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

Memorandum by CTC (TYP 23)

  CTC is delighted to contribute to this 10 Year Transport Plan consultation exercise. CTC is the UK's national cycle users' organisation representing more than 70,000 cyclists. CTC seeks to promote cycling as a primary transport mode.

  In common with other transport Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO's) CTC welcomed the Government's Transport White Paper (1998). This document represented a significant change from the unsustainable road dominated policies that had prevailed for several decades. However, the ensuing 10 Year Plan was disappointing, particularly as it restored 100 large road schemes previously suspended and downgraded emphasis previously placed on non-motorised modes. It lacked the hard policies necessary to achieve modal shift from motorised transport. Cycling was particularly neglected, this despite the National Cycling Strategy and the mode's potential to reduce urban congestion.

  Despite these reservations the 10 Year Plan set commendable transport policy targets, including those to increase rail ridership, achieve a transfer of freight from road to rail and reverse the historical decline in bus usage. The lack of traffic reduction targets was very disappointing. A continuing commitment to the National Cycle Strategy targets was welcomed.

  Since the plan's publication progress has been slow, particularly in achieving sustainable transport objectives. Several factors must be considered:

    1.  Multi Modal Studies were established with the intention of considering all options in addressing transport issues; activists report that non-road solutions have been neglected—the Hasting's bypass decision was encouraging, but lack of action since may mean the opportunity will be lost.

    2.  The fuel protests caused a political scare and reinforced the "motoring lobby's" position, forcing sustainability issues off the agenda and demonstrating Britain's strategic vulnerability to petro-chemicals.

    3.  Concessions to the road haulage industry following the fuel protests effectively reduced rail freight's competitiveness—just as it seemed to be reviving.

    4.  Deteriorating rail services followed by a series of high profile crashes demonstrated that rail privatisation was not delivering a reliable and safe service and would not deliver sustainable transport targets—RailTrack has been taken into administration.

    5.  The economy is structured around road transport and this cannot easily be reversed: there are backlogs stemming from land use planning policies including out of town shopping developments; growth in traffic volumes have left small settlements keen to receive a bypass despite the environmental damage this will cause.

    6.  Cultural resistance to modal shift can be anticipated where car ownership has been presented as aspirational, racing drivers are heroes and advertising often vilifies other modes. There is evidence that cycling has a poor image and is perceived as a sign of economic failure—rather than a rational environmental and economic decision.

    7.  The Government effectively resisted a newspaper led backlash to the Speed Camera hypothecation pilots. Public support for speed management became apparent. Adoption of yellow cameras is a worrying retrograde step.

  Notwithstanding the Hasting's bypass decision there is little evidence of hard Government commitment to sustainable transport. Recent Ministerial pronouncements on transport choice are not encouraging. Transport NGO's are aware that it is not possible to dictate transport choices within a democratic society: this does not mean that Government must fund environmentally and socially destructive choices. The overly conciliatory response to the fuel protest is worrying.

  Cycling and walking has a low priority within the 10 Year Plan process. The failure to develop a walking strategy to complement the National Cycling Strategy is a poor decision sending out entirely the wrong message. The time taken to restructure the National Cycling Strategy Board and appoint a new Chairman was extremely disappointing. This body should be rolling out a co-ordinated programme of national cycling initiatives. Instead pilots and schemes are under development, including the CTC's adult and teenage cycle training scheme. Without clearer Government statements in favour of cycling and walking, National Cycling Strategy and other aspirations will remain just that.

  The recent Local Transport Plan system provides a structure whereby sustainable transport targets can be achieved, however this opportunity is being wasted. Activists report that Council's have barely embraced the sustainability agenda: their cycling and walking strategies are often of extremely poor quality and their other policies remain detrimental to non-motorised modes. Local authorities are primary actors in road management and policy and have a far more direct impact at a local level than Government or its agencies. There is currently no way of enforcing sustainable objectives upon these powerful organisations—this is a serious omission. Government should use the Local Transport Plan system far more proactively to deliver sustainable transport objectives using the following means:

    1.  More prescriptive guidance is needed, particularly in assembling sustainable transport strategies—this should stress cycling and walking as primary transport modes, providing viable alternatives to car use.

    2.  Local Transport Plans are assessed for quality and this influences the resources allocated to local authorities for their transport plans; sustainable transport must play an enhanced role within this process.

    3.  NGO's can work with Government to provide guidance, which will have more credibility with its support.

    4.  Chief executives, chief officers and lead councillors are key stakeholders at a local level and should be directly targeted by Government.

    5.  Government can play a direct role at a local level by providing matching resources for local authorities to achieve sustainable transport objectives.

  Effective policy implementation has been dependent upon providing local authorities with mandatory powers and establishing a direct subsidy regime to make it work. Permissive systems are rarely successful as they become submerged under existing priorities and compromised by organisational inertia and even vested interest. Successful systems can be cost neutral using resources redeployed from previous unsustainable policies. Small scale cycling and walking schemes offer excellent value for money compared to capital-intensive road projects, which are environmentally destructive and ultimately self-defeating as they merely generate further traffic.

  Failure to address sustainability at a central and local government level and within Multi Modal Studies gives the impression of a drift back towards a road dominated policy framework. Now well into the Government's second term there is little impression of progress in achieving the high-minded objectives it set when first elected. While an education and Health Service policy focus are commendable, a balanced package of social and economic investment is necessary in order to achieve successful outcomes. Joined up thinking appears to have been abandoned.

  Transport policy does not work in isolation but must be linked to other areas of land use policy and planning. The publication of a new Policy Planning Guidance 13 addressing transport sustainability was encouraging. However, this may be insufficient: development patterns are linked to the assumed availability of motorised transport. This assumption discriminates against deprived communities with low car ownership levels. Land use planning favouring local provision of employment, retail and community facilities should be pursued, favouring non-motorised transport modes and reducing the need to travel. The recent planning green paper has the potential to create a carte blanche to force through capital-intensive schemes with few long-term benefits and major environmental and social impacts. This should be completely rethought—it will serve to repeat the mistakes of the past.

  Socio-economic regeneration policies are delivered locally and are the ideal opportunity to introduce sustainable transport initiatives, particularly if physical redevelopment and community consultation are to be carried out. Guidance notes for regeneration initiatives should address sustainable transport and 10 Year Plan objectives. The Regional Development Agencies can play a key role in delivering this and should each develop a sustainable transport vision.

  The advent of devolved bodies within the British political system adds a further dimension. There is evidence that these are emphasising further road development as the key to their economic development, a discredited policy that has already compromised England's environmental quality. The Scottish transport portfolio's recent subsumation is of concern, particularly as measures to reduce car dependence apparently contributed to this decision. It is difficult for NGO's with limited resources to contribute within the new assemblies: despite devolution, the Westminster Government needs to ensure that its devolved assemblies are delivering sustainable policies in the UK's interests as a whole.

  Freight distribution patterns are of particular concern and should be addressed by transport policy and the planning system. "Just in time" delivery and the use of centralised depots generates unnecessary lorry trips, ignoring the potential of local markets. It is dependent upon cheap road transport, which is environmentally unsustainable and militates against using rail freight to supply local communities.

  The Centre for Integrated Transport's recent report shows that Britain's transport industry is over-stretched and that the country is more dependent than most on road transport. There is the impression that road transport is being supported simply to keep the economy moving as there are no viable alternatives immediately available. The solution is heavy investment in alternative modes. Cycling can make a major contribution, particularly in urban areas.

  CTC understands the links between public transport investment and cyclists' interests. Reducing congestion by modal shift to public transport and rail freight can help create a more attractive cycling environment. Integrating cycling with public transport can provide viable alternative transport options to the car—the Sustrans led "Safer Routes to Stations" project provides a lead. Increasing cycle access to trains assists cycle tourism and commuters who wish to use their bike at both ends of a journey.

  The structure of both the bus and train industries does not lend itself to meeting sustainability targets. Rail industry trends are particularly worrying: commercial pressures and the introduction of new stock is significantly reducing cycle carriage, despite the 1998 White Paper stating that the rail industry should pursue the following:

    1.  Increasing the number of cycles carried on trains.

    2.  Improving cycle customer satisfaction.

    3.  Increasing the number of customers arriving at stations by cycle.

    4.  Providing a competitive alternative to the private car.

  The Strategic Rail Authority's (SRA) establishment is a missed opportunity to provide the post-privatisation industry with direction. Despite its name the SRA has not behaved in a strategic manner. It will only produce an overarching strategy some months after RailTrack has been taken into administration. Its cycle carriage and parking refranchising guidance is entirely permissive and has been widely ignored. It concedes that it is unable or unwilling to further influence the Train Operating Companies (TOC's) on this issue and gives every impression of assigning it a low priority—despite the Government objectives stated above. The SRA must adopt the approach that the rail industry is there to provide a "top to bottom" service for all who wish to use the railway for whatever purpose and that the best way to accomplish this is to grow the system so that it has sufficient flexibility so to do.

  Continued road transport investment militates against the continued reduction of green house gas emissions. The 10 Year Plan should incorporate the "external costs" of wider environmental factors into transport cost benefit calculations, eliminating some of the perverse values placed on motorised transport, abandoning the link between economic prosperity and increased mobility and including modal shift's environmental benefits. Road transport's energy and pollution costs do not appear to be fully appreciated within policy; this was demonstrated during the fuel protests.

  Hydrogen and other alternative fuel technologies have been mooted as the answer, however there are doubts on this technology's viability. It will not be available for some time. Aside from the continuing environmental impact of road building, including loss of tranquillity that cannot be restored by a move to hydrogen cars, there are immediate benefits to reducing the need to travel. Without such steps meeting Kyoto targets will be that much more difficult.

  The Government has conducted a wealth of very welcome consultation: the policy outcome has been mixed, particularly in relation to roads policy. Now is the time for well-resourced and concerted action to achieve sustainable transport targets and to overtly include them within a revised 10 Year Plan. In this context the RailTrack situation can be seen as an opportunity. As a result of consultation the NGOs' position is well known: these organisations now stand ready to help deliver sustainable transport outcomes. There is a danger that continuing the present situation will appear as prevarication.

  CTC would like to see further recognition of cycling's transport role and the adoption of cycling and walking as primary transport modes. In a wider sense transport policy must have a long-term perspective and not be deflected by short-term economic or political factors. The 10 Year Plan should be revised and restructured to adopt this approach and be further focused on achieving sustainable transport objectives in short, medium and long terms.

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