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


Phasing of Investment

106. The analysis in the Plan presents a snap-shot of how transport will look in 2010 if all the schemes are in place. It is clear from the sections above that the Plan is already behind schedule in a number of areas. The long lead-in times for major infrastructure projects make it possible to say now that not all the schemes anticipated in the Plan will be delivered. We are concerned that there is an imbalance in the progress towards different parts of the Plan. The Highways Agency has developed an excellent implementation plan, while Railtrack and the Strategic Rail Authority are both still working on their respective detailed Plans.[238] This disparity is reflected in the lack of progress in the rail industry compared with roads and is to some extent due to a recent historic bias towards roads.[239] Stephen Joseph, Director of Transport 2000, told the Committee that the procedures and processes for implementing public transport schemes at all levels are "more complicated and messy" than those for roads.[240] Progress in achieving the aims of the Local Transport Plans is currently unclear although evidence we received indicates that implementation is behind schedule.

107. Many of the major schemes to be delivered in the 10 Year Plan will come out of the Multi-Modal Studies. However, only four studies have reported to date. The Highways Agency has indicated that the majority of road schemes will be completed only towards the end of the Plan period. The AA and the CBI believe that more could be done to reduce the time taken from identification of a scheme to construction.[241] Mr Bowker told the Sub-Committee that the Strategic Plan for railways had most investment back-ended[242] and that the "assumption is that there is not funding within the 10 Year Plan to deliver the rail components of the multi-modal studies".[243]

108. The Freight Transport Association and the Highways Agency felt that improvements in the road network should be carried out irrespective of whether rail and local transport improvements could be implemented in parallel.[244] Transport 2000 and the Commission for Integrated Transport were both concerned that introducing improvements to the road network in advance of public transport improvements would reinforce car dependence.[245] The Secretary of State told us that he wanted to see more money coming up front to improve alternatives to the car.[246] How he proposed to achieve this was not clear.

109. There is an imbalance of progress in delivering the outputs of the 10 Year Plan. The Department must ensure that local authorities and the rail industry meet the standards of the Highways Agency in planning and implementing new projects if it wants to avoid a further lurch towards a car-dependent society. It is unacceptable that the rail industry, which receives the largest slice of the 10 Year Plan funding still has no year-by-year implementation plan, or firm idea of its cost base. Much of the investment in major new projects will come towards the end of the Plan period. Delays have already been experienced in implementing the schemes, many of them will disappear beyond 2010. We reiterate our concern that it is impossible to tell whether the Plan is on target, if it merely consists of a series of aspirations for 2010 and little detail on how we shall achieve them from the current position.

Multi-Modal Studies

110. The multi-modal studies represent the Government's new approach to assessing transport problems over large areas or on particular strategic transport corridors. The Plan states that the studies "look at the contribution that all modes of transport and traffic management might make".[247] The first eleven studies were due to report by the end of 2001. Only four have reported to date; a further 13 (of a total programme of 21) due to report by Autumn 2002. The transport profession was broadly supportive of the new approach to assessing transport problems but several concerns were raised.

111. Almost two years into the Plan period, it is unclear whether the Plan budget will be sufficient to meet the investments identified as necessary in these studies. The South East Manchester study, for example, which covers a quarter of the Greater Manchester conurbation, proposes investment of about £1 billion.[248] The Landscape Institute estimates that road investment across all studies will be well in excess of the £21 billion set aside in the 10 Year Plan.[249] It is also unclear whether the studies will meet the Plan's objectives. The Department only issued guidance in April 2002 on how the outcomes of the multi-modal studies should relate to the 10 Year Plan, far too late seriously to influence any of the studies that were due to report this year.[250] The Rail Freight Group did not believe that the studies have properly addressed the potential of rail freight,[251] a view supported by Transport 2000 which believe that the Strategic Rail Authority downplayed the potential of rail because of funding constraints.[252] Almost two years into the Plan, there are still very few details about the results of the multi-modal studies. It is unclear whether the studies are reporting outcomes that are consistent with the strategic outlook of the Plan, can be built in the Plan period or are within the resource budgets allocated. Having commissioned studies to examine the contribution of all modes to particular transport problems, it is bizarre that the budgets and responsibilities for implementing the 'integrated' schemes should be so disconnected. The Committee recommends that the Government establishes a multi-modal study delivery fund to ensure a co-ordinated approach to delivering the solutions proposed.

112. The RAC Foundation, CBI and Freight Transport Association all expressed concerns aout delays in reporting on the multi-modal studies. The CBI believes that the delays could cause a hiatus in construction work after 2002, when the bulk of the targeted programme will have been let.[253] The RAC believes that this will be further compounded by the need for the schemes resulting from the studies to go through the full planning procedures, despite having been subject to significant consultation at the study stage.[254] Delays to the multi-modal studies have already caused significant delay to the programme of work for the 10 Year Plan and further delays are unacceptable. The Department should examine ways to fast track some of the projects resulting from the multi-modal studies.


113. The 10 Year Plan forecast a split of capital investment between the public and private sector, as shown in Table 5. This is supported by a further £58.6 billion resource revenue and a further £4.5 billion committed for rail. The section on passenger rail highlighted concerns about the level of private sector investment expected for the rail industry. The multi-modal study section also questioned whether the Plan contains sufficient funding to deliver the schemes proposed. That this situation is still unclear almost two years after the Plan was published is wholly unsatisfactory. However, the figures in Table 5 also highlight an inconsistency of approach to investment across different areas.

Table 5


£34.3 bn
£14.7 bn
Strategic Roads
£2.6 bn
£13.6 bn
£10.4 bn
£7.5 bn
Local Transport
£9.0 bn
£19.3 bn
£9.7 bn
£56.3 bn

Source: Transport 2010, The 10 Year Plan, p 9

114. The Highways Agency expects to provide 25 per cent of its capital investment for major schemes through private finance, based on current experience.[255] In contrast, private finance is expected to provide 65 per cent of funding for improvements in the rail industry. It has not been possible to analyse this worrying position in further detail, as the Strategic Rail Authority told the Sub-Committee that it was not possible to provide a more detailed breakdown of private sector funding between rolling stock, franchises and new infrastructure without eroding its negotiating position.[256] The Civil Engineering Contractors Association noted that the attitude of most local authorities to the use of private finance was "ambivalent".[257]

115. The Government is over-optimistic about how much private funding will be delivered in the Plan. Oddly, it plans that the main application of private funding should be for public transport. Roads, on the other hand, continue to be overwhelmingly funded with public money. There seems to be no rationale for this. No one shares the Department's confidence about the ease of producing the planned scale of private funding. There are particular concerns over the levels of resource and the public-private funding balance for rail. The review of the Plan must provide more detail on how private sector finance is to be raised and where it is to be used if the figures are to command any confidence.

Skills Shortage

116. The successful implementation of the 10 Year Plan is dependent on the skills and imagination of a wide range of workers ,from planning and construction to maintenance and customer service. The Civil Engineering Contractors Association believes that the severe cut-backs in the roads programme from the late 1980s reduced efficiencies within the industry and made it "more difficult to attract young people into careers in the industry, and to retain experienced engineers, other construction professionals and skilled operatives".[258] Cuts in the expenditure and maintenance budgets since the 1980s led to local authorities, consultants and contractors running down staff levels.[259] That has reduced the attractiveness of the civil engineering industry to school leavers and graduates to the extent that there is now an acknowledged skills shortage. Table 6 shows the recent trend in graduate programmes in related disciplines provided by the Institution of Civil Engineers.[260]

Table 6


Civil Engineering
Environmental Technologies
Town and country planning

117. We received evidence of skills shortages in railway signal engineers, planners, highway engineers, bus and train drivers, project managers and funding and procurement specialists.[261] In the short-term, there is concern about whether sufficient skills are available to implement the planned programmes. The CBI reported that 90 per cent of local authorities faced skills shortages.[262] Bristol City Council told us that they were running with a 20 to 30 per cent vacancy rate and, while it could recruit at the low experience end, it was losing experienced engineers to the private sector.[263] The skills shortage affects not only the amount of work that gets done but the type of work. The Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive found that the design and implementation of small schemes, which are essential to the success of transport policy aimed at reducing car use, were very labour intensive and it was therefore constrained in implementing them.[264] The Civil Engineering Contractors Association noted that "as a general rule, a number of smaller schemes costing a given amount will require the services of more engineers than a single major scheme costing the same amount".[265] The Commission for Integrated Transport told the Sub-Committee that its biggest concern had changed from whether there was enough money in the Plan to whether there were the skills to spend the money that is there.[266] The RAC Foundation warned that "unless steps are taken positively to rebuild the skill base and the resource base, there is no prospect of delivering what the 10 Year Plan proposes".[267]

118. The Department and the Strategic Rail Authority have taken steps to begin to tackle the skills shortage. The Department rightly acknowledges that part of the solution lies with the end to stop-go funding that the 10 Year Plan should provide.[268] The Department is also taking action with the Department for Education and Skills, transport operators, National Training Organisations, trade unions, professional institutions and others.[269] The professional institutions have launched a range of initiatives including the Transport Planning Skills Initiative which is supported by funding from the Department. The Strategic Rail Authority will establish a National Rail Academy and provide £500,000 to develop a number of training initiatives during 2002-03.[270] Hampshire County Council is using a variety of new initiatives to try to circumvent the national skills shortage which may have a wider application.[271]

119. The transport and construction industry builds up its skills base slowly. It is not realistic to turnon the investment tap and expect the industry to be able to respond immediately. The 10-year commitment to transport spending is therefore welcome. However, the current skills shortage is likely to impede delivery of the 10 Year Plan, not only in the numbers of schemes implemented, but the types of schemes, how they are financed and the rate at which new schemes are implemented. The engineering and transport skills shortage is particularly acute at a local authority level. This is a matter of extreme concern as one third of the Plan's expenditure will be delivered through Local Transport Plans and in London. The skills shortage is a serious threat to the Plan and must be treated as such by the Department.

238   Q257, Q194. Back

239   Q589. Back

240   Ibid. Back

241   TYP27, TYP50. Back

242   HC (2001-2002) 756-I, Q48. Back

243   HC (2001-2002) 756-I, Q95. Back

244   Q840, Q554. Back

245   Q589, Q453. Back

246   Q663. Back

247   Transport 2010: The 10 Year Plan, p27. Back

248   TYP31. Back

249   TYP12. Back

250   GOMMMS Supplement - Treatment of the 10 Year Plan targets, DTLR, April 2002. Back

251   TYP25. Back

252   Q591, TYP18. Back

253   TYP50. Back

254   Q391. Back

255   Q525. Back

256   HC (2001-2002) 756-I, Q241. Back

257   TYP33. Back

258   TYP33. Back

259   TYP33. Back

260   TYP40. Back

261   TYP18, TYP31, TYP37, TYP40, TYP41, TYP45, TYP50, TYP56. Back

262   TYP50. Back

263   Q919. Back

264   TYP31. Back

265   TYP33. Back

266   Q455. Back

267   Q389. Back

268   TYP28. Back

269   TYP28. Back

270   TYP45. Back

271   TYP51. Back

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