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

Memorandum by South West Transport Network (TEA 04)


  This submission has particular reference to the Highways Agency. Its thrust and culture over the years has been to build more motorways and by-passes, a task in which it has succeeded, sometimes with environmental advantage, but by no means always so. The expertise, culture and attitudes established within the Agency over the years are not exactly suited to integrated transport. That implies more use of rail, canals and coastal shipping, with less reliance on roads. Comments in our previous submissions are relevant—on Road Haulage (HC296 19/07/00 page 180) and on Rail Investment (still in consideration).

  One of our members having had recent dealings with the Agency has expressed these views, which sum up the situation in few words:

    "The Highways Agency needs a thorough overhaul to bring it in line with government thinking—or it needs replacing with an integrated Transport Agency that includes the Countryside Agency and the Environment Agency at every level. (Why not?) Highways Agency staff have been trained to build faster and bigger roads, which is no longer priority in the 10-year Plan and the New Deal for Trunk roads. The Agency tends to lead, rather than seeing itself as servant of the Government."

  Here are other responses from people in the South West:

    Lack of bus priority measures on trunk roads and motorways. A particular example is the M32 in Bristol, which could link into HGV lanes developed by South Gloucestershire and Bristol City councils.

    The Agency failed to provide public transport measures on the Cirencester bypass (connecting A419 and A417 between Swindon and Cheltenham), leaving dangerous crossing points, no bus shelters and no provision for cyclists.

    There should be clear information and direction signs encouraging use of park and ride and car parks at railway stations. We welcome National Rail's BR's red "two-arrow" sign. It should be prominent on roads at every convenient access point. Examples are M4, M5, M32 and A4174 for Bristol Parkway, M4 for Didcot Parkway, A4 for Keynsham, A370 for Worle, M5 for Tiverton Parkway and various points on the line between Exeter Central and Waterloo.

    The Agency should take the lead in developing more "parkway" rail stations, and providing easy access to them from the road network.

    And why should not the Agency promote motorail sleeper services, as an aid to relieving trunk road congestion and pollution?

    We favour detrunking in appropriate cases, because it makes for local democratic control. Examples are A46/A35/M32 in the Bristol area and the A39/A361 North Devon link.

    An alternative to an Integrated Transport Agency (as suggested above) might be Government Regional Offices having direct responsibility, in conjunction with regional Assemblies for England.

    We need something like passenger transport authorities—and PTEs—possibly three in the South West:

      —  one centred on Bath and Bristol for Gloucestershire, Somerset and North Wiltshire;

      —  another on Exeter and Plymouth for Devon and Cornwall;

      —  a third on Southampton and Portsmouth for Hampshire, Dorset and South Wiltshire.

    There needs to be an agency working on modal shift for freight, away from roads—better interface between road, rail, ports and waterways.

    The Environment Agency will be ever more concerned with new housing locations, avoiding areas liable to flood. At the same time there should be regard to convenient public transport access, walking distance to rail stations or quality bus service.

    The roles for Traffic Commissioners, Vehicle Certification and Vehicle Inspectorate need re-examining in the light of "integration" policies. There needs to be effective regulation and enforcement of standards, and for public transport adequate maintenance provision—not the kind of depot closures we have seen in the South West recently. Reducing operating discs as a form of "punishment" is not necessarily the best way, if it leads to fewer services and hardship for passengers.

  We look forward to the Sub-committees deliberations on these matters. Changed policies and objectives need changes in structures if effective delivery is to be achieved.

Dick Drew

for Transport 2000 and Railway Development Society in the South West

November 2000

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