Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 580 - 593)



  580.  I asked whether it is reliable or not.
  (Mr Spellar) I think you would argue it is possibly reliable. Whether it is satisfactory as to how the average motorist or even, indeed, the average pedestrian perceives congestion is more open to question.

  581.  I understand the Welsh Office is looking at the question of time reliability for journeys. Would that not be much more useful because to know every day that you are stuck in congestion does not really matter but the problem appears to be if you are going to be stuck for half an hour you have got to build that into your journey time?
  (Mr Spellar) That is very much, is it not, about active traffic management and it is about flow of traffic? One of the key areas I addressed, for example, was the amount of money we are putting into tomorrow's local transport plans on junctions and traffic light systems precisely in order to facilitate flow and I hope to achieve steadier flows of traffic but also more predictable times.

  582.  In the Ten Year Transport Plan, do you think buses, walking, cycling were given full weight or do you think they could have made a bigger contribution?
  (Mr Spellar) I think we are giving sufficient weight to those. I am slightly concerned in terms of media comment that there is huge emphasis—I say this not by way of complaint, I hasten to add—on rail and tube, which are important but we must still recognise that more people go to work by bus in this country than by those means. We do need to be focussing on that, which is why I have such concerns regarding the reduction on some routes, and why we are discussing with the Passenger Transport Authorities and others what we can to do improve that.

  583.  Ms McIntosh has referred to the Walking Report and I think we were rather relieved at your response. One specific disappointment was that you would not scrap the Local Transport Notes 1/95 and 2/95 but instead you were going to offer a policy guidance. If you were a highway engineer defending a negligence case do you think it would be easy enough to be able to quote policy guidance rather than Local Transport Traffic Notes?
  (Mr Spellar) I am advised, Mr Bennett, that both the Notes recommend practices to be followed and are clearly a form of guidance and will be supplemented by new guidance.

  584.  And you think that is going to be easy for people to work out or a minefield for the lawyers to work over?
  (Mr Spellar) I would hope my officials will be working with the local planning officers and local transport officers precisely in order to make them easy to work with.

  585.  Finally, 4.4 million new homes by 2016. How many homes do you expect to be car-free developments?
  (Mr Spellar) I have no indication of that. I can consult with the planning part of our Department to see if we have an estimate on that.

  Andrew Bennett: Thank you very much.


  586.    Why have you not mentioned the waterways in this report?
  (Mr Spellar) I did not know we had not.

  Mr O'Brien: There is a reference to the sister document on waterways but nothing else.


  587.  Would you like to give us a note? You can also give us a note on the proportion of congestion reduction.
  (Mr Spellar) Chairman, I am advised that waterways is actually covered by another Department.

Mr Donohoe

  588.  What?
  (Mr Spellar) By DEFRA.

  Andrew Bennett: It is no longer transport?


  589.  Not in this annual report because this was before you managed to slough it off without noticing. I will tell you what, Minister, I will do a deal with you. You do me an explanation of why waterways were not referred to in this report, although they were your responsibility, and I will not tell anybody.
  (Mr Spellar) Or ask another department.

  590.  No, I am asking you.
  (Mr Spellar) We will do you a note on it.

  Chairman: I am asking you to do me a note on your responsibilities in this annual report and why it was not included. Thank you very much.

Mr O'Brien

  591.  We were assured by the Deputy Prime Minister that waterways would be part of the Transport Plan, so where has the change been made?
  (Mr Spellar) I will include that in the note.


  592.  Can you tell me what proportion of congestion reduction comes from urban pricing schemes and what proportion from expansion in the road network? Will you give me a note on that?
  (Mr Spellar) We will give you a note on that.

  Chairman: Are we agreed that we are now up to about six notes?

  Mr Donohoe: I make it seven.

  Chairman: I make it six. Minister, you have been—

  Miss McIntosh: Chairman?

  Chairman: Very briefly.

Miss McIntosh

  593.  This is, I hope, not a controversial point but we have not covered airports. I was particularly disappointed to see that Manchester Airport have announced a possible loss of 200 security guards in view of the fact that they have had a second runway that has opened this year. In your view is that a result of the downturn following September 11 and has your Department formed a particular view over what course of action you might take seeing that companies like First Choice are now looking at potential serious losses?
  (Mr Spellar) We have not formed a view on that particular course, although, of course, right the way across the industry there is a substantial number of redundancies taking place as a result of the downturn in traffic. I see from reports today for Christmas bookings there seems to be a fairly robust pattern. On those airports that are dealing with the low cost, short haul traffic, a number of those, such as Glasgow and Stansted, have seen an increase in their through traffic. We are keeping engaged on a fairly regular basis on airport security, Transec are in regular discussion in all of the airports on that. We do recognise that these are very difficult times for the aviation industry, however we also recognise that on previous downturns there has been a recovery of the trend line within about a year to 18 months and sustained growth. Obviously those are issues that we will be addressing when we produce the regional airport studies, the southeast region is the one that is receiving the most public attention, also the regional airport studies for the other regions as well, which we will be publishing in the Spring.

  Chairman: Minister, you have been very helpful. Thank you very much indeed.

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