Examination of Witnesses (Questions 51
WEDNESDAY 12 JANUARY 2000
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
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.
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?