Nevertheless we are disappointed to find it
contains some surprising omissions and inconsistencies, and fails
to provide a useful analysis of some key problems or offer appropriate
support to local authorities, as indicated below.
1. Rural transportnot just
a question of rural isolation
2. Park & Rideno balanced
3. Competition between neighbouring local
4. Light Railno recognition
of its full significance and potential
5. Car dependent shoppinga
very serious omission
6. Transport to/from rail stationsnot
just bus services and cycle storage
7. Parking and land usea crucial
8. Road pricinga different
approach could be fairer
1. RURAL TRANSPORT
1.1 Rural isolation
In paragraph 1.25, rural transport problems
are seen simply in terms of the isolation and social exclusion
experienced by rural residents without access to a car, but such
isolation occurs not only in deeply rural areas. In High Wycombe,
bus services after 7.00 pm are so limited that even people living
in urban parts are effectively isolated if they do not have a
car. (See Section 6).
1.2 Rural traffic
Paragraph 4.92 recognises that "some rural
areas suffer from significant congestion" and does acknowledge
that "traffic nuisance is a growing problem in the countryside
generally" but it also suggests this is mainly during holiday
periods and in special places such as National Parks (paragraph
4.96). The overall view presented is that transport and mobility
in rural areas are not serious problems for those who have a car,
while serious traffic problems are largely confined to densely
urbanised areas. This crude analysis is misleading, because many,
if not most car drivers live/work in places other than
deep rurality or major city centres. It is difficult to see
how the objectives of the White Paper can be achieved with so
little account taken of such a large part of transport activity.
The analysis seems to colour the position taken on many policies
(e.g., Sections 2-6 below) such that they do not help to tackle
many problems of traffic congestion, environmental impact, social
1.3 Rural traffic and urban congestion
The imbalance outlined above fails to recognise
that congestion, pollution etc., occur not just in dense urban
areas but are common and widespread. The inherent mobility of
cars means that a high proportion contribute to the problems in
all of many different locationsrural, semi-rural, motorway,
small town, suburban and city centres.
1.4 Rural/urban transport
A key aspect of "rural" transport
problems is not how to cure the isolation of those without a car,
but how to reduce the environmental impact everywhere caused by
rural dwellers who do have a car, and have to use it for all types
of journey in every direction. Tackling this latter problem could
simultaneously help resolve the transport problems of those rural
residents who do not have a car.
2. PARK AND
2.1 Park and Ridea green procedure?
The analysis discussed in 1.1-1.3 has led to
Park and Ride being widely thought of as a "green" measure
for reducing traffic in town centres. However, at the same time,
it allows unrestrained car use everywhere else (i.e., where it
is assumedwronglythat it generates no serious congestion).
Park and Ride actively encourages car use by providing easy parking,
so the increasing numbers of cars and car journeys have led to
it being no longer universally viewed as benign, but the
White Paper offers little indication of this alternative view.
2.2 Park and Ride not sustainable
We view Park and Ride as not sustainable, because
it does nothing to discourage car use, (on the contrary) and hence
effectively nothing to reduce car mileage overall. It appears
to have become popular with Government because it has superficial
green credentials and is easier to provide than developing good,
imaginative "bespoke" public transport alternatives
(See Section 6 below). Local authorities like it because it can
offer them a competitive edge over their rivals (Section 3 below)but
if they all have Park and Ride any advantage diminishes. Moreover,
at a time when there is mounting concern about development on
greenfields, Park and Ride encourages dispersion and generates
increasing pressure to use ever greater areas of valuable land
for the car parks on the outskirts of towns, while diverting money
and other resources from more effective road traffic reduction
measures. We therefore think that Park and Ride merited a more
balanced discussion in the White paper.
2.3 Park and Ride in Oxford
Where P and R was pioneered 25 years ago. Much
money and land has been lavished on it here, but in spite of this
there are regular queues to get into the car parks, because they
encourage car journeys. Now there are plans for costly quality
public transport on some routes to the P and R car parks. This
should be a valuable lesson for central Government and
those towns embarking on a Park and Ride strategy.
2.4 A more sustainable alternative to Park and
Instead of large car parks on the outskirts
of towns, drivers should be helped to abandon their cars much
nearer the start of their journeys (at small P and R's
if necessary). This may not necessarily require more traditional
scheduled public transport, but instead, public transport closely
matched to individual needs, based on a computerised information
system. See Section 6.
3. COMPETITION BETWEEN
3.1 Nationwide Government support for local authorities
The policy of allowing local authorities to
decide on their procedures for parking restraint, road charging
etc., is false democracy. The White Paper's crude analysis of
transport problems (1.2-1.4 above) seems to have led to a lack
of understanding of the problems faced by groups of towns within
easy driving distance of each other. Any one town imposing car
restraint measures risks economic disadvantage when shoppers,
leisure customers etc., choose to drive to rival facilities with
no such restraints. Similarly lavish, non-sustainable P and R
facilities could offer competitive advantage (See 2.2 above).
Central Government action is needed to counteract this competition,
as well as to reward bold sustainable initiatives.
4. LIGHT RAIL
4.1 Transport's environmental problems
More than 25 of the White Paper's 664 paragraphs
are concerned with the problems of CO2 emissions, fuel
efficiency, toxic emissions, the amount of land consumed by transport
infrastructures and the need to make the best use of present infrastructures.
There are also references to reducing transport noise (paragraphs
2.11, 2.21, and 2.24). Paragraph 3.147 refers to toxic run-off
from roads (due largely to tyre wear products) and recycling road
construction materials. The need to conserve such quarried resources
is apparently confirmed in paragraph 4.170 which links a promise
of new guidance on minerals to taking "account of the importance
of promoting greater use of rail and water transport" which
use far less of such mineral resources.
4.2 Light rail can help alleviate ALL the problems
outlined in 4.1
Light rail is energy efficient and non-polluting
at the point of use; modern vehicles are very quiet, steel rails
can be recycled and rail wear does not generate toxic products
(polyaromatic hydrocarbons). Light rail uses the minimum of land,
being confined by slender steel tracks which (unlike the bulky
curbs of guided busways) are narrower than the vehicles.
4.3 Reports by the Royal Commission on Environmental
The first report by the Royal Commission on
"Transport and the Environment" (October 1994) called
for Government support for clean, energy efficient light rail
in Recommendations 16 and 87. The Commission's further report
(September 1997) points out in paragraph 4.55 that light rail
has been advocated as the form of public transport offering the
best prospect of attracting people who would otherwise use their
cars, being more comfortable than buses and "more glamorous".
4.4 The White Paper and light rail
In spite of all the factors in 4.1-4.3 the White
Paper discourages use of light rail (paragraphs 3.36-3.38), apparently
because the Manchester MetroLink cost £150 million. In view
of paragraphs 4.1-4.3 above we find it surprising that neither
the White Paper's authors nor the Royal Commission have raised
the questionDoes light rail always and everywhere have
to cost the equivalent of Manchester's £150 million?
Our studies suggest there are many possible applications for lower
cost light rail outside the big urban centres, using lighter vehicles
than in Manchester, with lighter bridges and a generally simpler
infrastructure, running on disused rail tracks and/or an innovative,
quickly built street track. This question has been asked and pursued
by John Parry of Parry People Movers Ltd. The resultant ultra
light vehicles are very energy efficient and their flywheel energy
storage requires no costly overhead power supply. We would respectfully
suggest the Committee should consider looking at lower cost light
rail, including contacting Parry People Movers Ltd.
5. CAR DEPENDENT
5.1 An astronomical mileage
Our studies indicate that a typical out of centre
supermarket serves at least 25,000 customers a week, most of whom
come by car and many travel from 5 to 10 miles away, so an average
round trip of six miles would seem to be a conservative
estimate. This adds up to almost eight million miles per yearor
more than 300 times round the worldfor ONE supermarket.
5.2 The White Paper and car dependent shopping
In view of the monstrous mileage in 5.1 we are
surprised the White Paper does not give this shopping greater
prominence, particularly since it could be fairly simple and cheap
to significantly reduce this mileage, by compelling supermarkets
to reduce their car parking and provide good cheap delivery services.
These get a passing mention in paragraphs 4.114 and 4.116, but
with such a huge car mileage involved and such a simple solution
available, we believe the case for delivery services should be
promoted much more strongly, even though the supermarket chains
are evidently not enthusiastic.
5.3 At least three different types of delivery
services should be promoted. Two of these relate to shopping
at a single store and entail making arrangements for the customer
to either order by phone, fax, e-mail or the internetor
even by postor to enable shoppers to travel to/from
the store by bike, bus or walking, but leave their purchases to
be delivered home. A third type could help protect town centres.
"Shoppers' Bases" in town centres could allow shoppers
to purchase goods at a number of shops, stalls etc., and drop
them off at the base for later delivery home. Many people would
already welcome deliveries and many others could probably be encouraged
to use them if available.
6. TRANSPORT TO/FROM
6.1 Hundreds of stations affected
Outside the large urban centres, transport to/from
stations poses special problems, even including Cockfosters station
on the London Underground. At High Wycombe Rail Station there
are 153 trains coming and going every day, and like other stations
on the successful Chiltern Line, there are huge parking and congestion
problems, but traditional scheduled public transport could never
meet the variable journey needs of all rail passengers arriving/departing
by every train in such areas.
6.2 The "bespoke" approach
We offered suggestions for "bespoke"
public transport, at stations and elsewhere, in Section 6 of our
submission to the Integrated Transport consultation (November
1997). A recent (5.9.98) 14 page report in the Economist about
road traffic reduction etc., world wide, described a range of
sophisticated technologies being applied to transport. In comparison,
it should not be very difficult to organise procedures for "bespoke"
minibus transport to/from stations and many other destinations.
For example ordered from the train, (or cinema, leisure centre
etc.,) using postcodes for easy computer sorting into convenient
routes and economic loads for waiting minibuses as needed.
7. PARKING AND
7.1 The key to car restraint
Imposing severe limits on parking is the only
sure way to restrain car use, coupled with special parking arrangements
for the disabled and other justifiable needs. A recent study on
town centre accessibility (Healy and Baker 1998) suggests that
increased parking charges have little affect on car use, and in
any case they penalise poor drivers but can be ignored by the
more fortunate. Severely curtailing parking spaces offers the
further advantage of freeing valuable land for better purposes
than parking. The White Paper includes some passing references
to this but does not adequately promote the fundamental significance
and sustainability of such measures.
8. ROAD CHARGING
8.1 Financial disincentives
In the light of the comments in paragraph 7.1
above we believe that road charging must not be seen as a primary
deterrent to drive, but that it could be an acceptable source
of finance for sustainable transport, if applied to making very
small charges (e.g. 3p) at a large number of suitably dispersed
strategic automatic charge points. That way substantial sums could
be raised from millions of small contributions because of the
very large number of car journeys done every day. Sensitive rural
car dependent areas need not be charged.
8.2 Charging technologies
We think that the objective should probably
be a system permitting pre-payment of charges by in-vehicle smartcards,
but another procedure that might be considered could be based
on today's sensitive digital cameras. If they could photograph
the number plates of passing vehicles, the charge could be allocated
to the vehicle's road tax "account". The bill would
have to be cleared before the vehicle was re-licensed, but drivers
could be encouraged to clear their account at more frequent intervals
by setting up easy pay arrangements via banks, post offices etc.
The charges recorded at any particular camera could be passed
on to that local authority.
25 September 1998