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


Memorandum submitted by Hampshire County Council and Portsmouth City Council (RT 13)

  Hampshire County Council and Portsmouth City Council are promoting a light rail scheme between Fareham, Gosport and Portsmouth. An application for powers under the Transport and Works Act was made in 1998, a Public Inquiry held in early 1999 and the Secretary of State's decision is awaited.

  This written evidence is presented for the Sub-Committee's consideration in the light of the promoters' experience of the processes involved in seeking powers and funding. It is intended to assist the Sub-Committee to appreciate some of the advantages and disadvantages of the current processes and puts forward ways that these might be adjusted to assist the development of proposals.

  This evidence is directed only to item (d) of the Sub-Committee's terms of reference.

1.  INTRODUCTION

  1.1  Hampshire is the third largest County Council in England with administrative responsibility for approximately 1.2 million people. It hosts over 8,600 kilometres of roads, 370 kilometres of railway line, 48 railway stations, two thriving airports and designated Trans-European links (road and rail). The county occupies a strategically important location on the south coast by providing one of the main gateways to mainland Europe via the international ports of Portsmouth and Southampton. Within this setting the importance of an efficient and effective transport system in the county is of regional and national significance, and is especially important for jobs and wealth creation. Portsmouth City Council is a unitary authority situated in the south east of the county.

  1.2  The county is currently experiencing the effects of higher than average traffic growth, higher than average car ownership and increasing journey lengths. The spiralling problem of road traffic congestion coupled with inadequacies in the passenger transport system is now threatening the economic competitiveness of the locality.

2.  TRANSPORT CONTEXT

  2.1  In southern Hampshire, increased mobility through mass car ownership and improved roads has transformed lifestyles and led to a dispersal of land uses which has in turn encouraged more, and longer journeys to take place. Although we all benefit from the mobility and access which modern transport provides, our expectations demand a highly efficient system which enables us to travel without delay and at reasonable cost. These aspirations can frequently conflict with the wider environmental objectives now becoming more widely understood and accepted together with the concept of sustainablility. Traffic conditions on roads in southern Hampshire are already problematic. Congestion and peak period delays are a common feature on the Strategic Road Network and radial routes into the cities of Southampton and Portsmouth. Traffic growth at the level envisaged would mean that most of the network will reach its operational capacity before the end of the County Structure Plan (Review) period in 2011 and without remedial action the system would become severely congested. This will be exacerbated by the additional pressures of development. The implications for the economy and the environment of such a scenario are clearly serious. Congestion costs to Hampshire's economy could be in the order of £75 to £125 million per annum with the costs of pollution in the same order.

  2.2  The need for an enhanced and attractive public transport system is increasingly regarded as one of the most important elements of a sustainable transport solution which would help stem the tide of forecast traffic growth. The southern Hampshire conurbation embracing the travel to work areas of Southampton and Portsmouth is one of the few areas in the South East with a population of sufficient size and density to be able to support a new and innovative mass transit system. Approximately 800,000 people live in the area generating in the order of 2.3 million trips daily, most of which are by car.

3.  SOUTH HAMPSHIRE RAPID TRANSIT (SHRT)

  3.1  The South Hampshire Rapid Transit concept is being developed to provide an attractive alternative mode of travel. SHRT, however, is only one of the elements of a sustainable transport strategy. It is not a panacea for the traffic demands and will only achieve its objectives if implemented within the context of an integrated transport strategy. In order to achieve the targets promoted in the transport strategies, passenger transport in southern Hampshire would be required to accommodate at least an additional 35,000 passengers per day. SHRT would help considerably in realising the modal split targets. The combined effect of both SHRT and the integrated strategies would at the very least avoid the need to widen the M27. SHRT would have a major and integral role to play in helping to bring about the necessary shift from car travel to public transport. SHRT is needed to help deal with exisiting development and it will also have a major strategic role in helping to alleviate the transport impact of new development.

  3.2  The SHRT concept is a network of rapid passenger routes providing a modern, high quality service and a high level of accessibility in key transport corridors. It is not a single mode system but a network comprising a combination of enhanced heavy rail sevices and bus services, light rapid transit (LRT) and guided bus. The network will provide rapid routes using existing rail alignments and both segregated and shared on-street sections. SHRT will provide a coherent and comprehensive system characterised by compatible ticketing, high quality infrastructure and a clear identity. Existing bus and rail networks could be incorporated within the SHRT to help supplement the new services, provided that they meet a quality threshold of reliability and efficiency. The potential for the new system to be a practical and efficient alternative to car use will be optimised by full integration with the range of measures being promoted through the South East Hampshire Transportation Strategy (SEHTS) and the Southampton Area Transport Strategy (SATS) including park and ride, cycle networks and demand management initiatives.

  3.3  The first proposal within the SHRT concept is for a light rail system connecting Fareham and Portsmouth via Gosport and a new transport link under Portsmouth Harbour. The total route length is 14.3 kilometres and incorporates 16 stops. Interchanges will be made with the bus stations in Fareham, Gosport and Portsmouth and railway stations at Fareham, Portsmouth Harbour and Portsmouth and Southsea. About 70 per cent of the route is on segregated alignment (disused railway) with the remaining 30 per cent on-street. An immersed tube tunnel, one kilometre in length, forms the link across Portsmouth Harbour. The light rail vehicles, with low floor access, will take under 30 minutes to complete the end to end journey with an anticipated frequency of 7½ minutes during the day and 15 minutes in the evening. This represents a significant journey time saving compared with the equivalent road journey and is therefore an attractive alternative. The permanency of light rail will promote confidence in the scheme and encourage inward investment in the area. With the increasing emphasis on the promotion of cycling as a healthy and sustainable mode of transport, the needs of cyclists will continue to be an important consideration in project development. Provision is made for a separate cycle shuttle service through the tunnel.

4.  SHRT 1

  4.1  Hampshire County Council and Portsmouth City Council, as joint promoters of the light rail project, submitted an application for an Order under the Transport and Works Act 1992 (TWA) in March 1998. A public inquiry into the proposal was held in Portsmouth in February and March 1999. A total of 456 objections to the proposals were made, primarily about detail rather than the principle of the scheme. One hundred and twenty-seven statements of support, including many from local businesses including Hampshire Economic Partnership, were made to the Secretary of State and 13 other representations were made. Thirty-two objectors and 11 supporters appeared at the public inquiry. The Inspector's report and subsequent decision by the Secretary of State on the Transport and Works Act Public Inquiry is awaited. The Inspector has submitted his report in the week commencing 24 May 1999 and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) has advised as a guideline that it should be six months from submission to the Secretary of State's decision. Up to the end of the public inquiry 64 objections had been formally withdrawn and the promoters had entered into agreements with a number of landowners and harbour users securing significant elements of the scheme; dialogue will continue to take place between the promoters and those affected by the harbour works.

5.  LESSONS LEARNED THUS FAR:

  5.1  Hampshire County Council has experience of the Private Bill procedure and now of its replacement the TWA. The locally based TWA process, with advantages for the engagement of residents, businesses and local interest groups as partners is to be welcomed. The TWA procedures are clear and the requirements leading up to submission greatly assist the public to participate. The TWA Unit of DETR was helpful and professional in its approach and the promoters believe it to be a positive force in assisting applicants.

  5.2  We believe that central government can and should give a clearer picture as to the likelihood of schemes at the pre-feasibility stage being successful if formally promoted. Some form of pre-qualification procedure would be helpful in this regard.

  5.3  The sub-committee will be aware that for the Trunk Road programme set out in the White Paper "A New Deal for Transport" a "daughter" document was available describing in some detail schemes wihin the programme that would be supported and those that would not. We feel that a document of this nature dealing with light rapid transit schemes and major passenger transport infrastructure would have been helpful. Such a document could lend confidence to both promoting authorities and the private sector and help unlock private funding sources. In the absence of such a mechanism questions arise later on as technology develops and yet promoters are required to select mode and route at a very early stage so as to carry out environmental assessment consultation with regulatory bodies and other development work. Promoters can face questions at a later stage as to whether a new route or mode would be better having committed significant resources to the initial choice.

  5.4  Evolution of the replacement mechanism for Section 56 funding has been longer that we would have wished. It has made it difficult to develop private sector involvement as uncertainties still exist over the amount of funding available and the criteria for allocation and distribution.

  5.5  Links with heavy rail are an important factor in providing an integrated passenger transport network. There are a number of bodies involved in the newly regulated heavy rail regime including Railtrack, Office of Passenger Rail Franchising (OPRAF), Office of the Rail Regulator (ORR) (now Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) and train operating companies. Our experience has been that none of the above wished to act as the first port of call when a new transport proposal linking with the heavy rail system was put before them. They were each willing to comment on a proposal that had already been approved by one of the others! A one-stop shop is, in our experience, essential if there is to be an efficient and effective mechanism for considering new proposals.

  5.6  As TWA experience nationwide has developed promoting authorities have had more onerous requirements placed upon them. In particular the developing environmental assessment process has meant that an outline scheme, simply defined with detailed mitigation measures to be considered at some future date, is not likely to satisfy objectors, the Inspectorate, or indeed European Directives on the assessment of environmental effects.

  5.7  The advice and guidance provided by Her Majesty's Railway Inspectorate (HMRI) on an informal basis was welcome and extremely valuable. It has to be said however, that the resources necessary to respond to questions raised was substantial and, again, involved a level of detailed consideration beyond that which we believe was envisaged in 1992 when the TWA procedures were formulated. We believe it would be helpful to applicants if provision were made for some form of pre application authority from HMRI, perhaps in the form of approval of all or part of the outline design.

  5.8  The provisions of the Land Compensation Act in respect of the compulsory acquisition of land required for the scheme provide for an onus of proof on the promoters which it seems to us go beyond that envisaged by the TWA procedures.

  5.9  The combination of the requirements set out in the above three paragraphs leads us to believe that the cost and difficulty of obtaining an Order is significantly greater than that envisaged in the 1992 Act. As a result the private sector is, in our experience, keen only to be involved either from the very start or when powers have been granted. We believe that the process is more polarised than was originally intended and there are now fewer options as to how schemes are developed.

  5.10(i)  Early consultation with the DETR relevant policy Division is recommended by the Transport & Works Act 1992 A Guide to Procedures. The purpose of this is to iron out any difficulties prior to submission of the application for powers. This assists in achieving Government objectives and helps to ensure that the public are able to comment on a proposal which is unlikely to change significantly as a result of DETR objection.

  5.10(ii)  We followed the above procedures through lengthy prior consultation with the TWA Processing Unit. Unfortunately no comment was received from the Ports Division of the DETR until a very late stage when it raised a significant number of concerns which then had to be dealt with.

  5.10(iii)  We fully support the principles set out in the Guide. A way to ensure that the procedures are followed would be to preclude the lodging of an objection on matters where consultation has taken place but no comments have been made.

  5.11  Funding is not subject to a process of staged approvals that is visible to the public and to potential investors. It would assist if the stages were identified and an annual report published saying what stage had been reached by each of the supported schemes (see para 5.3 above). It would substitute an incremental approval mechanism for the present arrangement where a proposal is deemed to be "not funded" until the moment when it is.

  6.  We conclude:

    —  TWA is helpful legislation;

    —  TWA Unit is positive force;

    —  Central Government should indicate at an early stage which projects are likely to be supported where route and mode in outline have been determined;

    —  Funding mechanisms need clarifying;

    —  Bureaucracy of rail regulation hinders development of integration between heavy rail and LRT;

    —  Outline approval by HMRI would be helpful;

    —  Incremental approval for funding desirable;

    —  Schemes now so detailed when Inquiry reached that risk sharing concept heavily diluted.

October 1999


 
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