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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 420 - 423)



  420. What I was after was that some places have already done it, have they not?
  (Mr Harris) Yes.

  421. What I wanted to know was how far there was a joined-up approach in the two sets of planning. Will you let us have a note on that?
  (Mr Harris) Yes, certainly.

Chris Grayling

  422. Gentlemen, you are all transport professionals, you understand the logistics of making things happen. You have read the 10 Year Plan. Do you think it is actually, in practical terms, deliverable?
  (Mr Coates) Perhaps I can start while other people think. I think a lot of it is. There are certain things which are already perhaps well prepared, like some of the highway improvements which are the reinstatement of things which have been deferred from earlier. Although it may make the delivery of the Plan a bit unbalanced, perhaps some of the motorway widening schemes and other highways engineering schemes might get off the ground quite quickly. We probably might agree with some of the reservations that have been expressed about the time it will take to do whatever is decided on in the light of the multi-modal studies. I have said already that I do not think the public transport improvements are coming along as fast as they should do, but I think we would still say that the direction is right and that we ought not to throw in the sponge and say it cannot be done. Sometimes it is a good idea to set one's sights above the horizon and aim for something, even though it is going to take a bit longer to do it. I will stop there.
  (Mr Harris) I think it is also a question of speed versus local democracy. Obviously the Planning Green Paper is out at the moment and there are issues surrounding that. Transport is an issue that at the end of the day is measured by the individual and the travel behaviour that they decide to adopt. People are far more interested in injecting into their local transport plan their local area of identity, potentially their region or the wider superstructure, so it is absolutely vital that if these schemes are going to keep to track, the consultation and participation stage is spot on. I would suggest that perhaps a key target for the 10 Year Plan, if you said, "Do we need new ones?", maybe that at 2010 you want to measure the competence level of transport professionals. Through this process we all should have learnt from each other, we should have attracted new people to the industry, and therefore there should be a higher level of competence within the profession. Also within that there are certain target areas that do require money, they do require revenue support, and I would suggest that the key issues outlined earlier on—of project management, of being able to communicate effectively with the wider public—are ones that do need sharp injections in order to get things moving.


  423. Thank you, Mr Harris. Mr Nutt, finally.
  (Mr Nutt) I would like to emphasise a couple of those points. Our survey gives you very clear evidence that the professionals think we have to pay attention to the transports skills gaps that exist at present, and we have to do that quickly. In terms of public involvement and consultation that John was talking about, if there is one set of inconsistencies in our survey it is the professionals' response to whether or not we are doing enough on that side. On the one hand they are telling us that the public involvement is not a very important skill area to have, but on the other hand they are telling us that among the top three biggest challenges for local authorities in introducing the local transport plans are public opposition and political will. So there are all sorts of inconsistencies there, and it seems to us certainly that that is an area that we have to treat very seriously indeed and we also have to convince the professionals, never mind the politicians and the public.

  Chairman: Gentlemen, you have been not only tolerant but helpful and extremely welcome. Thank you very much indeed for coming. We are very grateful to you and we will expect to receive another note from you. Thank you.

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