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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40 - 50)



  40. Has it been an improvement on what was there before?
  (Mr Depledge) It has certainly been an improvement over the previous Private Bill system, but I believe there is still some work which needs to be undertaken to look at some of the implications of the Act.
  (Mr Harman) It was something we produced a report on and I think you are aware of. Certainly I would agree that it has brought improvements. Nonetheless, there are a number of areas in which it does need to be sharpened up, one of which is the question of not discussing principles. We feel that the inquiry is much more into a scheme, but there is almost a first stage process which is the broad rationale of the scheme and that is now answered by the developing local transport plans. The other issue is that the process also takes in the land use planning implications. That is one of the recommendations you will find in our Report.
  (Mr Coates) As there is now provision in the Transport Bill for making transport plans statutory we think there is a golden opportunity for clarifying the relationship between transport plans and the schemes under the Transport and Works Act to avoid the need to go over the same ground again on a TWA Order. There is no such a provision in the Bill at the moment and we think that is a pity.

  41. How could the Government streamline its funding towards these schemes? Is there somewhere that the Government should be putting pots of money or cutting out some of the bureaucracy? There are a number of schemes I have heard of that have fallen by the wayside because there is not the necessary funds and yet the Government just seems to put barriers in the way instead of the opposite, which is to try to promote it and to have the whole process streamlined.
  (Mr Coates) You mean under the Transport and Works procedure?

  42. I am talking about in general terms.
  (Mr Coates) There is a particular point; under the Transport and Works Act there are greater financial burdens on promoters than there were under the Parliamentary procedure and one of the detailed proposals we made in our report was aimed at trying to make that easier for promoters by clarifying the extent of financial information that is required at the point when an Order is brought forward. More generally, on the funding of these schemes, we do think that it needs to be done as part of a strategy and we think that in principle it should be possible to fund these schemes partly from the proceeds of congestion charging schemes.

  43. We have that one. Mr Olner?

Mr Olner

  44. One very, very quick question, how successful do you think the efforts are going to be to integrate light rail and bus services while bus services remain deregulated outside London?
  (Mr Lusher) There is a good example of that in the West Midlands, not far from Mr Olner's constituency, under a deregulated situation where, in fact, the bus services, the local rail services and indeed the metro services have all been integrated both as to timetable, interchanges and indeed with an integrated tariff. I believe there is no reason at all to suppose that in a deregulated environment that will not continue.

  45. Is the rail company and the bus company the same?
  (Mr Lusher) In that case they are under the same ownership, National Express.

  Chairman: I wondered if that was the case.

Mr Bennett

  46. Fundamentally, in most European countries where tramway systems work the housing densities are much higher than they are in most English cities. Do you really think that there are many English cities where housing densities are high enough to make a tramway system work?
  (Mr Depledge) If I may answer that very briefly. You are quite right, there is this whole question of the suburbanisation in the United Kingdom. There are still many locations and many situations where there are high passenger flows that will justify investment in light rail which would be necessary to produce an efficient service for very large numbers of people, one driver dealing with large numbers of people on one tram. I do not think you can generalise purely on the housing density point.
  (Mr Harman) I think that does open up a very interesting point. I fully support what Mr Depledge has said. I think it is interesting that a fair number of countries in mainland Europe have a much closer cohesion in city planning and indeed in regional planning between the land use planning and the transport planning. We are moving towards that with the Local Transport Plans and the regional strategies. The Local Transport Plans are in their infancy. We are also moving the other way with planning policy guidance from the planning side of the DETR. If you look at practical structures there are still very great weaknesses, they are not driven one by the other, even at local level yet. That is improving. The key message is that we are a long way behind putting the two together. If tramways can address key flows and mass movement—given that we are under pressure to provide more housing in this country, there are the recommendations of the Urban Task Force to raise urban quality—then actually judging light rail in conjunction with all other schemes on local transport and planning against those other targets and also adjusting land use strategies for them will also move towards seeing things in the right context.

  47. Telephone, gas, electricity and water companies are all making very big profits but they are going to have to pay rather less to move their lines, if you like, their pipes and things when these tramway systems are put into place, is that sensible?
  (Mr Depledge) It is an issue which we as an industry feel rather aggrieved about. We have made the point in our written evidence. We do believe that there are benefits that utilities accrue when equipment is moved and there is betterment, that is the technical term.

  48. Are they not paying enough for betterment?
  (Mr Depledge) We believe that the contribution which light rail has to make is somewhat more than the contributions from other organisations who need to move utility equipment. We would like the Government to re-think that point.

  49. As far as the Manchester Metro is concerned the good news is the system, the bad news is that the old railway lines used to allow people to ride their bike to the station, take their bike on the old train and then ride their bike in to work, but the Metro has thrown the bikes off. Do you think that is inherent in the tramway system, that you cannot have that integration?
  (Mr Depledge) I suspect, and without being fully briefed, the reason why they may have decided to do that is to do with the number of people travelling at peak times. They must make a judgment about the capacity and safety angles. I have to say I have no direct knowledge of that.

  Mr Bennett: Could we have bigger trams?


  50. Mr Lusher, bigger trams?
  (Mr Lusher) In the case of the West Midlands as a safety feature the Railway Inspectorate were very keen to ensure that bikes were not taken on to trams. We have cycle racks under surveillance by CCTV at every stop.

  Mr Bennett: You need two bikes, then, one at either end.

  Chairman: I am very grateful to you gentlemen, it has been very helpful.

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