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


44. The Plan sets out the key influences and core assumptions used in its development. These assumptions include the rates of economic and population growth, household structure and location and the future price of oil. For example, the Plan assumes, based on analysis done by the Department of Trade and Industry, that the price of oil will fall from $28 per barrel in 2000 to $16 in 2010.[74] Other assumptions relate to changes in vehicle engine efficiency and the timing of the implementation of road-user charging and workplace parking levy schemes. This section discusses the significance of some of the assumptions.

Local Charging Schemes

45. The Transport Act 2000 makes provisions for local authorities to levy charges to motorists for parking spaces at a workplace (workplace parking levy) or for entering congested areas of a city (congestion charging). Any revenue from the schemes is ring-fenced, for at least 10 years, for use by the local authority for transport improvements. This offers a substantial new tool to cities in managing congestion and to invest in improved transport networks. Despite the potential importance of these measures, the Plan contains only one paragraph on congestion charging and workplace parking levy schemes, and claims that such schemes will be implemented only after significant improvements to the surrounding transport network have been put in place. The Plan assumes that outside London,[75] "eight of our largest towns and cities will introduce congestion charging and a further twelve will bring in workplace parking schemes over the next decade".[76] The schemes are expected to raise £2.7 billion in revenue.[77]

46. None of our witnesses believed that more than a handful of congestion charging and workplace parking levy schemes would be implemented. The Automobile Association believed that only a few, if any, schemes would be established.[78] The Commission for Integrated Transport set out the following estimate of progress on congestion charging schemes from the 30 authorities involved in discussions with the Government:

    "The following schemes are being actively pursued as committed policy:
      London ­ central area scheme
      Bristol ­ central area scheme
      Durham ­ small area scheme
      Derwent Valley (Derbyshire) ­ single road scheme
    Congestion charging schemes under consideration, as trials or pilot studies (but not committed policy) include:

Plans for full workplace parking charges are furthest advanced by Nottingham City Council which, with a small number of large employers, has the best opportunity to implement such a scheme. However, there appears to be growing concern locally over its impact and appropriateness. Boots Plc. believes that the Nottingham scheme would offer no benefits, and it prefers congestion charging.[80] The Commission concluded that by the end of the Plan, with a fair wind, Bristol and perhaps Leeds could have introduced charging (along with small scale schemes such as those in Durham and Derwent Valley)" and Nottingham might have in place a work place parking scheme. However, it saw "little prospect at the moment of other schemes being introduced".[81]

47. Three barriers to the introduction of local charging schemes have been identified:

  • First, significant improvements need to be made to public transport systems to be able to absorb the car trips that the schemes will remove.[82]
  • Secondly, some authorities are concerned that the introduction of congestion charging creates a real risk of transferring inward investment from one area to another.[83]
  • Thirdly, the introduction of congestion charging is seen as politically difficult for local authorities.[84]

Considerable doubt has been expressed about whether the first of these barriers can be overcome. For example, extensions to the Metrolink in Manchester will not be complete until 2007 or 2008, and improvements in the local rail network will take even longer.[85] In Leeds, the Supertram network is due to open in 2007. The West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (Metro) told the Sub-Committee that "if the network is successful in attracting car users and so reducing congestion, then such charging may not need to be implemented".[86] The Department estimates that it takes four to five years to develop and implement an urban charging scheme.[87] Therefore, if decisions to proceed with local charging schemes are not taken until 2007 or 2008, they will not be in place before 2010.

48. The Department told the Sub-Committee that local charging schemes were responsible for only 1.5 per cent of the 21 per cent congestion reduction across the whole road network and that the impact of not having the schemes was "not very great".[88] Mr Rickett told the Sub-Committee that the impacts would be felt only at a local level as there would not be reductions in congestion or increases in public transport use, walking or cycling. Nor would local authorities receive extra revenue from the schemes for further improvements.[89] He also told the Sub-Committee that extra money for light rail schemes and other local transport improvements was being provided for the improvements required to make charging acceptable.[90]

49. In contrast to the Department's estimates of the impact of local charging schemes, many witnesses told the Sub-Committee that the successful introduction of local charging schemes was central to the Plan's success. Transport for London believes that "no other single measure can achieve the modal shift that congestion charging achieves".[91] Bristol City Council told the Sub-Committee that, even with a new light rail scheme, widespread implementation of bus, cycle and walking improvements and a congestion charging scheme, its traffic reductions would be "quite significantly lower than the Government predictions".[92] If the Government's targets cannot be met where congestion charging is introduced, it seems irrational to assume that they will be met elsewhere. The Commission for Integrated Transport believes that the Department has underestimated the contribution of local charging schemes to reducing congestion. Professor Begg told us that an independent study had found that 20 to 25 per cent of the Government's congestion target is at risk if local charging schemes are not implemented.[93] The Commission for Integrated Transport also calculated that congestion charging implemented on the entire road network would, in present conditions, decrease congestion by more than the entire 10 Year Plan package, without any net increase in taxation on motorists.[94]

50. There was widespread agreement that the Department has been too cautious in its position of supporting charging schemes. Professor Begg told the Sub-Committee that local charging schemes are "central to what the Government are trying to do" and that the Department should be "more pro-active".[95] The Department confirmed that the charging powers in the Transport Act 2000 are permissive and that therefore the actual numbers of charging schemes are dependent on the actions of local authorities.[96]

51. The power to introduce local charging schemes was a cornerstone of the Government's Transport White Paper. The Department has now decided to downplay the contribution that they will make to meeting the Plan's objectives. The Plan assumed 20 such schemes would be implemented by 2010. It is astonishing that such an important and difficult policy measure could be bracketed as an assumption. No more than a handful of large-scale congestion charging schemes will actually be brought forward by 2010. Even if major cities introduce charging schemes and other public transport improvements, they will still struggle to meet the Government's targets for congestion reduction. Other policies alone will not bring about the required changes in traffic and congestion levels. The Department has turned its back on local charging schemes rather than provide the leadership required to implement one of the most crucial elements of the White Paper.

Transport Costs

52. The 10 Year Plan acknowledges that "people's choice of transport is influenced by convenience and cost" and that "ever cheaper cars have helped keep the real cost of motoring virtually unchanged since the 1970s. Meanwhile, disposable income and the cost of using public transport have risen significantly." [97] Affordable public transport is highlighted as a major contributor to social exclusion, as discussed above. The Plan assumes that oil prices will fall by 2010 and that increased fuel efficiency will reduce average motoring costs per kilometre by "20% in real terms by 2010".[98] The Treasury told the Sub-Committee that decisions on fuel taxation were taken by examining the price of oil and concerns about the competitiveness and productivity of industry.[99] The Commission for Integrated Transport has conducted a study that, shows that despite having the highest fuel taxes, the UK is in the middle of the league table of overall motoring charges.[100] Professor Begg believes however, that the perception that the UK has the highest motoring costs in Europe because it has high fuel taxes has mistakenly "started to influence decisions that are made by local and central government on motoring taxes and charges".[101] Friends of the Earth believes that it is "perverse that motoring costs are assumed to fall while public transport fares are rising".[102]

53. The consequence of cheaper motoring and rising incomes is increased car ownership. The Plan states that "ideally, rising car ownership should be offset by more people choosing to travel on public transport, attracted by the improvements offered in this Plan".[103] However, that would depend on very substantial improvements to public transport being delivered swiftly enough to offset the expected worsening in relative costs. The Plan also included an estimate of the different impact that keeping motoring costs constant in real terms would have on traffic levels and congestion, shown in Table 3.

54. Holding motoring costs constant in real terms doubles the congestion saving (compared to 2000 levels) expected to be delivered by the Plan from 6 per cent to 12 per cent. An extra 50 per cent saving in carbon dioxide emissions is also gained by this measure. The Department's figures also show that this measure would provide twice the congestion saving (6 per cent) than that provided by the whole of the investment programme in trunk roads (3 per cent).[104]

Table 3



All Roads
Inter-urban Trunk Roads
All Areas
Conurbations and Large Urban
Other Urban
  Plan + constant motoring costs
 Plan + constant motoring costs

Source: Transport 2010: The Background Analysis, p27 and TYP28B

55. The Department made it clear during this inquiry that, despite the very significant potential for costs to influence travel choice, people would be encouraged out of their cars only by better public transport. The Secretary of State told the Sub-Committee that he was not prepared to "artificially put a burden on motorists to try and put them in a situation where they are paying more so you force people to use the bus or railways".[105] Mr Rickett said that:

    "Clearly, if we held general traffic costs level ... you would see less traffic growth and you would see lower emissions of CO2, for instance, but you would be imposing very significant costs on a lot of road users".[106]

The falling price of new cars has contributed significantly to the drop in motoring costs. The Secretary of State told the Sub-Committee that the cost had fallen by 12 per cent over the last 15 months and would fall further if the European Commission's proposed exemptions to motor traders were introduced.[107] This is particularly disconcerting as the Plan is based on the assumption that there will be no changes in car ownership costs.[108] The Highways Agency has made no assessment of the different investment requirements that lower traffic levels resulting from motoring costs remaining constant would bring.[109]

56. There is resistance from both the Treasury and DTLR to the idea that car costs could legitimately be held constant at 2000 levels, even though this would reduce congestion by more than all of the road and rail schemes in the Plan. The Government's approach to motoring costs is incomprehensible. The failure to address falling motoring costs will make public transport a significantly less attractive option for the travelling public. Holding motoring costs constant in real terms would, by definition, impose no extra costs on motorists than they face today. However, if it is unacceptable to impose "very significant costs" on motorists by holding costs constant, then this argument should also hold for public transport users, particularly as many bus users are from lower income groups. The 10 Year Plan is undermined by the Government's failure to tackle the deteriorating relative costs of public and private transport.

Strategy Selection and Consistency of Results

57. The 10 Year Plan includes an analysis of the contribution of each of the elements of the Plan to congestion reduction as shown in Table 4. The results were derived by comparing the outcome of the full Plan against the Plan without each of the components in turn. For example, of the 22 per cent congestion reduction from the whole plan, 19 per cent could be achieved without any investment in local transport.

Table 4


Plan Component
Reduction in 2010 congestion
(percentage points of 2000)
Local Transport
Passenger Rail
Rail Freight
Sustainable Distribution
Trunk Roads
Congestion Charging
Plan as a whole

Source: Transport 2010: Background Analysis, p32

58. The Department's calculations of the relative contribution of different policies do not appear to add up to a credible total. No one element of the Plan seems to provide a large contribution to the overall congestion reduction target. It is difficult to understand from the figures presented how the investment figures for each part of the Plan were arrived at. For example, the impact on congestion of no investment on the trunk road network, if all other elements of the Plan were in place, would be an eight per cent increase.[110] Such a change would be barely perceptible to road users[111] and could be further offset by improvements to local transport schemes that would take further traffic off the strategic road network. The national average congestion value would still fall by 3 per cent compared to 2000 levels. This is not to suggest that no investment in trunk roads is the correct solution. However, it highlights the weakness of the case made for the investment package actually put forward. It is normal practice to compare several possible strategies against the baseline "do minimum" scenario in order to justify the final strategy that is selected. This has not been done.

59. Alternative strategies for achieving the goals of the Plan's must be evaluated, especially when so much prima facie evidence suggests that there are many very effective instruments that are hardly mentioned. There is no clear rationale for the balance of schemes presented in the current Plan. There has been no analysis of the funding and extra costs or benefits that would be provided by alternative strategies such as holding motoring costs constant — which, when tested, appears so much more successful than other initiatives that are in the Plan. In general it seems to be the case that there is little or no analytical consideration of a wide range of policies aimed at reducing traffic growth, whether by pricing, reallocation of road space, pedestrianisation, more active land­use control, traffic calming, education or tax incentives. These policies are all complex and have a different balance of advantage and disadvantage, but they are clearly well­thought of by Government in the right context, as proved by the wide range of guidance notes and speeches from DTLR. The Department has failed to provide any meaningful justification for the collection of schemes it has chosen for the Plan. The costs and benefits of different strategies must be assessed in the revised Plan.

60. A number of other inconsistencies in the Plan's model were highlighted in the evidence. The Plan will reduce the expected traffic growth levels in urban areas by about 5 per cent.[112] The Institute of Logistics and Transport estimates that a 5 per cent fall in traffic levels is equivalent to a reduction of 9 billion vehicle kilometres, or to about 10 billion person kilometres.[113] It estimates that "doubling the use of light rail would account for 0.5 billion of this and a 10% increase in bus travel, a further 2.7 billion passenger kilometres. This leaves 6.8 billion passenger kilometres of the fall in car travel unaccounted for. The worry is that this represents car users who have abandoned central urban areas and are continuing to travel by car, but to suburban or non-urban destinations".[114]

61. There are considerable discrepancies in the importance attached to congestion charging schemes between the Government,[115] local authorities[116] and the Commission for Integrated Transport.[117] We believe that it is likely that local models such as that used by Bristol City Council will provide a better understanding of the impacts of different policies at a local level. The Committee has been unable to investigate these contradictions but notes that they exist and that resolving them is essential to understanding what the Plan will achieve.

62. It is unclear from the modelling results presented by the Department whether the model is consistent. It is also unclear whether the model is suitable for the broad analysis of transport trends for road and rail from a national to a local level. The Committee notes that a new version of the model is being developed to assist in the review of the Plan. It is important that the results from the new model do not further confuse the picture. The Department should undertake any new analysis for the review of the Plan with both the current and the new model, and present the results in parallel. It must be transparent whether changes to the expected outcomes of the 10 Year Plan are the result of changes to the model or from changes to the inputs and assumptions. The Department must also allow independent access to the new model, in the same way as the Treasury allows such access to its model of the economy.

74   Transport 2010: The Background Analysis, p6. Back

75   London is also assumed to put in place a congestion charging scheme but is considered under 'London' and not 'Local transport' within the Plan. Back

76   Transport 2010: The 10 Year Plan, p61 Back

77   Ibid., p99. Back

78   Q364. Back

79   TYP56. Back

80   TYP11. Back

81   TYP56. Back

82   TYP44. Back

83   TYP44, TYP56. Back

84   TYP56, TYP51. Back

85   TYP31. Back

86   TYP37. Back

87   TYP28. Back

88   Q70. Back

89   Ibid. Back

90   Q45. Back

91   TYP38. Back

92   Q892. Back

93   Q426. Back

94   Paying for Road Use, Commission for Integrated Transport, March 2002. Back

95   Q442. Back

96   TYP28. Back

97   Transport 2010: The 10 Year Plan, p21. Back

98   Ibid., p85. Back

99   Q702. Back

100   Q437. Back

101   Ibid. Back

102   TYP14. Back

103   Ibid. Back

104   TYP28C. The Department's Model estimates that with all of the other measures in the Plan completed except the trunk roads, a 3 per cent reduction in national congestion can be achieved. The Model estimates that with all of the Plan introduced a 6 per cent reduction is achieved. With the Plan and constant motoring costs, this is increased to 12 per cent. Back

105   Q662. Back

106   Q21. Back

107   Q662. Back

108   10 Year Plan: Background Analysis, p16. The falling motoring costs are as a result of a reduction in the price of crude oil and improvements in fuel efficiency of around 20 per cent required to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Back

109   TYP59A. Back

110   The Baseline scenario predicts a 28 per cent increase in congestion on the trunk road network. The Plan will reduce congestion on the trunk road network by 5 per cent compared to 2000 levels. If all of the elements of the Plan except the trunk roads are completed a 20 per cent reduction would be achieved. Back

111   TYP13. Back

112   Without the Plan, traffic is forecast to grow by 16 per cent in cities over 300,000 by 16 percent and in smaller cities by 21 per cent. With the Plan, these figures are 10 per cent and 17 per cent respectively. Back

113   Assuming that the average car carriers 1.1 people. Back

114   TYP41. Back

115   Q70. Back

116   TYP32. Back

117   Q426, Q427. Back

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