Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Independent Transport Commission (TYP 2)


  1.  The Independent Transport Commission is a business/transport/academic "think tank" which was set up in 1999 under the aegis of the University of Southampton with financial support from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and other trusts. During 2000 the Commission decided to focus on the period 2010 to 2025 and on problems that were not treated by the Government in its 10 Year transport plan. The results of this analysis were published in March 2001 as "Tomorrow's Transport". (See The Commission is now involved, with consultants, in researching this agenda.

  2.  Professor Sir Peter Hall and Dr Stephen Marshall of University College London have already reported to the Commission on the land use effects of the 10 Year Plan.

  3.  Chapter 7 of "Tomorrow's Transport", which was an analysis of the 10 year plan, noted the following possible impediments to the plan's implementation:

    (a)  delays due to planning procedures, procurement difficulties and public protest;

    (b)  shortages of suitably skilled engineers;

    (c)  slower than forecast rail passenger growth leading to reduced rail borrowing power and therefore to investment;

    (d)  lack of progress by local authorities with road user charging and workplace parking charges;

    (e)  higher than forecast fuel consumption and CO2 emissions due to consumer preference for large cars;

    (f)  competing demands for investment from other public services (including investment needed to offset the side effects of climate change); and

    (g)  higher than forecast rates of road traffic growth.

  The overall conclusion was that, by 2010, cars would be "cleaner", road capacity would be greater, and public transport would be better but that most journeys, and more than currently, would be made by car. This would mean more traffic and more parked vehicles in town and city than today. Problems in year 2010 would be as they are now only more so. Was this, the Commission asked, what Britons wanted.

  4.  The Commission went on to identify problems which, if not addressed in the near future, promised to create added difficulties in the longer term:

    (a)  shortcomings in transport pricing, taxation and investment;

    (b)  lack of clarity about the relationship between the measures in the Plan and the "urban renaissance" called for in the Urban White Paper;

    (c)  travel problems in the suburbs and exurban fringes of major cities for those with cars and for those without them;

    (d)  the effect of increasing traffic on living conditions in streets, both residential and commercial, in which people live;

    (e)  growth of air travel including access to airports.



Which assumptions in the 10 year Plan should be modified or challenged?
  (a)  The ITC has doubts about the forecasts of reduced rates of growth in road traffic. Traffic growth was slowed in the late 1990s because motoring costs were rising and maintenance on Trunk roads gave rise to increased congestion. Today fuel taxes are no longer rising and the car manufacturers, driven by agreements with the EU to reduce CO2 emissions, will deliver more fuel-efficient petrol and diesel engines. This will tend to reduce motoring costs.

  (b)  The ITC doubts whether rail travel will increase as forecast in the Plan. Professor Sir Peter Hall suggests that Trunk road improvements will capture some commuters from rail travel. Meanwhile improvements to railway services are likely to be slower than forecast. [see 5(c) below].

  (c)  Private rail investment is likely to be delayed because of current organisational difficulties, the time needed to prepare very complex contracts and the slowness of working on a "living railway". The necessary investment may be available but the Commission fears it will not.

  (d)  The forecasts of reduced CO2 emissions are likely to be offset by: traffic growth [see 5(a) above]; the preference of increasingly wealthy consumers for large cars; and the continued existence of up to three million old, ill-maintained cars belonging to low-income drivers.

Will congestion charging and workplace parking charges be implemented and when?
  (e)  The Commission expects that local authorities, in the absence of leadership from Ministers and of up-front resources for improvements to roads and public transport, will be reluctant to introduce pricing. This will remove a source of local revenue, lose an opportunity to improve the regularity of bus services and retain all the other costs of congestion.

How important are assumptions? What remedial action is needed if assumptions or targets have to be changed?
  (f)  All plans are based on assumptions which, while seeming right at the time, can turn out to be wrong. Assumptions are central to the 10 Year Plan but are not likely to be fatal to it if conditions change.

  (g)  The government will, however, need to revise its assumptions and its plan—as is envisaged in the plan documents.


What are the prospects for private railways financing?
  (a)  The Commission expects that rail passenger travel is likely to grow over 10 years. Service quality will increase, the market created by elderly travellers will expand and marketing by the train companies will continue to be skilful.

  (b)  Private rail investment is likely to be less than forecast because it will be delayed but should still come through over a longer period.

  (c)  The provision of public investment is uncertain because of heavy demands from other public services.

Is the balance and phasing of investment correct?
  (d)  Urban and interurban transport compete for resources. Road and rail interurban transport, the responsibilities of the Highways Agency and the long distance rail franchisees, are easily visualised products—and ones much used by MPs and other decision makers. The unglamorous daily-round of short urban journeys, though far more numerous than long distance trips, tends to be undervalued. Investment in support of such journeys tends accordingly to suffer.

  (e)  The Commission also questions whether road investment as planned makes sense, without complimentary changes to transport pricing and taxation.

How do emerging multi-modal studies affect Plan?
  (f)  The Commission expects them either to delay the implementation of the plan or to lead to the execution of schemes that have not been tested by multi-modal analysis. It seems likely that the road-based Route Management Studies being pushed ahead by the Highways Agency may be the mechanism by which such quick results are achieved.

Should there be a better balance between large and small schemes, and between infrastructure, management and operations?
  (g)  Last April the Prime Minister gave a speech in which he suggested that because everyone has a street outside their front door, the management and maintenance of such places is a public service unique in its universality. He went on to say that the government intended to rescue from oblivion this hitherto neglected service. The Commission considers that local authorities alone are in a position to do all that this involves—renew street lighting and pavements, remove graffiti, raise cleansing standards, plant trees, create Home Zones, control rat-running traffic and so on. However the Commission suspects that the funds needed for this unspectacular work area in the Plan, are more likely to be allocated to new trams and bypasses.

  (h)  Joint investment by Brighton Council and the Brighton & Hove bus company in state of the art systems for vehicle identification, pro-bus signals management, new buses and passenger information demonstrate what might be called the bus system of the future. Given the flexibility of buses, the speed with which services can be improved and, compared with trams, lower operating costs, the Commission believes that careful attention needs to be given to their advantages in any review of the Plan.

  (i)  Such management techniques as residents' parking schemes, workplace parking charges, bus priority at signals, low emissions zones and other management measures have potential, when combined, that is not fully recognised in the Plan.


Is reducing congestion the right objective?

  The road traffic congestion objective is linked to the Government's important commitments to promote a reduction in CO2 emissions. That would seem to be its main value. The Commission believes that it is just as important to achieve reasonable travel conditions for those going on foot, by bicycle or by train and bus. The Transport Committee may therefore wish to consider as an objective "the transfer of some proportion of car journeys to walking, public transport, buses and telecommunication".


Are social and environmental objectives balanced with efficient investment?
  (a)  The Commission believes that transport investment of all kinds will not be efficient without changes to the current regime of pricing and taxation.

  (b)  Changes to pricing could, furthermore, be good for rural low income car users (for whom public transport is not practical), good for urban bus travellers, good for commercial road users, and good also for urban air quality.

  (c)  Road schemes are being promoted by the Highways Agency that appear to show insufficient integration with land use and view-from-the-road landscape considerations. An example is the A45/A46 Tollbar End scheme near Willenhall in Coventry. (Project sponsor John Dutson, Highways Agency, Birmingham: Tel 0121 678 8031.) This major Trunk road junction, which is near houses and industrial premises, will, after "improvement", continue to suffuse such properties with noise. A scheme that was integrated with land use considerations could be expected to involve the purchase and demolition of such contiguous property and its conversion to tree planting.

Does the Plan cater for all modes including walking?
  (d)  Decisions about how and where to provide for walking and cycling can only be made by local authorities. The Plan could, however, have set out more clearly the claim of such modes on the funds allocated to local transport.

  (e)  The Commission believes that in any revision of the Plan, attention should be paid to the goal of achieving liveable streets—places for walking, socialising and maintaining security

  (f)  The importance of bus travel in all British cities and the potential for improving existing service quality [see 6(h) above] by means of information, management and control systems, should be given greater prominence than tram services which are limited in their potential by the low densities of Britain's cities.

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