Conclusions and recommendations
55. If the Government believes that it is important
to attract motorists out of their cars, alternative forms of public
transport must be put in place first. As the evidence shows, people
will not switch to public transport unless it is reliable, frequent,
efficient, safe and clean with affordable fares. Light rapid transit
systems meet these criteria, and so, where appropriate, they should
56. LRT cannot provide an appropriate solution for
all urban transport problems. Investment in heavy rail services
will be required to cope with large passenger movements, while
upgrading conventional bus services will be the most cost effective
way of improving services along quieter corridors. The Government
should adopt a 'horses for courses' approach to ensure that investment
is directed to the mode of transport which is best suited to local
conditions and passenger flows.
57. If the Government is serious about enabling
LRT to play its full role in tackling traffic congestion, it must
go beyond statements of support and be prepared to contribute
public funds to projects which are unable to cover all of their
costs through fare revenues, but which reduce congestion, bring
environmental improvements and can stimulate economic development.
In that respect its recent announcements about the Sunderland
Metro Extension, Manchester Metrolink, Nottingham Express Transit
and Docklands Light Railway have been most welcome, and we look
forward to similarly positive decisions in future.
58. The impact of a new light rail project will be
greater if it is opened as a complete system rather than line
by line. Similarly, extensions to existing schemes should be implemented
together, as in the case of Manchester Metrolink. We recommend
that the Government provide the funding, where necessary, to enable
complete networks or groups of extensions to be opened in one
go rather than on a piecemeal basis over a long period.
59. The Government must now make it clear whether
local authorities will be able to borrow capital for investment
in LRT systems on the basis of future income streams from workplace
parking and road user charging. If so, it should provide guidance
on how this should best be done, and should provide adequate financial
and other backing to ensure that uncertainties over such funding
do not prejudice the development of LRT projects.
60. The potential of guided busways has yet to be
fully exploited in the United Kingdom. We recommend that the
Government assists the development of extensive guided bus networks
in a number of locations in the United Kingdom which reflect different
operating conditions. These would act as demonstration projects,
allowing the viability of guided busways to be properly assessed.
61. Along many routes bus lanes could be upgraded
to guided busways and subsequently further enhanced to become
light railways where warranted by demand. Where investment
in a guided bus or light rail project is not justified immediately,
we recommend that, wherever feasible, schemes be developed incrementally.
62. We recommend that the Government bring forward
further changes to procedures for obtaining funding and approval
for LRT schemes, if such procedures are not significantly speeded
up by the introduction of the new local transport plan framework.
63. In view of the discontent with its current operation,
we urge the Government to complete its review of the Transport
and Works Act quickly so that the additional delay and expense
that is being suffered by LRT promoters is reduced. If amendment
of the Act proves necessary the Government should immediately
introduce legislation to do so.
64. The cost of light rail schemes could be reduced
by adopting common designs for vehicles and other equipment. We
recommend that the Government bring together local authorities
and other promoters of LRT projects to ensure that where possible
vehicles and other equipment are standardised in order to realise
economies of scale.
65. We do not agree that the utilities should be
allowed to reduce the contribution they make to the cost of diverting
their pipes, cables, and other equipment away from a light rail
route. We recommend that the utility companies should continue
to pay 18 per cent of the cost of diverting their services.
66. Trams and buses must be given priority over
other vehicles to minimise the disruption to LRT services caused
by traffic congestion.
67. We welcome the Minister's comment that high
quality public transport schemes, such as LRT, should be introduced
in advance of implementing road user and workplace parking charges.
68. Evidence shows that LRT is more effective for
achieving modal shift when it is accompanied by measures to discourage
car use. We recommend that complementary car restraint measures
be implemented simultaneously with new LRT schemes in order to
increase the number of motorists who transfer to public transport.
69. Although Quality Partnerships and other voluntary
arrangements may be sufficient to ensure integration between bus
and light rail in some areas, the Government must, without hesitation,
allow local authorities to enter into Quality Contracts where
70. We recommend that the Government amends planning
guidance to place even greater emphasis on integrating LRT schemes
with urban development where appropriate.
71. We recommend that the shadow Strategic Rail
Authority examines the potential for converting heavy rail routes
to light rail and for track-sharing, as part of the franchise
replacement process that is currently under way. Any proposals
should, however, only be taken forward if they comply with the
relevant local transport plans and have taken into account the
interests of existing or potential heavy rail users, as well as