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

Memorandum by the Bristol and South Gloucestershire Rapid Transit Scheme (RT 24)


  1.  Bob Fowler is a Transportation Planner with over 20 years experience in both private and public sectors. I am the Project Executive employed by the joint promoters of Line 1 of the Bristol and South Gloucestershire Rapid Transit Project.

  2.  Following Local Government Reorganisation in 1996 two of the new Unitary Authorities, Bristol City and South Gloucestershire Councils reviewed the transport and land-use strategies of the former County of Avon and concluded:

    (a)  that the forecast (by previous, exhaustive studies), identified and fundamental role that rapid transit would play in the achievement of the Councils' policies remained and;

    (b)  that, in order to procure the optimum network in a phased, efficient and cost-effective manner, the Councils should adopt a Joint Venture approach involving the private sector at an early stage, prior to application for Transport & Works Act (T&WA) powers and based on the principles of risk and cost sharing and the priority joint production of a commercially-validated and robust Outline Business Case.

  3.  What has been achieved as a result, to date, is:

    —  The selection of the Citylink consortium as preferred bidder, through a competitive process, to develop the Joint Venture. Citylink consist of Pell Frischmann, Norwest Holst, AEA Technology Rail and FirstGroup with associate partners, Railtrack.

    —  Submission of the Outline Business Case for Line 1 as a bid for PFI funding.

    —  Preparation for the application for a T&WA Order.


  4.  The Sub-Committee has sought evidence on four areas of investigation. The last of these, as listed, poses the question firstly whether it is appropriate to assist the growth of Rapid Transit in the UK.

  5.  Clearly, from the above, this project is proof that, in appropriate circumstances, rapid transit can be demonstrated:

    (a)  to form an exclusively fundamental part of an integrated strategy to achieve local and national policy objectives;

    (b)  to attract very significant private-sector investment in developing, implementing and subsequently operating proposed systems.

  That this is the belief of both the public and private sectors involved in the project is manifest in the Provisional Local Transport Plans produced by the two Councils and in the joint Outline Business Case. The promoters of the project would submit that, in such circumstances, assistance should be given to achieving rapid transit schemes.

  6.  If this is accepted, then the second element of the question posed by the Sub-Committee seeks advice on the nature of that assistance. Significant are the following.

  7.  Rapid Transit is not, in itself, the universal panacea—it is part of an integrated strategy. Government must recognise that the ability to deliver, financially and legally, other, complimentary, elements of the strategy is crucial. Examples might include:

    —  Putting in place Legislationwhere this is necessary;

    —  Demonstrating commitment to a strategy eg in LTP Settlement statements;

    —  Developing and implementing policy and legislative change identified in "Daughter" Papers to the White Paper.

  8.  Given the long and expensive lead-in time for rapid transit projects it is important to minimise the potential for abortive expenditure. Clarity and consistency of definitive guidance, advice and statements are paramount, as is the speed of the decision-making process. It is important, too, that general statements, for example on broad policy or the likely availability of funds, are not confused with what might be different, project-specific advice.

  9.  Government must ensure that it has a realistic appreciation and threfore expectation of the views of the private sector in investing in, developing and implementing rapid transit schemes. In particular the way in which the risks of achieving T&WA powers and the commitment of public sector funding will influence the timing, extent and basis for the involvement of the private sector and the nature of the partnerships or contracts established.

  10.  The timing of this Inquiry is interesting in relation to that of significant decisions which will potentially influence many of the issues raised above. I refer, of course, to the link forst drawn in the White Paper between the delivery of rapid transit schemes and hypothecated revenue. Such is the enormity of the consequences of the realisation and timing of road user and workplace parking charges and the influence it will exert that I would urge that, as soon as appropriate a dialogue is established between Government, Local Government and the private sector to discuss the financial and legal implications of this issue.

R W Fowler
Project Executive

October 1999

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