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WEDNESDAY 14 MARCH 2001
Mr Andrew F Bennett, in the Chair
Mr Hilary Benn
Mr Crispin Blunt
Mr Tom Brake
Mr Brian H Donohoe
Mrs Gwyneth Dunwoody
Mrs Louise Ellman
Mr Bill O'Brien
Miss Anne McIntosh
EXAMINATION OF WITNESSES
RT HON LORD MACDONALD OF TRADESTON CBE, a Member of the House of Lords,
Minister for Transport, MS BEVERLY HUGHES, a Member of the House,
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, MR ANDREW WHYBROW, Head of
Charging and Local Transport Division, MR PETER MATTHEW, Urban
Policy Division, Department of the Environment, Transport and the
490. Lord Macdonald, can I welcome you to the Committee. I hope
you had a pleasant stroll across from the Cabinet meeting this morning. Can
I ask you to identify your team for us, please?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Thank you, Mr Chairman. My name is Gus
Macdonald, I am Minister for Transport at the DETR. I have with me Beverly
Hughes, who is the Minister very much involved in local government and
regeneration. On my right is Andrew Whybrow, who is the head of our charging
and local transport section in the department, and also Peter Matthew, who is
the head of urban environment and regeneration.
491. Thank you very much. Do you want to say anything by way of
introduction or are you happy to go straight into questions?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Just a few brief words, Chairman. I am
very grateful to be here this morning and for the Committee for arranging this
session. I should say, in opening, that as well as my ministerial interest
in the subject of walking I speak as a former president of Paths For All in
Scotland, which was dedicated to developing walking opportunities around the
towns and cities there. I think it is very important that in addition to the
access that people have to the hills, the moors or the mountains we try to
make sure that there are opportunities at an urban level as well, because it
is surprising how close one can be to the countryside and yet have very little
opportunity to walk. I know you have got a much broader perspective this
morning and we are aware that inside the grand plans that we have produced
there is always the danger that walking might be taken for granted for very
obvious reasons. Sadly, walking has been in decline most obviously because
most of us now have cars and people chose to drive short distances when it is
quicker and more comfortable much of the time, although obviously not as good
for exercise. The second reason is just the lack of choice; that people have
a dependence on the car, for example, if they are working miles away from home
and it is the only practical way to get there. The Government is committed
to trying to increase choice, and that is very much the message of our ten-
year plan for transport. We want to make it clear that we are not anti-car,
we would like to see more people who need cars being able afford cars, but we
want to try and follow the example that we see on the continent, where they
have a higher car ownership per head but people use their cars less. We want
to try and make sure that what we do in Britain as a policy means that people
feel able to use their cars less. We are encouraging development, of course,
in built-up areas and brown-field sites to give people a chance to live within
walking distance of a whole range of employment, not to mention their
shopping, their entertainment opportunities and so on. So we are making that
massive investment in public transport - œ180 billion in the ten-year
transport plan. That, in turn, has been based on a White Paper on transport
in 1998 and subsequent documents that have emerged from that, such as the
document that we produced Encouraging Walking and, most recently, we have had
our local transport plans which we announced in December - œ8.4 billion worth
of investment at local authority level for the local authorities in England.
So I hope that shows, Mr Chairman, the seriousness with which we take the
subject of walking.
492. Perhaps it would not be amiss for you to emphasise how much
pleasure people can get from walking in towns, with the problems of getting
into the countryside.
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) I would very much emphasise that, and I
was pleased to see that in London there has been talk of trying to develop
clearer urban routes which would take people through the most interesting
areas and give people a sense that they can walk, maybe, much further than
they would have anticipated. As I say, my previous experience in Scotland was
very much geared to that, with the Paths For All movement there. For very
little investment you can produce splendid results for people who are often
most in need of the exercise or the ability to get out and about. I think it
is one of those areas where because it does not require, perhaps, very large
capital investment it is never properly quantified, and in our local transport
plans I was delighted that through the advice we have given councils we had
got back from them walking plans for every area of England. The difficulty
is - and it is something that I hope our methodology will master - how you can
take all these smaller schemes and quantify them in a way that is so much
easier when you are dealing with big capital investment projects.
493. Lord Macdonald, the Government certainly is encouraging
walking; within its advice note to local government it encourages local
authorities to do that, but yet the Government is also apparently saying that
walking will have a negligible impact on congestion, mileage and pollution.
Why do you think that is?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) On the arithmetic that we are given,
with the percentage of short journeys that people make, the great majority of
people already walk them. Therefore, what you could achieve in persuading
them to walk a bit more when it is under a mile would be pretty marginal in
the great scheme of things.
494. Are you sure that that is the case for all types of walking
in all areas, or is that just something restricted ----
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) I stress that I am very much in favour
of it and we would want to encourage it anyway, it is just that we have not
been able to make the arithmetic add up in the way that gives us a serious
impact on some of the bigger figures that we are talking about. It does not,
however, detract from the desirability of bringing any of the measures that
would help, because we are not so target-driven that we would, as I say, not
introduce the necessary investment or reforms for walking simply because it
does not help us meet the target. Walking is a target in itself.
495. In some European cities half of the journeys are actually on
foot. Do you think we could reach that in this country?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) I think we could but I am suspicious of
easy comparisons with what happens elsewhere in Europe, because when you look
at Europe - and we have got the Commission for Integrated Transport looking
at best practice across Europe - you must be conscious that you are looking
at a thousand years of a different history, different cultures, towns that are
built differently and, therefore, very often, admirable though their practice
might be in these European towns, it is very difficult to see it being easily
imported to the United Kingdom.
496. We have had evidence put that some car journeys are much
longer than the equivalent walking would be. Would that not suggest that your
original assumption is wrong or needs re-examination?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) I am very happy to re-examine any of the
assumptions that we have made. I am not conscious of this having been raised
as an issue with us before, but if there is anything that we can do to change
the guidance that we offer to local authorities in the context of the local
transport plans I would be very happy to do that. We have stressed to them
that while we have created both the ten-year framework for the overall
transport investment and there is a five-year framework for local government,
we wish to be flexible by the year and make sure that local authorities feel
able to flex those plans. Obviously, this is one of the easier areas in which
to introduce change in the short-term.
497. So this is something you continue to monitor?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Indeed, very much so.
498. What about the school run? Surely there are an awful lot of
children who are transported to school relatively short distances. We all
know how congestion in towns goes down with the school holidays. Are not a
lot of those journeys ones you could encourage both parents and children to
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Indeed, Mr Chairman, and again we have
been working with schools and local authorities to try and create local school
plans for travel. It is a sad fact that parents now, for understandable
reasons, feel more insecure about their children walking to school. You will
all know that our record as far as casualties are concerned with children
walking is relatively higher than other countries in Europe. Although overall
we are near the top of the league for the safety of children killed or injured
in road accidents in this country, at the pedestrian level, again because of
the way Britain is built, in part, and also the way that children, perhaps,
are trained in this country, we have got a slightly higher casualty rate than
in some other countries. When you say "slightly higher" you are talking in
terms of over 100 children killed every year, so it is a very serious matter.
We are working with the schools. We are looking, of course, as well as at the
walking side of this, the possibility of school bus services being improved.
I know that Surrey, for instance, have put very ambitious plans in their local
transport plan for us. Most recently the Deputy Prime Minister announced that
First Group would be piloting the American style yellow buses to take children
to school. Again, if we can construct ways in which children walk or cycle
to school then we will certainly encourage that. We have set up the mechanisms
through which that can be achieved.
499. Just on that point. Can I just have you confirm, Lord
Macdonald, that the effort the Government is making in promoting safe routes
to schools is purely for safety reasons because you have already stated that
there is no point really in promoting walking because it will have no
significant impact on congestion?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Clearly most of these issues must be
treated at a local level so through the local transport plan it is for the
local authority to decide what impact it would have. It may be in a local
area, yes it would have an impact on congestion. Clearly with the school run
that has been a cause of particular congestion in certain periods of the day.
We are committed to reducing the present level of car use for the journey to
school. We want to see greater choice in the way that children travel, whether
it is through the school bus, through cycling or whether it is through
walking. We set up the School Travel Advisory Group - STAG - in 1998 to find
ways of encouraging walking and cycling and we are working to implement those
recommendations which were published in January of last year. I think the
local transport plans reflect the activity that we have put into that.
500. In fact what you are saying is it could have a significant
impact but only at a local level?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Yes but it could creep, one would hope,
at a national level though I think it is too early to speculate on how that
might take place. Certainly at a local level it is for the local authority to
make those decisions based on the local transport plans.
501. Minister, the Government Ten Year Transport Plan is welcome
because it does set some objectives but it does not go by without criticism.
Professor Goodwin, the chairman of the panel of independent advisers, does
argue that pedestrianisation and small schemes to promote walking could reduce
congestion more cost effectively than the Government's roads programme. What
is your view?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) I am very happy to talk with Phil
Goodwin about that. He has been a valued adviser to the Department in the
past. We have our concerns about his methodology and his conclusions on the
impact that the Ten Year Plan would have on congestion overall. I have
sympathy with the view that says it is difficult as yet to measure the impact
that a lot of small schemes will have simply because we are probably more
inclined to try and measure the value for money on large schemes through the
methodology that is available to the Treasury. So you can look at a Channel
Tunnel Rail Link and make a decision on that investment but it is more
difficult if you are faced with, say, as we were in the local transport plans
8,500 safety related schemes on the roads from local authorities. I think
there are about 4,500 kilometres of new bus lanes being put in and so on.
When you get down to the smaller schemes it is more difficult to work out just
what the general impact of all those schemes will be but I agree with the
implication of your question that it is something we should try very hard to
measure because my instinct, as I suspect your's is, is that there is a lot
of good that can be done by small investment, it is just more difficult to
502. Following up what the Chairman said to your comments about
walking in the countryside. There are a lot of people who do not have the
opportunity to walk in the countryside so their means of walking and
exercising is in the urban areas. Now what is requested in many areas is more
pedestrianisation so the shoppers can walk freely, young mothers can get their
exercise walking without fear of traffic and pollution. What are your views
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) I very much welcome the kind of
initiatives that we have seen coming through in the five year local transport
plans. I think that the process that we have set in train here of allowing
councils much more freedom to dictate their own priorities, in virtually
doubling the budget from the œ650 million a year that we had a year ago
heading up towards about œ1.3 billion by the end of the SR2000 period means
that there is far more money to spend but the local authorities now are in a
process which we can monitor at a departmental level, we can also share it
across authorities if we see particularly good ideas emerging. We have been
encouraging them to develop skills in areas of transport planning, for
instance, which I think is lifting the general quality of what councils are
able to do and it is also a responsive and I hope flexible process for them.
I believe we will be able to get a much better measure year by year now of how
well we are doing. If it turns out that an accretion of small schemes is
delivering a lot of value in particular areas then we will be able to get that
message round to other councils very quickly.
503. You have told us the problem of measuring the small schemes
but the Government actually has plumped for large schemes, presumably because
they are easy to measure rather than they are actually value for money?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) They would not be pursued if they were
not value for money. Clearly there is a great importance in the expansion,
for instance, of our railway system where you have seen the Strategic Rail
Authority yesterday announcing its ambitions for œ60 billion worth of
investment in our rail network across the next ten years. Now some of those
schemes, like the West Coast Mainline Scheme, are very large indeed, that is
the biggest railway engineering scheme in Europe. The values of those schemes
are, of course, measurable and very thoroughly debated across the Government
but we are aware, also, because we work very closely on a piece of joined up
Government with our colleagues in other areas of the DETR that the small
schemes can have enormous impact at the local level. If I could perhaps bring
in my fellow Minister here, she is much better informed on some of these areas
than I am.
(Ms Hughes) I just want to comment, Chairman, on a number of the
questions that have arisen so far because although understandably the
Committee wants to question Lord Macdonald on the Transport Policy issues and
the relevance of walking to that and whether or not that particular shaft of
policy is promoting walking, I would just like to say that this is a very
important issue for other aspects of the Department's work whether or not it
can be demonstrated in terms of beneficial impacts on macro transport policy
so to speak, the whole urban policy arena, regeneration of towns and cities,
all that we are doing there through planning.
504. We will fairly quickly want to come on to those issues.
(Ms Hughes) Fine. I just want to say it is not only whether it is
important in terms of touching some of the macro transport performance
measures, it is also important for other things.
505. If a Government takes a decision on its budget that is what
influences policy. That is what we are asking. If you decide to put a lot of
money back into the road schemes when previously it has been an agreed policy
decision to support things like railways, for precisely the reason that you
have put forward, then if you suddenly reinstate the large road programme not
surprisingly people will take that as a clear indication of your attitude.
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Yes but I hope that what people will
take from the monies that have already been announced is the fact that only
about six per cent of our Ten Year Plan monies are going to new road schemes.
If you take just the local transport plans, the œ8.4 billion then under a
billion of that was going into new road schemes, œ4.4 billion was going into
public transport and of the œ4 billion going into roads œ3 billion of it was
going into the upgrading and maintenance of local roads.
506. On those figures, can you tell us how much is going into
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) No, I could not. I could not, Chairman,
because it is not quantified in that way coming out of the local authorities.
I do believe that we should be working in the years ahead to try and quantify
not just walking but some of the other areas of investment at local level
because it is very important that now we have created this framework for the
first time that we are able to locate inside that framework just how well the
smaller schemes are working at local level.
507. A great deal of emphasis has been placed on county wide
transport plans. What guidance is given from the DETR to help local
authorities collectively within the country to provide more walking
facilities, more walking policies and better pedestrianisation? What advice
is given to the local people?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Could I perhaps ask Andrew Whybrow just
to come in here with the detail of it because he is in the front line of
dealing with the authorities.
(Mr Whybrow) Thank you, Minister. We gave local authorities advice on
all aspects of local transport plans around about early last year. That
included advice to include in the local transport plan a local strategy for
encouraging walking. It was one of a number of aspects of local transport
plans where we said we will look for certain things to be included as a
minimum requirement and further things as to what would be in a good local
transport plan. We issued further advice in the form of a leaflet on elements
of a good local walking strategy. We have not given a great deal of advice
on detailed design matters but the Institution of Highways and Transportation
has published a fairly extensive document aimed at professionals which does
508. Minister, in PPG13 the Government has said that it wishes to
reduce the need to travel and yet the Government in its Ten Year Plan has set
specific targets for increased travelling, particularly a 50 per cent increase
in the use of rail, a ten per cent increase in bus travel, and a 100 per cent
increase in light rail. How do you see these two as being complementary?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) In the sense of rail and bus being
509. No, the fact that in PPG13 you have said that the Government
wants to reduce the need to travel and yet in the Ten Year Plan you have set
targets to increase each mode of travel.
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Well, we believe that the impulse for
growth which will come from a stable and growing economy will clearly require
increased movement of people to jobs. If you take, for instance, the increase
in travel that we have had on our railways, that is not unconnected with the
fact that this Government has put an extra million people back into work and
they have to get to their work of a morning and get back in the evening. We
are dealing here with the problems of growth right across the transport
sector. I am delighted to say that we have even got modest growth beginning
to develop in the bus sector now. I would think that these two are not
mutually incompatible. We obviously want to try through planning and through
urban design, as my colleague, Ms Hughes, could explain, to ensure that people
have less need to travel, whether it is to shops, to jobs or to entertainment,
through our long-term planning ambitions. We wish to ensure that as people
do travel more, and with affluence clearly they will travel more both for
leisure as for work, that we have the expanding infrastructure of transport
in this country, in rail and bus and elsewhere, that will cope with that.
510. In the Government's flagship council, City of York Council,
there is a problem in increasing the number of passengers travelling by bus
because they cannot agree to give priority to certain bus routes. Is the
Government doing anything to encourage this because if you want to see a true
integrated transport system then you will be encouraging people to walk to the
bus stop and get on board the bus to take them to the train station to catch
the train? Is this not in jeopardy if you cannot prioritise bus routes to cut
through the congestion?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) In general, of course, I would agree and
I would hope that the quality partnerships that we have set up for public
transport in the Transport Act, which went through in November of last year,
will encourage greater use of buses. We already see signs that bus
passengership is up ten, 20 per cent in those areas where the partnerships are
now working. We will be encouraging that. Anything that we can do to
encourage bus use I believe is welcome. You may have seen the announcement
last week when we ensured that the fuel duty rebates to public service buses
was increased and we are looking again at other aspects of bus usage and coach
usage in particular to see how we can improve that too.
511. Are you concerned that targets that you have set may steal
from each other? The purpose of our inquiry is really to encourage more
people to walk and there is the possibility that you are encouraging more
people to cycle or to take public transport and you are discouraging people
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) My belief is with the inherent growth
that we would all hope for in the economy we will see more journeys. Also,
with the great predominance of car usage in this country there clearly is
scope for people to go in large numbers onto other forms of travel, whether
it is on to the bus or whether it is on to their bikes or whether it is on to
their two legs.
512. Is there a reason why Government on the one hand informs
government officers and highway authorities and so on very well about its
intentions and about what it expects of them and about the parameters of
putting in good local transport bids in local transport plans which include
walking, cycling and all of that, but on the other hand says very little to
the public? Do you not think that the public have a role to play here in
encouraging the kinds of measures which you might expect coming from local
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) I agree of course, but I would be
surprised if local government itself was not trying to involve its electors
in that process. As you say, we have put very comprehensive information out
on what our schemes are, that is the guidance on the full local transport
plans and the walking strategy that we have evolved.
513. But does every councillor get that? Would it not be a good
idea to make sure that the bare bones of what this issue is all about in terms
of sustainable strategies are understood and we should involve local people
directly? I do not see it on the ground quite frankly, ordinary people on the
street do not understand what any of this is about. I wondered, Mr Whybrow,
in the work that you do with local authorities, county and metropolitan
authorities in particular, whether any attention is paid to disseminating the
main thrust of this to local populations and whether any monitoring activity
ever takes place and whether that is happening at local level? Then I want
to come on to a connected question.
(Mr Whybrow) We are certainly asking local authorities to monitor the
success or otherwise of their policies at local level. We are expecting them
to keep an eye on what is happening to walking. One thing the Minister did
not mention was the Are You Doing Your Bit Campaign, which is the Government
communicating directly with the people particularly through advertising. One
of the elements in that campaign is the desirability of walking rather than
cars for short journeys.
Christine Butler: The next question is to either ----
Chairman: Let us have the question, let them choose who answers it.
514. Fine. Okay, then. It is to do with health impacts of
walking or not walking. There is concern that the health benefits that would
encourage walking are not being fully taken into account.
(Ms Hughes) In terms of the whole public health emphasis of Government
that is something that is recognised but, more specifically, in terms of our
brief, we have given local authorities a very broad remit, as you will know,
in terms of pursuing anything that promotes the well-being of people in local
communities, socially, economically or environmentally, but also give them the
mechanism to pursue that. I think that is recognised implicitly in all of the
strands of urban policy regeneration and in what my department is trying to
do to improve the quality of life for people in various kinds of communities.
515. Do you really think the general public understands that
inertia and not actually having physical activity brings early deaths quicker
in this country than smoking cigarettes?
(Ms Hughes) My own view is that probably there are different levels
of understanding about that, as always, in different parts of communities, in
different parts of the country and in different social groups. I would accept
- and I am speaking as a lay person rather than in terms of policy - that we
probably need to do more to get that message across to those people who
actually need to pay more attention to their health, because they suffer
various disadvantages. Certainly in terms of initiatives that my department
has been responsible for, such as the new deal for community regeneration, and
initiatives generally we cannot fail to notice the situation of people in
those communities. They have a higher incidence of morbidity, a higher
incidence of mortality and, clearly, anything, including walking - and also
diet and other factors - that is going to improve their potential for
literally quality as well as length of life is something that we would want
516. But you do not control their diet and you do control their
transport. That is, actually, quite a fundamental difference.
(Ms Hughes) I disagree that we control their transport. I do not
think we can order people to walk. What I think we can do is to facilitate
walking for a whole range of environmental, regeneration, urban policy and
transport measures. We then have to get the message across to people that
where they have a choice of walking, walking is good for them as well as, very
often, good for their local economies, too.
517. If I paraphrase, Lord Macdonald, what you said earlier, you
stated that by tackling the school run, by promoting walking and, perhaps,
school buses, it could have a significant impact locally and reduce
congestion, and you thought this could trickle down at a national level. Why
is there no national walking strategy to pull this together?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) I think because it is such a matter of
fact business it would seem to me, perhaps, to be overblown to say that we
must have a national walking strategy. I believe that it is at local
authority level that you will get the best support for this and the best
targeted advice. I do not see, really, what will be gained by having a
national strategy on walking. I think it is far better to put it in the
context of the investment priorities of the local councils and make sure that
they are better funded than they have ever been in the past, which is our
518. Why a national cycling strategy? What is the difference?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Because a cycling strategy, I believe,
is a mode of transport; you get on a machine, you need rules of the road and
you need green lanes painted in the road at some considerable cost. It is
quite different from ----
519. Surely, for walking you need pavements to walk on.
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Absolutely, and at a local level that is
fine. I do not share the belief that somehow we would transform either
individual activity or local authority activity if we had a shining national
520. But you do believe that for cycling?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Yes, I think it is out of scale.
521. If you mean what you say, why do you not ring-fence? The
Chancellor is now demonstrating that he can ring-fence some aspects of
education by passing it directly to schools. Why do you not give that
opportunity to local authorities, to say "If you spend money on walking areas
I will ring-fence money, but it is not to be used for any other purpose"? As
it stands, local authorities would not do that.
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Because I think it would go against the
whole thrust of policy in terms of funding local government. I would perhaps
hand it over to my colleague to take that in more detail, but if walking why
not ring-fence everywhere else in local investment? That would undermine,
surely, the responsibility we are trying to pass back to the local level.
(Ms Hughes) Local authorities would have a very different view. They
already feel that we have gone too far in this year's settlement in terms of
the proportion of total money that has been ring-fenced, which is about 10 per
cent of their total settlement. They think that is far enough if not too far.
So local authorities would not thank us for that. I think, secondly, it
underlines what we are trying to get them to achieve, which is to take the
lead role in developing priorities and strategies with their local
communities. If government starts ring-fencing all of those types of money
then clearly it constrains the potential for them to do that.
522. You are not promoting the idea.
(Ms Hughes) We are promoting ----
523. You are not doing it because it is clear, on the basis of the
evidence we have been taking, that there is not any particular promotion of
walking within cities and urban areas. There is no promotion of it. In order
to be able to achieve that, surely, the one way to do it is to say "If you
want to promote this locally there is a bag of money for you. If you do not
do that, you will never get it and it will not happen".
(Ms Hughes) I disagree on two counts, Mr Chairman. I do not agree
that there is not any promotion of walking. There is a whole raft of policies
we are encouraging local authorities, particularly, but also others, to
include in their plans and in their visions, whether it is transport
regeneration or whatever - and also through the planning system. Secondly,
I do disagree with my friend; to start dictating on every single area is
counter-productive at the end of the day, but it is also cutting across the
principles of directly elected local government who are responsible to their
own communities for setting priorities and for allocating resources.
524. In your opening statement, Lord Macdonald, you said that the
Government is not anti-car. A number of our witnesses have suggested that the
reason you have not brought forward a national walking strategy is because you
are desperate to be seen to be not anti-car. Do you agree with these
witnesses who hold that belief?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) No, I think that is utterly wrong. As
I said, I do not see that having a national strategy would have any great
effect on individual behaviour - and this is mainly about individual
behaviour, whether it is people staggering down to the pub or going off for
525. How many DETR staff are there whose primary responsibility is
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) About a dozen, but my colleague might be
able to be more precise.
(Mr Whybrow) For walking and cycling together.
526. A dozen?
(Mr Whybrow) Precisely, it is 11.
527. Would you say that the number of civil servants in charge of
walking policy, including research, monitoring and integration, is
insufficient, generous or about right?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) I suspect it is about right, Mr
Chairman, because most of us know how to do it. I am not being facetious
there, I just think you can therefore take a lot for granted when it comes to
walking. What I am more concerned about is where we get the money to pass on
to the local authorities, with the right guidance, and how they might see best
ways of spending it. As I say, I do not think motivation at a local level
requires a whole band of civil servants to tell people to get out and walk a
528. How much money will be spent on (a) promoting walking and (b)
roads under the ten-year transport plan?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) By promotion do you mean in publicity?
529. To encourage walking, which could mean, presumably, improving
anything from promotion itself to also providing facilities to enable people
to walk safely through towns.
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) In England it is whatever proportion of
the œ8.4 billion the local authorities think appropriate.
530. You told us in evidence shortly before how those proportions
are going to break down. You said there will be 1 billion on new roads, 4.4
billion on public transport, 3 billion on maintenance of the existing road
network. That would not seem to leave terribly much for much discretion by
local authorities. You appear to know what they are going to do already.
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) You have, inside the context of 4
billion spent on roads, the ability of local authorities to decide whether
they have new lighting plans or whether they have new pavements.
531. Given the state of roads in my neck of the woods, for
example, and the fact that we have been waiting for a Reigate Relief Road
since it was raised by my predecessor in his maiden speech in 1974, it would
seem that that is not enough money to meet the backlog of roads, let alone
extra expenditure on walking.
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) We certainly inherited a dreadful
backlog in terms of poor maintenance of local roads, but we have apportioned
œ30 billion in the ten-year plan to bring those local roads up to standard,
and the œ8.4 billion for the first tranche of local authority moneys is, in
a sense, the down-payment on that. I do not know whether you live in a
Labour, Conservative or Liberal-Democratic area, but I am sorry to hear about
the dereliction of your local roads, and I hope this Government policy will
help better fund it.
532. This is, in a sense, a reflection of the politics of it. We
can get into an interesting discussion about the politics of the money spent
on roads, not least the cancellation of road schemes when you came into office
in 1997. There are enormous sums of money involved. Why is it that walking
appears to have such a low priority in terms of both expenditure and policy
input, given its importance in the overall scheme of transport as opposed to
roads? Do you think the balance is right, or do you think there really is an
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) To repeat what I hope I made plain
earlier, I have an open mind on how this money should be apportioned. I
recognise that in the first instance it is for the local authorities to make
those decisions. I hope as they report back on their progress we will become
better informed. If there is a change in the balance of investment in favour
of walking that can be recommended I would very readily help to do that right
533. I think it would come as a surprise to local authorities that
only ten per cent of the money that is allocated to them is ring-fenced?
(Ms Hughes) No, that is about the figure generally.
534. That is ring-fenced for special schemes, what they have
discretion over in terms of their expenditure is a pretty minute portion in
the end, given the responsibility laid on them by government?
(Ms Hughes) No, that is not true. Clearly they have some statutory
responsibilities, but in the overall scheme of things it is a matter for local
authorities how they allocate the vast majority of the resources that they get
535. It is not a reflection of a rather sad state of affairs that
local authorities are expecting a strong lead from the centre in terms of
targets for policy, guidance evaluation, best value and resource distribution.
Do you accept that that is the case, they are looking for that leadership from
the centre? It may be regrettable that they are, but do you accept that that
is the case?
(Ms Hughes) I accept that in terms of local government reforming
modernisation there is now a level of performance indication across a whole
range of policies that we expect local authorities to try and meet. We are
also encouraging them to set their own local targets for locally determined
priorities, that is clearly where a focus on walking in the context of the
wider strategies that an individual local authority might have for
regeneration and for fulfilling their well being in power would come in.
536. Coming to the final point on transport targets, why has the
Government not adopted targets based on modal share, as happens in Germany?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) We have gone mode by mode as you know.
In buses, for instance, we are looking at a 10 per cent increase in the number
of people travelling by bus. If you take rail freight, for instance, we are
looking for rail freight to increase its modal share.
537. Why not give the same challenge to walkers?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Because, Chairman, to repeat, I do not
think it is meaningful if the Government announce that we want everyone in
Britain to walk another 17.5 yards a day. I do not think that it connects at
that level, if there was a government demand, because this is a personal
activity. It is much better to give the money to the local authorities and
let them create the conditions in which their local people might choose to
538. There are some who say that the average number of trips per
person per day has remained constant for several centuries. I am including
the average amount of time people spend travelling, at an average of one hour
a day. I have no idea whether the academic research that supports that is
sustainable or not. The people who advise this Committee and have expertise
in this area maintain that. Therefore, if you have a modal system, as they
do in Germany, and if you increase your target for walking you should then see
a corresponding decrease elsewhere. Do you think this idea has merit?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) It has a logic to it, but I do not think
it is a logic that would necessarily apply to the complexities of transport
in Britain which, no doubt, is very different from transport in Germany for
all sorts of historical reasons. I find it extraordinary that if a couple of
centuries ago, given the profound changes in the way that people work and
live, their transport needs were in any way similar. I would be very happy
to look at any historical research that you can offer. While I find these
historical or international comparisons of some interest they are not really
central to our considerations.
539. In answer to an earlier question, Lord Macdonald, you talked
about the difficulties in trying to quantify expenditure on walking. If a
local authority spends money on a 20 mile per hour home zone, would you agree
with me that that is an expenditure on encouraging walking because more people
might go walking. Would you accept that argument?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) I accept it. I think it is a very
interesting example because it raises the question of how you measure, for
instance, the nine pilot schemes we have at the moment, how many houses are
in each of them; how much money is spent on each scheme. You can come up with
an average of œ1,000 per home in an area for the introduction of a home zone
scheme. Would you then be confident rolling that out across the country and
saying, if instead of nine we had 900 or 9,000 or 90,000 such schemes what
would the total cost be. Once you start getting into the process you can
begin to quantify the investment required and, indeed, the benefits that would
be gained from it. I hope that the framework that we have created for the
local transport plans would now allow us to do that for the first time.
540. Would you accept that part of the problem is that a lot of
people, a lot of us, have built life-styles on particular forms of transport
and it is the lifestyles that determines it, you referred to people having to
have their cars to get to work. Let us take a practical example, people who
go for a weekly shop to the supermarket, for picking the food you do not need
a car but to get it home you do. I am interested in the extent to which the
two bits of Department could link together on this. For example, why could
the Government not say in relation to new supermarket developments - I am not
talking about out of town - "You can have it, provided you offer to every
shopper a home delivery service, which means they can walk to and from it,
pick their food, go home and then the food would be delivered later and they
would not have to take their car". Is that not an example of the kind of way
in which if the Department links together we can address people's lifestyle
needs, which can then give them a greater choice about the mode of transport
they pick for a particular activity?
(Ms Hughes) I agree with you about that. I do not think at the moment
in law we can require supermarkets to offer a home delivery service, it does
not fall within what would be material planning consideration. There are
other means by which we can prevent that, I agree. In terms of the general
point you are making. I am very concerned about promoting walking from a
whole variety of points of view, in terms of protecting and enhancing our town
centres and in terms of helping the process of regeneration of disadvantaged
communities, in particular walking is a key issue, and the extent to which
through transport policies and urban and regeneration policies and planning
policies we can integrate and create a fit that is going in that direction.
That is very important. Mean of the things we are trying to do in terms of
developing town centres and city centres depend on creating a kind of policy
environment in which walking is going to be the first choice and, therefore,
walking itself is a fundamental importance to getting the most out of the
kind of policies that we are trying to help local authorities to pursue.
There is a kind of reciprocal relationship really. We also need to encourage
walking to actually get the maximum in terms of regeneration and
sustainability of our towns and cities.
541. I recognise we could not do that under the current planning
regulations, but planning regulations develop over time to meet, broadly,
social objectives. There is a clear fit between planning and transport here.
Do you think that as a practical example is one that we might need to consider
in the future in certain circumstances in order to try and do something about
the issue which is the subject of this inquiry.
(Ms Hughes) We are trying do that and we are willing to look at any
other additional measures or any other additional means by which we can
support what we are trying to do across planning urban policy regeneration and
transport. I think there is a real reciprocal relationship here. Walking is
a good thing and we want our policy to promote it. If we can get people
walking more we are going to get more out of those policies, more benefit to
people in towns and cities than we would otherwise.
542. And yet would you not accept that if it is about giving
people the choice which allows them to pick a different mode of transport, we
have to make sure that we offer choice rather than just encouragement?
(Ms Hughes) We do. We have to offer not only choice but in order to
make walking the choice we have to pay attention to the kind of factors that
deter people from walking at the moment; street paving and the quality of
pavements, the sense with which people feel a degree a safety and security,
the attractiveness of the environment, the ease with which they as pedestrians
can move about that environment. I am quite encouraged in some of our cities
where we are seeing the development of a great deal of practised wisdom about
how to do that better. I know Manchester very well and Leeds too, but in the
smaller towns we are also seeing that and we do need to promote it. There are
signs that it is not just about transport and transport money, there is a
whole raft of environmental streetscape issues at that level that we need to
pay attention to because that will encourage ---
Chairman: I am getting rather conscious that if we are going to
complete all the issues we want to raise we need slightly shorter answers.
543. In its staggered pedestrian crossing memo the Department said
this: "A straight crossing, even with a central refuge, is legally a single
crossing. A staggered crossing is two separate crossings." Why, Minister,
do we need two separate crossings when one will do? And why do we have guard
rails to the extent we have in this country when nobody else in the world
seems to have them and how much do they cost when they appear to be the
biggest barrier to pedestrians? As to safety of pedestrians, I will be very
honest with you, Chairman, I tend to walk round them or over them rather than
waiting where I should do.
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Do not let me catch you at it!
544. Stand outside the House of Commons and watch every Member of
Parliament cross diagonally to avoid the staggered crossing between here and
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) We can all join together in my campaign
to get Ministers to belt up in the back of their official cars.
545. We would prefer to see Ministers walking!
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) If I can say, Chairman, you can see some
instances where it does seem sensible given the traffic flow (and you
mentioned Whitehall) where you can see very large groups of people and a very
wide street to stop at the middle, regroup, and wait for the next change of
lights as we do at present. On the other hand, I think obviously the evidence
in this area is pointing people more towards the straight crossing rather than
the broken, staggered crossing. I think that is the way that we are beginning
to work moving again from the pelican-style crossings to the puffin-style
crossings as well.
546. Could you explain what a puffin crossing is?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) A puffin crossing is a pedestrian,
user-friendly, intelligent, light-controlled crossing, if you wish to get into
the acronym. It is a different phasing of the lights. There is no flashing
amber signal on a puffin crossing and the green man phase for pedestrians,
after which the traffic lights remain at red while the pedestrians complete
their crossing, is being detected by a sensor, so it is a more sophisticated
547. Which Ministers in your Departments are involved in whether
we have puffins or pelicans?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Certainly our transport Ministers and
548. That comes as a considerable surprise to the Committee. Who
is going to make their entire political career on puffins?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) It is something that comes under Lord
Whitty with his jurisdiction for roads but we are a very joined-up Government
so I would not be surprised if there were not many more of us involved.
549. If you are a joined-up Government why do you not know which
other Ministers are involved? The Minister spoke to us very recently about
the importance of walking for a whole raft of reasons and you are one
department. What is the point of having responsibility for a number of areas
if you do not use it when you are looking in this case at walking? Which
Ministers other than transport Ministers are involved in the issue of what
kinds of crossings are there? If you want to encourage walking around there
is great relevance to what kind of crossing you use, whether it is pleasant,
let alone safe, for pedestrians to walk within cities. Who is responsible for
that and monitoring the effectiveness of that?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Lord Whitty.
550. Who does he talk to?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) He talks to me. He is the Parliamentary
Under-Secretary in the Department. He is responsible for roads and for road
safety, but I am involved in road safety too. I was addressing the ROSPA
conference on child safety on roads in Glasgow on Monday but Lord Whitty was
the Minister who took through our document on road safety which was published
a year ago this month, but of course the information that we have available
is available to the other Ministers involved in the planning of urban
regeneration sites ---
551. What I am trying to establish is how is this dealt with at a
practical level? If we move away from the grand plans and policy and 10-year
plans and relate it to regenerating an individual city and making it pleasant
and easy and safe for people to walk around, which Ministers, if any, are
looking at the impact of what type of crossings operate in a given area and
whether it is easy and pleasant and encouraging for pedestrians to walk in the
given area? Which Ministers are looking at the impact?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Lord Whitty generally across England.
It could be the Minister for London, Keith Hill, if it is London. I would
certainly be involved. Mrs Hughes would be very much involved from a
regeneration point of view.
552. Could it be explained how this is monitored, if it is
monitored, at a very local level? If the Department is looking at
regenerating cities and encouraging walking,, who is it who is looking at the
impact of pelican crossings, puffin crossings, cattle-pens and all of that,
on encouraging people to walk around in cities safely and pleasurably?
(Ms Hughes) I think, as my honourable friend will know because she has
been the leader of a very large local authority, the transport sections of
local authorities themselves will be looking at this in relation to what is
happening in their own individual areas. Our Department through the Highways
Agency, the Civil Service and up to Ministers will be collating the experience
of local authorities across the country in terms of any issues arising, but
it is at the local level that both the information and also the decisions
about the best solutions in any individual circumstances regarding crossings
553. What lessons have been learnt by Ministers from collating
information on this? Have they changed the guidance or attempted increased
guidance in some areas?
(Ms Hughes) That is in progress at the moment, Chairman.
554. When will it be completed?
(Ms Hughes) It is an on-going thing in terms of the information local
authorities send us through their local transport plans and how those plans
are being implemented and issues arising from decisions taken, for example
about one form of crossing or another, and if there were a sufficient
groundswell of information about a particular issue coming forward then we
would act on it.
555. Do the Ministers have to give permissions before certain
crossings are put in place?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) What we have got at the moment is
guidance through local transport notes of 1/95 and 2/95 and that guidance
still stands, but it is being supplemented to take account of, for instance,
these puffin-like crossings.
556. You have a choice in the Department as to whether you approve
a pelican or a puffin?
(Mr Whybrow) No, Chairman. The local authority is free to install a
pelican crossing. At the moment it needs a special authorisation to install
a puffin crossing. When the next edition of traffic signs regulations comes
out puffins will be prescribed crossings and local authorities will be able
to install them without reference to us in accordance with the regulations.
557. When will the regulations come out?
(Mr Whybrow) I think later this year.
558. Notwithstanding the efforts (and I recognise there are big
efforts going into urban regeneration in specific targeted areas) across the
broad panoply of local authority work in any town, should there not be a
requirement for the local development plan to have land use so that facilities
which people will use can be accessed by walking?
(Ms Hughes) I think this is a matter for the local authorities. They
consider a whole variety of issues, my learned friend will know, in developing
and finalising their local plan. That is one issue that we see coming across
in many of the development plans, but also in more specific local plans,
particularly those that are focused on regeneration of town centres.
559. The planning inspectors view local development plans at some
stage and the public have a good input to them, or ought to have. They are
given the authority's views on matters to begin with, that is where we are,
so should local transport schemes be supported or withheld around policies,
including parking, ie inconsistent with transport objectives? This might seem
to you a little draconian, but if what is happening on the ground is
inconsistent with the objectives which are required could there be something
done about it, because it does not seem to be the case. If they do not get it
right, they do not get it right and all of the people in the town might
(Ms Hughes) I really do not quite understand the main point.
560. In a local transport scheme should the government be granting
money for local transport schemes where land use policies are inconsistent
with those objectives? Should we have a compatibility with the land use
policies, what is being built where, and local transport schemes?
(Ms Hughes) I think the short answer is yes, but I do not have any
evidence that there is that great inconsistency at all.
561. Your department actually looks at unitary development plans
and approves them. It also approves the local transport plans. How far in
approving those is there a co-ordination of the two plans to make sure that
the local authority has come up with a unitary development plan and a local
transport plan which are integrated? One goes to the Department of the
Environment and one goes to the Department of Transport.
(Ms Hughes) That is one department. In the terms of the way we are
trying to work we are trying to work in an integrated way. If you are asking
me if in each UDP for each individual local authority somebody sits down with
that for several days and checks that against the local transport strategy
then, clearly, that would not be a feasible job for this Department to do.
What we do do is through ensuring that each of those is reflecting government
policy in terms of the bigger issues there is coherence in the way UDPs and
transport strategy is generally being developed.
562. What is the reason for the delay in publishing the PPG?
(Ms Hughes) As my learned friend will know, we have gone out again to
consort on a revision on one of the original proposals in the PPG 13. We now
have the results of that second tranche of consultation and we are going
through those. We are at an advanced stage of analysing the results of that
consultation and we do hope to be able to produce that PPG 13 as soon as
563. You cannot put a time on it?
(Ms Hughes) I cannot at the moment. I can say that it is at an
advanced stage. We are working to produce it in the very near future. I just
cannot put a date on it because it is not finished.
564. It is nothing to do with the Treasury then, it is not that
they blocked the publication of it?
(Ms Hughes) It is nothing to do with the Treasury per se, clearly we
went out to consultation because there were as a result of the first
consultation concerns from business about some of the standards being
proposed. That is why we consulted again. We are analysing all of that again
and we hope to produce our final conclusion very shortly.
565. It is not the Treasury that is stopping it from being
published, is it?
(Ms Hughes) I do not know why my learned friend says that, I
specifically said to him, "no". As a result of the first consultation we got
some strong views expressed which made us feel we should consult again. We got
concerns from the first consultation about the impact that some of those
standards might have on the viability of business and, therefore, we decided
to consult widely again on that particular issue, and we are analysing those
566. So the Treasury has not blocked its publication?
(Ms Hughes) The Treasury has not blocked its publication, as I have
explained three or four times now. We have gone through a process. We want
to try and achieve consensus from the various stakeholders involved in this
and that is why we have gone to great lengths to consult in some detail.
567. Do you think there are enough trained professionals who are
looking at walking as an issue so that we do get townscapes which are
attractive for walkers?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) I cannot answer that, Mr Chairman. I
would hope that as we get the experience of the local transport plans fed back
to us we will get to hear whether that is a problem or not. I think what is
the case is that given the neglect of local transport for a couple of decades
the Town Halls probably are under-staffed in some of these areas and therefore
no doubt they will be able to take advantage of the kind of longer perspective
we are offering of five years at local level and ten years at national level
in terms of investment to recruit and train.
568. Do you think our streetscapes are attractive for people who
have got various handicaps or disabilities? It has been suggested to me that
if you use a stick when walking it is sometimes very difficult to get round
some of our towns.
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) No doubt that is true but we will all
have noticed the progress that is being made in this area. The development
of the dropped kerb seems to be very prevalent now as are these tactile paving
stones, and so on, to signal up to people with disabilities where the
crossings might be. Clearly we have become much more aware of those problems
in the last few years and again our money should make it easier for local
authorities to deal with that.
569. Do you think there are enough places for people to sit down
because certainly for some people who have mobility problems being able to
pause while they are walking around a town sitting on a comfortable seat can
be very useful?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Again it is not something I have
measured or has been put up to me as a problem to address. I am happy to look
at any evidence of that.
Chairman: I am conscious of the time, Lord Macdonald, but Mrs Dunwoody
would like to fire a couple of questions at you since you are here.
570. You would not expect to escape entirely, Lord Macdonald! The
Government set up the Strategic Rail Authority because it believed that the
industry was in total chaos and needed to be redressed. It has now been
operating for some time. Are you disappointed that they have only come up
with an agenda and not a real tight plan?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) No, I am encouraged by the largely
positive response that the strategic agenda of the SRA got when it was
launched yesterday and as I see it in the newspapers this morning and, indeed,
most importantly from the Rail Passengers' Users Council there was a very
approving response as well as positive responses from the train operating
companies and indeed from Railtrack itself. I can understand the reasons for
delay. There was an extended process in which the Rail Regulator was involved
with Railtrack in trying to set the access charges, but I think that now that
some greater certainty is coming into the process we look forward to that
strategy from the SRA being available in the autumn.
571. There is no timetable attached to their plans, there is no
clear view of how they expect to deal with the problems between Railtrack and
investment and since there have been over the last year not one accident but
a number of accidents, the general public may not have the same confidence in
the future that you do. Can I ask you one very simple question; do you have
total confidence in Sir Alastair Morton?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) My confidence in Alastair Morton is,
like everyone else's I think, greatly increased by the production of the
agenda. It seems to me that Sir Alastair has a great deal of experience in
this area. He has been thinking in very innovative ways about how to
restructure the industry and that was made clear yesterday. So, yes, I have
a great deal of confidence in Sir Alastair and I am glad that he has been able
to bring out an agenda which is a tour d'horizon both of why we have got to
where we are in the railways and where we might be going next. He has made
that very clear in his phrase "don't invest too much emotion" on this agenda
that he has just published because he has got a strategy coming out in the
Chairman: On that note can I say thank you very much. We would also
like to see very firmly a walking strategy as soon as possible. Thank you
very much indeed.