Examination of Witnesses (Questions 560
WEDNESDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2002
560. Who will make the judgment on where that
(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
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
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?
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
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
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
(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
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
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
(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
(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.