Memorandum by the Construction Products
Association (TYP 17)|
The Construction Products Association represents
manufacturers and suppliers of products and materials to the construction
industry. It has an annual turnover in excess of £30bn and
accounts for nearly 20 per cent of UK manufacturing output. The
Association's membership includes practically all the major companies
in the industry, including Hanson, RMC, Corus, Pilkington, Lafarge
and Saint-Gobain, as well as nearly 40 sector specific trade associations.
The construction products industry has a considerable
interest in the efficient operation of the transport system in
this country. First, when measured by volume, the industry is
the major user of the transport network in this country. Secondly,
improvements to the transport infrastructure, as well as its on-going
repair and maintenance, are a major market for our industry's
products. In both capacities, we are only too well aware of the
decades of underinvestment in our transport infrastructure compared
with other European and North American countries, and the adverse
consequences of this on the competitiveness of industry in this
country and the quality of life of its citizens.
The Association was greatly encouraged by the
proposals in the Comprehensive Spending Review 2000 for increased
investment in the built environment generally, and the transport
infrastructure in particular, as set down in the 10-Year Transport
Plan. We are keen, however, to ensure these plans are turned into
reality, and in the middle of last year the Association published
a report"Achievable Targets? Investment Realised?"
which brought together all the targets the Government
has set in respect of housing, school buildings, hospital buildings
and roads, and assessed whether these were mechanisms in place
to monitor progress towards meeting these targets. The comments
below are based on the findings of this study in respect of proposals
for improving the road network in this country.
THE 10 YEAR
We were encouraged that the Government set specific
targets for improving the road network, in particular to:
reduce congestion on inter-urban
routes by 2010 to a level 5 per cent below that in 2000.
maintain the motorway and trunk network
at the "optimum" level of repair with maintenance work
carried out on 7 per cent-8 per cent of the network annually.
halt the deterioration in the condition
of the local road network by 2004 and eliminate the repair backlog
install quieter surfaces on 60 per
cent of the strategic road network by 2010.
Our main concern, however, is the extent to
which information is, or will be, available which will make it
possible to monitor progress towards meeting these targets.
Reducing congestion on the road network is a
major government objective and whilst there is a clear target
for 2010, there are no intermediate targets to allow progress
to be monitored. Even more alarming is the fact that despite having
set this target, only now are DTLR and the Commission for Integrated
Transport seeking to develop better definitions and improved data
on congestion. We encourage the Sub-Committee, therefore, to recommend
DTLR and the Commission for Integrated Transport
should come to an early decision on accepted measures of congestion
on the inter-urban road network, and establish a framework for
monitoring on an annual basis progress towards meeting the target
to reduce congestion by 5 per cent by 2010.
Condition of the Road Network
Although regular official surveys are carried
out on the condition of the road network, these do not contain
an estimate of the cost of bringing the network up to an acceptable
standard. The only estimates that are available come from independent
sources. It is not possible therefore to use Government information
to assess the extent to which the spending proposals are sufficient
to ensure the targets that have been set are actually met. We,
therefore, urge the Sub-Committee to recommend that.
In advance of the next Comprehensive Spending
Review, DTLR should make an estimate of the cost of remedying
the backlog of repairs on the road network.
Under the Best Value regime, local authorities
will be required to provide an annual assessment of their maintenance
requirements. In order to help the industry to understand what
needs to be done and to ensure consistent monitoring of progress
towards meeting targets, we hope the Sub-Committee will try to
ensure that the proposed local authority annual assessment of
maintenance requirements is consistent with measures used in the
current National Road Maintenance Condition Survey, and provides
a basis for monitoring targets set in the 10-Year Transport Plan.
Too many plans for improving the transport infrastructure
of this country have never come to fruition and we are keen to
ensure, as we also believe is the Sub-Committee, that the targets
set are actually met. Manufacturers and suppliers of the products
needed to implement the 10 Year Plan are confident that they will
be able to supply all that is required, although the Sub-Committee
may well want to ensure DTLR has taken account of the significant
cost increases for certain infrastructure work following the introduction
in April this year of the Aggregates Tax.
The overall level of private sector construction
in this country is expected to level off in the next two to three
years as the economy slows down. We therefore believe that this
is an ideal time for the Government to be making this additional
investment, but we are concerned about two issues in particular.
The recent Green Paper on the Planning System
acknowledged the inadequacy of the current system. Irrespective
of the appropriateness of the changes the Government is proposing,
it will be some time before the necessary legislation can bring
these into effect, including the proposals for major infrastructure
projects. We have serious concerns that the existing system will
be able to deliver planning permission for all the schemes proposed
as a basis for meeting the target to reduce congestion on the
roads within the period of the 10 Year Plan.
We are also concerned that the agencies responsible
for delivering these proposalsprimarily the Highways Agency
and local authoritieshave the resources to manage the implementation
of these schemes, both road improvement and repair and maintenance.
It is essential that the right level of expertise is available
to these agencies to ensure delivery of the programme on time,
and in order to ensure "best value" for the money that
the Government is investing. Where necessary, private sector expertise
should be brought in to assist in the development and management
of the programmes.
The Association is aware of press speculation
that even at this early stage the Government may revise the 10
Year Plan to focus more resources on the problems of the railways
at the expense of plans on the road network. We would strongly
oppose such a move, not because we doubt the seriousness of the
problem on the rail network and the importance of resolving these,
but because it would undermine the confidence of the industry
in investing in what is needed to deliver the road improvement
Too many programmes for the road infrastructure
in the past have not materialised because governments have changed
their mind before the plans have ever got off the ground. The
industry would see delays at this early stage in the programme
as an indication that there is no greater commitment by the Government
to this 10 Year Plan than the various plans of its predecessors.