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


Infrastructure investment

96. Local authorities are required to produce bus strategies and are encouraged to develop either voluntary or statutory quality partnerships with operators. Under such partnerships, local authorities improve the bus route infrastructure (including bus lanes, bus priority at signals and new bus shelters) and the operators typically improve the bus fleet, information and customer service. There have been a number of examples where such partnerships have achieved significant growth in patronage.[201] However, Professor Begg told the Sub-Committee that growth in bus patronage was linked to strong car restraint measures and good bus priority and that there was little growth where car restraint was weak:

    "If they do not want to throw a lot more taxpayers' money at buses the only way they are going to do it is to encourage local authorities to introduce more car restraint, higher parking charges, fewer car parking spaces in city centres and a lot more bus priority than is coming in."[202]

Some local authorities have made good progress in improving their bus services, normally through strong political will to restrain car use at the same time as improving bus services.

Revenue funding

97. There have been increasing pressures on local authority revenue budgets to support bus services over recent years. The greater availability of concessionary fares has had significant revenue implications with Metro estimating that it faced an increased revenue requirement of £1 million last year.[203] Increases in drivers' wages, fuel costs and insurance have led to increased withdrawal of services and rising tender costs for supported services. Bristol City Council told us of a recent increase of £200,000 in the subsidy required to support withdrawn services.[204] The Confederation of Passenger Transport told the Sub-Committee that there was only "limited evidence" that operators were withdrawing from previously viable routes in search of subsidy.[205] Investment in new infrastructure and information systems also has a significant revenue cost. Metro told the Sub-Committee that it has spent almost £500,000 on passenger shelters this year and that "On one weekend alone on one of our guided bus routes we incurred £5,500 of damage through vandalism which we then had to go and replace".[206] Many organisations expressed the need for greater revenue support. A study into transport and social inclusion in South Yorkshire concluded that "many of the issues could only be addressed through increased revenue funding, for instance to support conventional public transport services, community transport and less conventional initiatives".[207] The Department told us that it has already provided "generous local authority revenue settlements".[208]

98. The current focus on bus passenger growth alone detracts from the need to provide a stable bus service in all areas and hides significant downward trends in some areas. The bus target is also insufficiently challenged and must be revised. If the new target is to have meaning, it must take account of the targets set in the Local Transport Plans. If the Department wants to promote choice between modes it must ensure that local authorities implement bus strategies that include car restraint. The Department has not properly understood the need for revenue support for socially necessary bus services and for the upkeep of the new facilities it wants built. If it is serious about providing quality bus networks outside of the main urban and inter-urban corridors, it must face up to the cost implications of doing so. The Committee will report on the issues surrounding improvements to public transport in more detail in the summer of this year.


99. The Government has set a target to double the number of light rail journeys made in England in 2000 by 2010 and expects that up to 25 light rail lines might be built over the Plan period.[209] Mr Rickett told the Sub-Committee that nine schemes have been approved, that another four schemes were in the pipeline, and that the Department was on target to double light rail journeys from the current low level.[210] Concern was expressed however, about the length of time it takes to progress a light rail scheme from design to implementation. For example, the Light Rapid Transit extension to Manchester airport will have taken 12 years from public consultation to completion.[211] The Confederation for Passenger Transport estimated that schemes would have to be approved by 2004 to be built by 2010.[212] Bristol City Council noted that it had difficulty in finding the development funds for the Bristol and South Gloucestershire light rapid transit line and that the Department had "reaffirmed that it is unwilling to allow LTP monies to be used for these development costs and this presents a difficulty for Local Authorities in progressing schemes".[213] Progress is also likely to be limited by a lack of skills to design and build such schemes simultaneously.[214]

100. There was some doubt as to whether there were 25 further sites suitable for light rail schemes. The Independent Transport Commission said that buses were more flexible, had lower operating costs and could be improved faster than light rapid transit schemes.[215] The Confederation of Passenger Transport said that more progress could also be made with guided bus ways that could be introduced incrementally and at a lower cost.[216] It also believes that more progress can be made in introducing light rail at a lower cost if it is subject to less common regulation with heavy rail.[217] The Department has underestimated the time required to design and implement light rail schemes. It has further compounded the difficulties faced by authorities in bringing such schemes forward by failing to allow local transport plan funds to be used for scheme development and by failing to address regulatory barriers adequately. While we recognise that the increase in light rail schemes is a success story for the Department, it must continue to maximise their potential impact.


101. Walking has declined from 244 miles per person per year in 1985-86 to 186 miles between 1998 and 2000, a reduction of 24 per cent. However, one quarter of all trips and 80 percent of trips of less than one mile in length (25 per cent of all trips) are made on foot.[218] There is still no Government target for walking. Walking is discussed in less than one half of a page in the Plan. Indeed, the Plan states that 93 per cent of personal travel is made by car. Sustrans believe this figure to be misleading as it refers only to distance travelled and not numbers of journeys.[219] The Department reiterated that the appropriate mixture of investment for road, bus, cycle and pedestrian schemes would be determined at a local level.[220]

102. Outside the Department there is overwhelming support,, for the Government to adopt a walking target[221] as suggested in our predecessor Committee's Report Walking in Towns and Cities.[222] Sustrans believe that the national cycling target provided a focus to work towards and that a walking target would do the same.[223] Professor Begg said that walking was a "neglected mode" and that a target was needed for walking[224] which could also have a positive impact on health.[225] Mr Rickett told us that "very large increases in local transport settlements had been given to local authorities and that they now had the resources to put in place significant improvements to all modes".[226] Living Streets believed that insufficient funds would be made available for pedestrian improvements. It told us that, despite nearly 70 per cent of trips being less than five miles long, only one third of the Plan budget is for investment in local transport and that "a large proportion of local transport funding will go on a relatively small number of Light Rapid Transit schemes".[227] While it felt that expenditure on such schemes was important, a higher rate of return could be achieved on local pedestrian and safety improvement schemes. The Government should adopt a national walking target based around improvements expected from the best local transport plans. The monitoring of Local Transport Plans must establish the level of expenditure on pedestrian measures necessary to ensure that walking is afforded a high priority and that this is consistent across authorities.


103. The 10 Year Plan contains a target to triple cycle use, compared to 2000 levels, by 2010. This target has replaced the Government's National Cycling Strategy target of doubling 1996 levels of cycle use by 2002 and doubling that figure again by 2012. Mr Rickett told the Public Accounts Committee, during its inquiry into Tackling Obesity in England, that the original target of doubling cycling would not be met by 2002, largely as a result of an underestimation of the investment required in cycle paths and traffic-calming measures.[228] Cycle use did not increase between 1995-97 and 1998-2000[229] and fell four per cent between 2000 and 2001.[230]

104. The Commission for Integrated Transport believes that a significant improvement in safe cycling routes was required as two-wheeled transport is the riskiest form of transport. Professor Begg told us that "the cycling target appears optimistic unless a significant breakthrough is made in terms of attitudes to the various modes".[231] One of the key barriers to improving cycle safety was a lack of commitment among local authorities to take road space away from cars.[232] Sustrans believed that the piecemeal nature of the development of local cycle networks meant that they were not afforded the same political priority as bigger schemes.[233] Living Streets pointed out that revenue funding was also essential to ensure maximum benefit from the investment.[234] The Government has under invested in cycling provision. Despite some improvements, cycling levels have not grown overall in recent years, and have certainly not doubled as originally intended. The failure to meet the 2002 target has shown the importance of interim targets against which progress can be assessed. It is regrettable that no targets now exist until 2010. There is little confidence that the target set for 2010 will be met. Much greater commitment and local investment in cycling infrastructure is required if the target for 2010 is to be met.


105. There is scant reference to and no target for the contribution that motorcycles and other powered two-wheel vehicles are expected to make to the Plan. The number of licensed powered two wheelers has increased from 684,000 in 1991 to 825,000 in 2001. The Motor Cycle Industry Association believes that powered two-wheelers contribute to reduced congestion and pollution.[235] The Chancellor announced reductions in vehicle excise duty for about 600,000 motorcycle owners in the April 2002 Budget.[236] The Association also points out that a moped costs one eighth the price of a small car and could contribute to reducing social exclusion.[237] However, large motorcycles have an appalling safety record. The Government needs clear policies to manage the growth in the use of small urban scooters and larger bikes. The Department has failed to address the issue of powered two-wheelers. Ignoring the issue will do nothing to reduce high accident rates or make the most of their potential. This lack of focus has been further underlined by a Budget that offers greater incentives for motorcycle use than any dedicated measure included in the Plan. The revised Plan must contain greater focus on the future of powered two-wheelers in UK transport policy.

201   Q233. Back

202   Q435. Back

203   Q905. Back

204   Q890. Back

205   Q242. Back

206   Q905. Back

207   TYP42. Back

208   Q49. Back

209   Transport 2010: The 10 Year Plan, p100. Back

210   Q35. Back

211   Q444. Back

212   Q219. Back

213   TYP32. Back

214   Q227. Back

215   TYP2. Back

216   Q225. Back

217   TYP34A. Back

218   Focus on Personal Travel, Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions, December 2001. Back

219   TYP3. Back

220   TYP28. Back

221   TYP2, TYP3, TYP14, TYP18, TYP26, TYP35, TYP47, TYP56. Back

222   Eleventh Report of the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee, Walking in Towns and Cities, HC(2000-01) 167-I. Back

223   TYP3. Back

224   Q486. Back

225   TYP56. Back

226   Q45. Back

227   TYP35. Back

228   HC(2001-2002) 421-II Q51. Back

229   Transport Statistics Great Britain 2001, Department of Transport Local Government and the Regions, October 2001. Back

230   Statistics Bulletin (02)6 Traffic in Great Britain - 1st Quarter 2002, DTLR. Back

231   TYP56. Back

232   Q460. Back

233   Q346. Back

234   Q359. Back

235   TYP1 "Powered two wheelers consume between 55 and 81 per cent less fuel than passenger cars". Back

236   Budget Report 2002, HM Treasury. Back

237   TYP1. Back

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