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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 560 - 579)



  560. Who will make the judgment on where that balance lies?
  (Mr Matthews) For smaller schemes that is a judgment that the Agency makes, but for larger schemes, for schemes that come into the major programmes, that is a decision that Ministers will make.


  561. Supposing that motoring costs were held constant, how much less would you have to spend to achieve your target of five per cent reduction in congestion?
  (Mr Matthews) Motoring costs? I am not sure I understand the question.

  562. The plan is assuming that motoring costs are going to fall by 20 per cent in real terms. Do we not have a choice? Could we not say is it not easier if we keep motoring costs constant in real terms?
  (Mr Matthews) On the assumption that that would lead through into different levels of traffic volumes, yes.

  563. Would you think that could be one way you deal with it?
  (Mr Matthews) I am not sure how within the Agency's remit we have any ability to control the cost of motoring as you are defining it.

  564. But you would have done these kind of calculations, surely, because you have assured Mrs Ellman that you are looking at the relationship between cost and safety and cost and improvement in congestion. Surely, you must also do this other assessment?

  (Mr Matthews) What we look at on individual schemes is the cost of that scheme and the benefits it will give, whether that is safety or congestion. That is not really an issue of how much it costs the individual motorist.

  Chairman: I see. Mr Bennett?

Andrew Bennett

  565. You answered earlier about trunk road pricing and suggested you were totally neutral about it. How soon could it be done?
  (Mr Matthews) That depends entirely on what form of charging regime were contemplated and how much of the network one was looking at. We will have an example with the Birmingham road of a charging regime in operation and I think we will learn from that.

  566. Is it feasible to bring it in for goods vehicles much earlier than for private cars?
  (Mr Matthews) One of the options that the consultation document on HGV licensing has set out was a charging regime based on road use. That is in a very early stage of thinking as to how that might work, and obviously the Highways Agency will have a role and has a role in contributing to the thinking on the practicality of that. That is at a very early stage.

  567. Is it practical then?
  (Mr Matthews) There are certainly schemes across the world for charging for motorway and trunk road use so, yes, it is practical.

  568. I think you heard Professor Begg's evidence earlier that you really could achieve quite a bit in terms of congestion by getting people to go to work earlier or later and possibly moving heavy goods vehicles. Do you see any quick way of doing that so you can shift the peaks on motorways?
  (Mr Matthews) I think the experience on the way in which road use is developing over the last few years suggests that people are already doing that. The traffic growth that we have experienced over the last five to ten years has been primarily in non-peak time. People do not need us to tell them that the roads are congested between seven and nine in the morning, they are making that judgment already. More importantly, I think the way in which we can help people make those choices is providing better, more reliable, more up-to-date information on the state of the network, and it is part of our plan to do that.

  569. It is rumoured that the Home Secretary is keen on increasing the speed limit on motorways to 80 miles an hour. Is that practical in terms of the design of most of the motorways?
  (Mr Matthews) I do not know whether it is practical or not. I would need to take some highway engineering advice on that. I think there are certainly correlations between speed and safety that would need to be looked at very carefully.

  570. You would not be keen on the idea?
  (Mr Matthews) I think traditionally the highway engineers have wanted to tread cautiously, if I can put it that way.

  571. You are treading cautiously.
  (Mr Matthews) Of course I am because it is not a decision ultimately for the Agency, but I think our view would be that you would need to look very, very carefully at road conditions, road layout, road alignment before you can safely proceed with increasing the speed limit.

  572. You would not say it is daft?
  (Mr Matthews) I would not comment on that, no.


  573. Have you been asked by the Home Office?
  (Mr Matthews) The Highways Agency has not. I know there have been discussions between the Home Office and our central department.

  574. So you would normally give that information and support through the Department?
  (Mr Matthews) Yes.

  575. Do you know how many people die or are seriously injured on your road network every year?
  (Mr York) Yes we do. In 2000 it was 4,500 people.

  576. 4,500 people were killed?
  (Mr York) 4,549 were killed or seriously injured on our network.

  577. The two categories are lumped together, the deaths and serious injuries?
  (Mr York) Yes.

  578. You do not have any more accurate information than that? Could you give us a note on why you do not split them up?
  (Mr York) We have got the divided information. I am sorry, I thought you added them together. There were 599 people killed in the year and 3,950 people seriously injured on our network.

  579. Have you done an assessment on whether it might be in everybody's interests if you spent more on safety improvements?
  (Mr York) Not directly but we do have very clear targets for safety for reducing the number of killed and seriously injured people by 33 per cent over the Ten Year Plan period. The figure of 4,549 compares with the base figure that the Ten Year Plan assumed of 4,991. So we have made about a nine per cent reduction in the two-year period.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 22 March 2002