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


138. The 10 Year Plan is a crucial step towards implementing the Government's integrated transport policies. The Department must be congratulated for bringing the Plan forward and publishing the background analysis on which the Plan was based. The Committee expects the Plan to set out a clear path towards a transport system where, through better planning, people travel shorter distances and make less use of their car for the journeys they do make. The consequences of failing to tackle rising car traffic will be a reduced quality of life in residential areas and a more unreliable road network. However, the Plan has failed to provide a vision for a more equitable, safer and more efficient transport system. In particular, the Plan fails in the following respects:

    It fails to tackle the increasing cost of public transport and the falling cost of car use. The Government must face up to the difficult choices that it has to make both now and in the future about how, and how much, we pay for transport. Having identified the problem of the increasing gap between the cost of public and private transport, the Government seems simply not to have considered any scenario other than encouraging a further significant fall in motoring costs. We believe that it is fundamentally necessary that the Government acts to prevent the gap between public transport and motoring costs widening. This is in the interests of all of the travelling public, including the poorest, and will achieve more from the investment made through the Plan.

    It fails to promote significant restraint on car use to accompany public transport improvements. The Government has decided that promoting choice between modes is the best way to achieve change. Promoting choice however, only gives half the answer, since the choices that people make will be influenced by their relative attractiveness. It is inconceivable that an increase in the cost of public transport while the cost of car use declines and motorway congestion is reduced will either lead to a greater number of people choosing public transport over the car or improve the overwhelming majority of daily journeys. A balance of restraint on car use and improved alternatives is required to achieve real improvements in travel conditions for everybody. However, the Government has refused to promote restraints on car use for fear of a backlash from motorists — even in circumstances in which most urgent journeys made by motorists themselves are under threat from excessive traffic levels.

    It fails to tackle the causes of our current travel problems, concentrating instead on reducing congestion. The Plan offers little improvement in people's access to local facilities and has neglected the role of urban regeneration in reducing the need to travel. Instead, the Plan provides benefits to those who travel the most. As a result, we can expect to remain top of the European league table for longest commuting times and greatest car use. Safety improvements, social exclusion, health and quality of life issues have all played second fiddle to congestion reduction. The balance of the Plan must be changed.

    It fails to provide a coherent picture of what, when, why and how much it will achieve. The 10 Year Plan is the first of its kind. The idea of a 10 Year Plan has been widely welcomed. However, the current Plan does not fulfil many of the roles of a good Plan.

      —  There is no detail regarding what schemes will be implemented and when;

      —  The funding assumptions have little credence as they are related to an, as yet, ill defined work programme;

      —  There are no interim targets against which progress can be measured to enable transparent decisions to be made about changes to the Plan;

      —  The Plan relates only to capital expenditure decisions whereas the targets depend on the full range of revenue, education and supporting measures for which the Department is responsible; and

      —  The strategy on which the Plan is based is inadequately justified and potentially imbalanced.

It must be clear that the Plan represents the sum of its constituent parts. The Plan must be revised to provide interim targets against which to assess progress and a detailed implementation plan. The importance of an implementation plan was been highlighted by the inability of the Department to provide a clear assessment of progress to date. Despite the difficulties the Committee faced in assessing progress, the evidence gathered suggests that the Plan is already behind schedule. We have made a series of recommendations both to redress the balance of the Plan and to ensure that it changes from a compendium of policy ideas to a meaningful Plan of action.

    It fails to offer a long-term vision of an integrated transport policy. It is essential that actions taken in the period of the 10 year plan head in the right direction, rather than storing up even greater problems for the future. The 10 Year Plan can only be well­designed if it is consistent with possible or planned developments beyond 2010. The Government must re-examine the way we pay for road use. The introduction of road tolls after 2010 will have a direct impact on the long-term viability of schemes built within the next 10 years. On the other hand, if such changes are to be ruled out for 30 years, then it is essential to find other ways to restrain traffic growth now. The Government must engage in the debate over the future of charging for road use or find other ways of managing the excessive and self­defeating growth of traffic. It must do so as a matter of urgency if the investment decisions taken within the Plan are to be the right ones.

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