Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Eighth Report


The Transport, Local Government and the Regions Committee has agreed to the following Report:



1. The United Kingdom is the most car dependent nation in Europe. Nine out of ten motorised journeys are made by car, compared with a European average of eight. UK residents also spend the most time commuting to work every day.[1] In 1995, a report on car dependence found that 20 per cent of trips made by car could fairly easily be made by other means, and that a further 60 per cent of car trips could be made by other means with some difficulty.[2] The challenge for Government and the transport profession is to meet the forecast increased demand for travel that has been brought about by increased wealth, by reducing unnecessary car use and creating a healthier, less polluting and more sustainable transport system.

2. In 1998, the Government published its integrated transport White Paper, A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone.[3] It promised a radical change in transport policy, moving away from building increasingly more new roads to accommodate the growth in car traffic. The Deputy Prime Minister, Mr John Prescott, wrote "We have had to make hard choices on how to combat congestion and pollution while persuading people to use their cars a little less - and public transport a little more".[4]

3. In July 2000, the Government published a 10-year investment plan for transport, Transport 2010: The 10 Year Plan, hereafter referred to as 'The Plan'. The Plan sets out the Government's strategy to implement policies put forward in the 1998 integrated transport White Paper. The main focus of the Plan is large­scale infrastructure projects. It refers to policies on walking, cycling, car dependence, travel behaviour, land­use and transport pricing only briefly. It provides details of improvements required for road, rail, local transport (such as light rail schemes) and transport in London over the next ten years, and a year-by-year estimate of the public and private investment requirements to meet these aims.

4. The Plan calculates the effects of these investments, as a whole, on levels of national road congestion and carbon dioxide emissions from transport, making allowance for the effects of the other policies being implemented at the same time. It estimates that by 2010, levels of national road congestion and carbon dioxide emissions from transport will be below current levels. Estimates have also been made of the contribution that the Plan will make to increasing public transport use. Key targets are to increase rail use by 50 per cent, bus use by 10 per cent and to double light rail use. Other targets that are unrelated to the calculations in the Plan include the national road safety target to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured in road traffic accidents by 40 per cent, and targets to reduce the current road maintenance backlog.[5]

5. The Plan will be reviewed by the Department periodically.[6] The first review will be carried out in July 2002 and will coincide with the Government's comprehensive spending review. The Department has also asked the Commission for Integrated Transport to report annually on progress on the Plan's objectives and outcomes.[7] The Committee decided to investigate the Plan in order to establish whether it would indeed achieve the necessary improvements.

6. Our inquiry has examined all aspects of the Plan, but particularly whether:

      (i)  its aims and objectives are right and consistent with the policies set out in the Transport White Paper;
      (ii)  it is based on reasonable assumptions;
      (iii)  it provides a well costed programme of work;
      (iv)  it has a balanced programme of investment between modes and across regions;
      (v)  the targets are the right targets and sufficiently ambitious;
      (vi)  it is on track to meet its current objectives.

    This report is divided into sections in order to answer the key questions posed above. Section 2 assesses the objectives of the Plan; Section 3 examines the assumptions; Section 4 considers the implementation of the Plan, including the funding and timing of investment decisions; Section 5 gives our assessment of progress towards the current targets and whether these targets are appropriate; Section 6 contains our key recommendations for the revision of the 10 Year Plan; our conclusions are presented in Section 7.

7. Any plan needs to look beyond its own time to ensure that the measures put in place during its time frame are suitable in the longer-term. The Committee is concerned that the Forward Strategy Unit in the Cabinet Office is taking the lead in identifying transport trends beyond 2010 and that the Government appears to be taking its work more seriously than that of the well-established and expert Commission for Integrated Transport. Lord Birt declined to discuss with us his work on future scenarios for transport, despite its obvious relevance to the future of the 10 Year Plan. His refusal to attend, detailed in the Committee's fourth report of 2001-02, is indicative of the lack of accountability of such projects and the quality of their resultant outputs.[8]

8. Our inquiry was carried out between January and March 2002. We intend this report to be considered by the Department as part of their forthcoming review of the 10 Year Plan. The Sub-Committee received more than 60 memoranda and took evidence from 16 organisations and both the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. We are grateful to all those who assisted us in the inquiry and particularly to our specialist advisor, Professor Phil Goodwin.

1   European Best Practice in Delivering Integrated Transport Key Findings, Commission for Integrated Transport, November 2001. Back

2   Car Dependence, The RAC Foundation, 1995. Back

3   A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone, The Government's White Paper on the Future of Transport, Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions, Cm 3950. Back

4   Ibid., p3. Back

5   Transport 2010: The 10 Year Plan, Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions, July 2000, p100. Included as Annex B of this report. Back

6   There is no fixed timetable for Departmental reviews. Back

7   Transport 2010: The 10 Year Plan, p91. Back

8   Fourth Report of the Transport, Local Government and the Regions Committee, The Attendance of Lord Birt at the Transport, Local Government and the Regions Committee, HC(2001-02) 655-I. Back

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