Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1
WEDNESDAY 12 JANUARY 2000
1. Good afternoon. I am very grateful to you
for coming this afternoon. In no particular order of precedent
would you like to identify yourselves?
(Mr Harman) Reg Harman, Director of Logistics &
Transport Policy, of the Institute of Logistics and Transport,
supporting Mr Coates.
(Mr Coates) My name is Jim Coates, I am a member of
the Transport & Logistics Policy Committee of the Institute.
The main reason I am here is that I chaired a Working Party three
years ago which produced a report on this general subject area.
(Mr Depledge) I am Tony Depledge, I am the President
of the Confederation of Passenger Transport. I am also the Managing
Director of Blackpool Transport, which, as you know, is an operator
of bus and tram services in the northwest and it is one of the
17 remaining bus companies owned by local authorities. With me
is Geoff Lusher, who is the Chairman of the Fixed Track Section.
He is also General Manager of Travel Midland Metro, which is part
of the National Express Group.
2. Do either of you wish to make any particular
(Mr Depledge) As far as the CPT is concerned simply
to say, we are very pleased to have an opportunity to assist the
Committee with their work. Other than that our submissions are
already put forward.
(Mr Coates) Just in case it is not clear to the Committee,
the difference between us and the CPT, although our views happen
to coincide very largely, is that we represent a slightly broader
constituency, as it were. Our members come not only from the providers
of transport, both freight and passenger transport, but also from
transport planners in local government, consultancy and the academic
3. A very noble body of men and women whom I
have had occasion to belie before now Mr Coates, as you very well
know. Can I ask you to remember one
thing, this is a room where your voices will get
absorbed. Although you have microphones in front of you they are
there to record, they do not project. We are going to need a bit
of voice from you in order that everyone can hear your very useful
and helpful answers, which I know you are going to give us. Do
you think that the present Government is ambivalent about light
rapid transport systems?
(Mr Coates) In general I think no. We
think that they have become rather more positive than appeared
to be the case a few years ago. We take the view that light rapid
transport is not a panacea; that when you are deciding what to
do about public transport, comparing bus and various forms of
LRT you have to look at the circumstances; and that there will
be, undoubtedly, circumstances where the more expensive LRT systems
are the right answer. But we do not think one should start from
the assumption that it is always going to be the right answer.
Where we do see some ambivalence is in the commitment to the resources
that we think will be needed to implement the policies the Government
have set out. We are rather concerned about whether the Government
has fully grasped the scale and the urgency of the investment
in public transport that will be needed if there is to be a significant
shift of mode in large urban areas. We believe that there will
not be a significant shift unless congestion charging or similar
restraint mechanisms are introduced. But we think that public
transport improvements by themselves will not be enough. We think
that public transport improvements are crucial to go along with
the restraint mechanisms as a combined policy because otherwise
people who at present travel to work or shop or for leisure activities
in central areas will be frightened off by restraint mechanisms
and simply go on using their cars but go somewhere else. Public
transport has to be good enough to attract well-off families with
a car to go on travelling to city centres. That quality is something
which is, generally speaking, absent in most of our major cities.
4. That is resources. Is that the only thing
that constitutes a key element?
(Mr Coates) It is human resources as well as financial
resources, the resources for local planners, and so on. We have
some misgivings about the local and regional planning framework
within which this is to happen.
5. What sort of misgivings?
(Mr Coates) We are generally happy with the broad
outline of what the Government is proposing to do, it is the sort
of nitty grittywe must not use that expression any morethat
we are worried about.
6. I am wondering whether you make any differential,
Mr Coates, between trams, trolley buses and guided buses?
(Mr Coates) There is a distinction.
7. How do you look at it for best fit?
(Mr Coates) I think we and the CPT probably agree
that light rail is probably most likely to be appropriate where
there are heavy flows of traffic in densely developed corridors,
over a medium to longer distance and to city centres and where
it is not too difficult to put a light rail system in. Buses,
are at the opposite end of the spectrum. Most of our cities are
going to have to rely on buses for most of their public transport,
so it is very important that they should be improved considerably.
Guided buses are a sort of intermediate option which has the advantage
that they can be introduced more quickly and cheaply and more
flexibly. In Leeds, for example, there are sections of the route
where the bus is guided and sections where, because it is difficult
to get the guided track in, it then reverts to the normal road
where it has priority but not as extreme as in the guideway itself.
Chairman: Where you agree, please, simply supplement
8. What is the point in having something that
is guided against a bus that can go anywhere? Tell me, what is
the advantage of that?
(Mr Depledge) Of course, the argument
is about the extent to which segregation, can be achieved. Guiding
can give you better options for segregation and you may need to
take smaller land and narrower paths. Segregation is a key feature
of being able to achieve the priority public transport needs,
priority which gives you reliability and faster speeds.
9. Where is that in place in this country?
(Mr Depledge) The light rail schemes
10. No, I am talking about guided buses.
(Mr Depledge) I apologise, Chairman, I misunderstood
the point about guided buses. We have guided bus schemes in Ipswich
and in Leeds where this is being demonstrated and there are plans
for schemes in Edinburgh and Northampton.
11. The Committee are taking evidence on the
light rapid transit system with a view to presenting a report
to Parliament in order to try and inform the Government on these
issues. Why is a trolley bus out of favour in the UK despite its
apparent success and its operations elsewhere in the world?
(Mr Depledge) I think that is a very difficult question
to answer. I am not sure I know why it might appear to be out
of favour. All I would say in response to that question is that
there are clearly some advantages in terms of the types of modes
of power for trolley buses but they are rather more complex.
12. Have you not done any research into this
(Mr Depledge) CPT is an operating association, it
has not done any direct research into trolley buses, but I know
that several local authorities in the past and in the Transport
Executives have looked at this, but I have to say that I would
not be technically competent to be able to answer that question
13. South Yorkshire wanted to introduce the
trolley bus and Merseyside wanted to introduce the trolley bus.
(Mr Harman) There are a fair number of systems across
Europe and worldwide. Based on the figures we have looked at they
appear to be rather lower in number than the number of tramways.
I think there are about 150/160 tramway systems in Europe as a
whole, about 60 of which are in Germany. France, which has six
trolley bus systems left, is tending to reduce them. They are
important in certain areas because they do not provide immediate
pollution. They have some benefits in terms of acceleration, etcetera,
but they are now fairly restrained. There is not the expansion
going on that perhaps there is in light rail for some of the reasons
that Mr Depledge has already made.
14. Why are they being restrained?
(Mr Harman) I think it is mainly because of substantial
advances in the environmental and other qualities of modern diesel
and other powered buses, which is where the trolley bus has benefited.
There are a number of cities with trolley buses remaining where
the benefit they give of considerable fast mass movement is actually
being displaced by trams. Lyon strikes me as a one-off example
(Mr Depledge) From the point of view of the user a
bus and a trolley bus are largely the same. There may be some
technical areas where it is valuable to have trolley buses, but
they are comparatively small in number and they may be outweighed
by very heavy costs. From the point of view of the user, unless
the trolley bus has the same bus priorities which a bus needs
to have it will not achieve anything more than a bus.
15. Has your organisation any interest in reviving
the interest in trolley buses?
(Mr Depledge) I think it is fair to say that we do
not have a position on this. Our position is that we need to find
the right solution to the local problems.
16. Can you see any improvements in the way
that the trolley bus is presented to blend in with the light rapid
(Mr Depledge) Again, I think it is fair to say that
we believe we would need to concentrate on the whole question
of priorities and infrastructure that would go with such a system
and it would be important to ensure that there was no alternative
way of producing the same results or better at the same price
17. Do you envisage the light rail systems being
in the centre of towns or do you envisage them coming from the
outskirts into towns?
(Mr Depledge) I think it is very difficult in transport
terms to generalise in quite this way because it is the CPT view
that you cannot be absolutely certain what will be the right solution
in general terms, you have to look at the particular local problems
and it depends on the layout of the town that you are trying to
serve. There would certainly be situations in which a longer route
is preferable, for example the Manchester MetroLink which provides
excellent links in from a number of important suburbs and it also
has an important local role in the city centre as well. I am almost
ducking the question by saying you have to examine the local circumstances,
but the key thing is major movements of traffic, a lot of people
travelling down a defined corridor and then you can have tremendous
18. By definition these systems take quite some
time to gestate, ten years or so. If we take the position we are
in now and look at the systems that have been applied over the
years in different areas and cast our minds back ten years, we
see that that was when road passenger transport was thrown into
all sorts of chaos by deregulation and privatisation. That chaos
may be sorting itself out a bit now. Has that had any effect in
your view on the success or otherwise of the systems you can think
of, and if road passenger public transport is now sorting itself
out and becoming more attractive, is this likely to have some
effect on the success or otherwise in the future of the systems
that you know about?
(Mr Depledge) Our view is we would need to move forward
from where we are today and there are clear signs of the creation
of a second policy framework coming up. The Transport Bill will
give us a steer and the development of local transport plans will
allow the work to be done at a local level. We are able to see,
for example, joint ticketing initiatives coming up between light
rail operators and bus operators throughout the country. The key
feature as we see it is that it is possible to move from where
we are now with a great deal of optimism to saying that we are
going to be able to deliver on the sort of agenda the Government
is looking for.
19. There appears to be evidence to suggest
that some of the systems, the Sheffield one and others, have attracted
the majority of their passengers from existing bus services, a
significant number from car use, which is the object of the exercise
presumably; in other words, we are transferring public transport
users from one mode to another rather than tackling the real problem
which is how do we get people out of their private cars onto other
modes of transport?
(Mr Depledge) CPT views all developments which increase
the number of public transport users with some satisfaction and
pleasure. We are an organisation which represents bus and light
rail operators and we believe that the fact that there may have
been some transfer between one type of vehicle and another is
not the most significant issue. The most significant issue is
the success which buses and light rail schemes can have in increasing
passenger numbers and attracting them from the private car. As
you rightly point out, that is the key thing we want to look for.