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

Annex A


  5.  From the research and other evidence reviewed in this study, two facts stand out:

    5.1  even successful passenger transport improvements like Manchester Metrolink are unable to achieve a very large shift from car unless complementary measures are taken to restrain car use: simply providing people with the choice of public transport will not be enough;

    5.2  restraint measures in isolation would not only be politically unpopular; they might also in most cases lead to a loss of economic activity in city centres and some reduction in economic welfare over the urban area as a whole. So restraint measures will not meet urban policy and environmental objectives unless they are part of a package including public transport improvements[1]. Those improvements need to be significant if they are to provide a credible alternative to the private car throughout the urban area and to retain or increase the present level of economic activity in central areas.

  7.  Towns and cities vary a lot: the appropriate mix of restraint and public transport measures will need to be tailored to each place and to reflect local views and preferences. In each town or city local authorities and transport operators will first need to decide in which markets public transport can compete with the car and how this is to be done. In the selected markets, public transport services will need to provide fast, frequent services with good standards of comfort and reliability. To get anywhere near the flexibility and convenience of door-to-door travel by car, public transport services need to be perceived, and thus offered, as a single system with accessible information on services and fares, clean, secure and sheltered stops, reliable comfortable and safe services and easy interchange with through ticketing offering a "seamless journey". The public transport network should offer an appropriate combination of taxi, bus and rail services to meet travellers' needs. Park and ride is likely to have an important role to play.

  8.  Buses are—and will continue to be—the most widespread form of public transport in this country and measures to free them from traffic congestion and give them priority over other forms of road traffic will be essential. The pollution and noise levels of buses (and taxis) will need to be significantly reduced.

  9.  Even at higher fares, light rail is more attractive to users[2] than the present quality of bus services (as Manchester Metrolink clearly shows) and gives more certainty to potential developers; in large cities, where flows are high enough, it may be the preferred option in the major corridors and over longer distances. The case for rail based systems is easiest to make where rights of way which offer a competitive advantage can be achieved at modest cost[3]. Its commercial performance will also be improved by complementary restraint and land-use policies.

  10.  The choice of public transport mode should be made on the basis of a full analysis of the benefits and costs. Novel and imaginative ideas need to be tried out more widely, including guided bus and other intermediate technologies between buses and light rail.

  11.  Public transport investments should be planned and implemented as part of a comprehensive strategy for the city. Priority should be given to schemes designed to cater for car journeys displaced by restraint measures. Schemes already on the stocks need to be reviewed.

    12.2  if urban land-use and transport policies are to succeed, they need to be pursued consistently over a long period within a framework that gives sufficient assurance of consistency and level of funding.

    12.3  in the short term central government needs to change the investment grant rules for local rail transport so that they are consistent with those for other urban transport investments; enable fares to be set at levels that are sufficiently competitive with the prevailing levels of cost of using the car; and give due weight to all the costs and benefits. For the longer term it should explore other funding mechanisms that would enable local authorities to plan with confidence and enable the cost of local transport improvements to be met locally (see para 12 below).

  13.  For the reasons given in paragraph 7.2 of this report, no attempt has been made to estimate the cost of the measures likely to be needed. It could run into billions of pounds over a 15-20 year period. But, for the following reasons, even if this turns out to be the case, it ought not to be a serious obstacle:

    13.1  while traffic management and bus priority measures on the scale required will cost several hundred millions and will need to be initiated by local authorities (together with better information systems and interchanges), traffic management and restraint measures will in turn improve the efficiency and commercial performance of bus services by:

    —  shortening journey times and making them more reliable;

    —  enabling each bus to make more journeys a day;

    —  attracting more passengers

  As result, costs should fall and revenues rise. This will encourage private sector operators to invest in the renewal and improvement of bus fleets.

    13.2  light rail is still likely to require grant towards the initial capital costs even if commercial returns are improved by complementary restraint measures; but the net revenues from such measures based on pricing could help to fund the cost of improvements in public transport not met from fares; and other ways of raising funds locally—e.g.: by contributions from employers or businesses) or the attribution to local transport of an appropriate part of an additional fuel charge could make up any difference. So in terms of the Public Sector Borrowing Requirement (PSBR) the policies should be neutral.

  15.  If urban transport packages are to succeed, public transport improvements must match or precede the introduction of restraint measures. But there must also be a firm commitment to the restraint measures if the public transport improvements are to be fundable on the best terms. It should be possible to devise a regime in which capital expenditure programmes are funded on the back of present or future income streams. Road pricing in Norway is organised on this basis and so are many initiatives under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) programmes. A contractual commitment to introduce restraint measures in a city and to apply the revenues (or a sufficient part of them) to public transport improvements would make it easier to finace light rail and bus priority projects and would give the assurance that developers will certainly need before they are prepared to commit themselves to major urban investments with limited car access.

1   The Government accepts this argument in paragraph 14.5 of the Green Paper "Transport-the Way Forward". Back

2   Provided that it runs on segregated tracks or has effective priority in congested streets. Manchester Metrolink services are 30 per cent-50 per cent faster than parallel bus routes. Back

3   Two examples are the conversion of heavy rail routes as part of Manchester Metrolink (and proposals for further conversions on the Oldham-Rochdale route) and the introduction of LRT over a conventional heavy rail route as has been successfully done in Karlsruhe and is under consideration for Sunderland. Back

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