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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 51 - 59)




  51. Good afternoon, gentlemen, you are most warmly welcome. May I ask you to identify yourselves for the record?
  (Mr Taplin) My name is Michael Taplin, Chairman of the Association since 1987. I am also the editor of part of a magazine which the Association has published since 1938. In my professional life I am a transport co-ordinator with a local authority. On my right is Mr Robert Tarr, Secretary General of the Association. Before joining the Association he was Director General of West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive, largely responsible for Midland Metro. On my left is Geoffrey Claydon, vice-president of the Association. Before retirement he was a legal adviser to the Department of Transport.

  52. That all sounds very impressive. Do you have any general remarks you would like to make?
  (Mr Taplin) No, we are happy to take your questions.

  53. You will have looked at the DETR memorandum and what it says in the White Paper about priority being given to funding packages of modest transport measures. Which is the best value, one or two light rail schemes or to do lots of modest schemes all over the country?
  (Mr Taplin) There is a danger in looking at things in the short-term. The previous remarks about buying lots of mini-buses is an example of that. Light rail has a pay back over a period of 15, 20, 25 years and it achieves what it sets out to achieve, which is to attract motorists from cars. Buses do that to some extent.

  54. To be devil's advocate for a minute, there is not a lot of evidence of that, is there?
  (Mr Taplin) There is evidence certainly from Manchester Metrolink and in very, very many systems in Europe and others parts of the world.

  55. What percentage are we talking about? Are we talking about more than 30 per cent or are we talking about more than 50 per cent?
  (Mr Taplin) In Strasbourg we are talking about 40 per cent with the new light rail line.

  56. The apparent success of light rail compared with the buses in attracting people out of cars is really that there are differences in performance or differences in image?
  (Mr Taplin) I think there are both. The light rail has an image that will attract those motorists who gave up buses to buy cars to go back to public transport. The bus may not have that image yet, although it is moving in that direction. In performance terms light rail is a very efficient mover of large numbers of people quickly over large distances.

  57. If you have a successful LRT system it is the key to the degree of segregation and the priority over other traffic. In other words, they will come provided they can see they will get where they want to go faster.
  (Mr Taplin) That is one of the key factors. If the motorist can see that public transport is offering time benefits he will be encouraged to switch. The more segregation you can get on any public transport system the more time benefits you will get. Light rail systems are ideally designed to take advantage of all sorts of segregation modes that are available, whether they be on the surface, underground or indeed elevated.

Mr Forsythe

  58. We are talking about the light rail scheme in the context of the environment as well and if one is talking about the advantages of buses over trolley buses, one is run by electricity and the other is run by diesel. Would a big selling point from the point of view of electricity not be that that would be a cleaner, more environmentally acceptable route to go down than diesel buses?
  (Mr Taplin) Electric vehicles do not produce pollution at the point of service delivery. Buses are becoming cleaner as cleaner fuels are used and alternative fuels are used. The trolley bus is essentially an environmentally friendly bus. It has little else to distinguish it from the bus apart from that aspect.

  59. Are there any examples of light rail schemes being proposed without the existing or potential volume of traffic to justify them?
  (Mr Taplin) As an act of faith?

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