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

Memorandum by The Automobile Association (TYP 27)


  The AA welcomed the 10 Year Plan for transport and the ambitious aims set out in Para 1.10:

    ". . . to benchmark our performance against the best in Europe, and through greatly increased investment, to transform our transport infrastructure over the next 10 years."

  The AA made two vital contributions to the development of the Plan. The first benchmarked Britain's transport performance against the rest of Europe in the 2000 report "Lessons from European transport and travel", the second was "Taking Action: What the AA says needs to be done", working with the Confederation of British Industry, the Confederation of Passenger Transport, and the Freight Transport Association. This report was published following a seminar in the Grand Committee Room organised by the AA, with All Party support. The reports have been made available to the Committee.

  The Plan was published 18 months ago and is already under review. The AA believes it essential that the Plan should not be a static document—it should be one that responds to changing circumstances.

  The Select Committee's Inquiry is the first public review of the Plan and the AA welcomes the opportunity to submit this memorandum.


What assumptions should be modified or challenged?

  The assumption of transfer from car to public transport made in the Plan can only be delivered if new public transport services are delivered at affordable prices, and with quality and reliability. These services will be most effective for travel into and around big city centres, and on the main inter-urban rail corridors. The analysis supporting the 10 Year Plan largely supports this reality, but is overoptimistic on the rapid introduction of pricing measures. More radical change to reform how people pay for motoring is required to address the latter.

  AA members overwhelmingly want more investment in public transport and want more choice. That said, road transport will increasingly be the dominant mode and car ownership will continue to grow in line with growth in the economy. The growth will be significant among the older population, among women (and particularly older women), and among disabled people. Car traffic growth is certain over the life of the Plan and must be recognised in its on-going development, and be planned for and managed.

Will the expected number of congestion charging and workplace levy schemes be implemented and when?

  New charges—to drive into towns and cities and to park at work—must be seen in the light of the costs motorists already bear in the highest fuel taxes and pump prices in Europe. In central London, where over 90 per cent of visits are made by public transport, the Mayor's congestion charging proposals may be plausible, albeit the AA believes the current scheme is under-developed. Local authorities contemplating new charging schemes will be watching the London scheme very carefully. If the London scheme is successful others may follow, but if it fails, there may be no other scheme introduced during the lifetime of the Plan.

  The AA believes that schemes that offer improved road infrastructure simultaneously with pricing, eg the Versailles tunnel in Paris, have greater traffic and environmental benefits, and that motorists are more willing to pay. The AA's publication "Going Underground" highlights tunnels as a solution to traffic and environmental problems, and has been made available to the Committee.

Are the skills and the capacity available to deliver the improvements?

  At a seminar in Parliament organised by the AA in March 2000, the then President of the Institution of Civil Engineers pointed to a significant skills' shortage in engineering, and in project management and procurement, that could seriously hamper the delivery of major transport projects and programmes. Since then the transport industry has been addressing the issue, working with academia and education and training providers to solve short term problems and lay the foundations for longer term sourcing of the right skills' sets.

  Much is being done, but success will to a great extent depend on continuity of the Plan over the 10 years. A return to "stop-go", that many in the industry fear will happen, will mean that transport and construction will continue to be seen by young people as industries with poor career prospects. A MORI survey of the senior executives in construction, transport consultancies and local authorities, commissioned by the AA confirms this industry fear of a return to "stop-go".


How will the current situation in the railway industry affect the need for private and public sector finance; is the balance of investment across funding areas correct?

  AA members want, first and foremost, a rail system that is safe and that works even though most only use it for occasional journeys.

  In economic terms the investment planned for rail is out of scale relative to that planned for local transport and buses. The contrasts are even greater for the country's sparse strategic roads, which carry 34 per cent of all traffic and 67 per cent of all freight traffic. They are the busiest roads in Europe.

  The AA is concerned that while roads show very high economic rates of return, the economic rates of return from rail investment have not been made public. There is now a risk of a switch from road to rail investment for reasons of political expediency. However, in terms of economics and value for money, the reverse could well be argued, particularly in terms of saving deaths and serious injuries where poor quality roads are a material factor in accidents.

  There is an undoubted case for investment in rail, particularly to bring the basic track and signalling infrastructure up-to-date and to optimum levels of safety and efficiency. However, the ambitious improvement plans for faster rail routes need to be assessed properly and transparently.

Are more flexible financing arrangements required to deliver major local schemes?

  The AA has published far-reaching proposals for reform of road taxation and reform of infrastructure funding, based on work we commissioned from Professor David Newbery of Cambridge University. These would involve changing the UK's archaic system of road taxation by separating taxes for general expenditure from charges to own cars and use roads. These reforms would set up institutions to collect road charges and allocate funding for transport schemes. The AA suggests that the Committee should look further into these ideas which we believe would lead to new ways of funding transport schemes, and which would receive public support.

How do emerging multi-modal studies affect the 10 Year Plan?

  These studies must be the driving force if decisions on improvements to our transport infrastructure are to be truly transparent over the next 10 years. Clear proposals must be drawn out of these studies and the infrastructure provision and improvements implemented, with determination and commitment.

Should the Plan represent a better balance between large and small schemes, and between infrastructure management and operations?

  The 10 Year Plan needs a portfolio of large and small schemes targeted at our pressing transport problems. It also needs fundamental improvements to the way our transport system is operated day-to-day. The AA report "Investment: what needs to be done" sets out five action areas:

    —  repairs and maintenance to roads, bridges and underground;

    —  improving operations and day-to-day management of roads and public transport services;

    —  provision of quality alternatives to car and truck by improving bus and rail services;

    —  targeted road improvements and an end to piecemeal scheme development of the road system; and

    —  changing the way we pay for roads and transport to achieve greater transport and environmental efficiency.

  The AA welcomed in particular the recent announcement that incidents on the major road network will be targeted as part of a major drive for operational efficiency.


Are the targets and dates for their achievements well designed?

  Road congestion: The targets for reducing congestion on the inter-urban road network and in the large urban areas in England are desirable, they are achievable, but they are modest. However, on the inter-urban road network in particular, the target will not be achieved by integrated transport solutions or by public transport improvements. The target will only be achieved by increasing capacity, and removing bottlenecks. This means increased investment in motorway widening, by-passes, and bottleneck relief schemes, as well as investment in management and operations of the network to provide much greater efficiency.

  Road maintenance: Funding to halt the deterioration of national and local roads is now flowing. Provided funding is maintained at the levels set out in the Plan, the backlog should be eliminated, and roads brought up to optimum condition by the end of the Plan period. It is a sad fact, however, that a halt to deteriorating road conditions will not be achieved until 2004 on the Plan's current timescale.

  Rail use: The targets for increased rail use by passengers and freight are very ambitious, and having regard to the current state of the rail network are almost certainly not achievable. Massive investment in rail to try to achieve the targets may not be cost-effective, and would only provide very marginal relief to road congestion.

  Bus use: The target for bus use is only 10 per cent, and not particularly ambitious. As bus is more commonly used than train, and much less dominated by the better off, a greater commitment to improve bus services would help reduce car reliance in urban areas, and help reduce social exclusion, particularly for people without regular access to a car.

  Casualties: The casualty reduction target of a 40 per cent reduction in deaths and serious injuries and a 50 per cent cut in child deaths and serious injuries by 2010 is aggressive, but it is achievable. Around 60 per cent of deaths and serious injuries are on rural high-speed roads. The AA Foundation for Road Safety Research is working with other European motoring organisations and, with national road administrations, to develop the protocols for Road Assessment, which will make roads much safer, and so contribute significantly to achieving the target. The European Road Assessment Programme (EuroRAP) has now been established and more information can be provided to the Committee.

  Air quality: The targets will be achieved through the technological advances in engine and fuel technology that have already been introduced and that are in the pipeline. However, old technology vehicles, particularly old technology diesel buses, lorries and black cabs will continue to be major sources of pollution in the denser urban areas.

  Greenhouse gases: Emissions of these gases from cars have been stable throughout the 1990s despite traffic growth. The agreement between the European Commission and the car manufacturers will mean much greater fuel efficiency from the next generations of cars and so help ensure that UK motorists play a significant part in achieving the 20 per cent reduction target by 2010. The encouraging developments in low carbon technologies need to be fostered through fiscal incentives. The AA welcomes the revenue neutral changes introduced by graduated VED.

  Local transport: These targets are local in nature and so whether or not they are achievable, or achieved, will depend on local circumstances.

What other targets, if any, should be included?

  The AA is particularly keen to see rapid progress made in achieving the 2010 casualty reduction target. The target is aggressive and will require some radical changes in policy and the application of new standards and guidelines. In particular, every speed limit in the country should be reviewed to ensure the right speed limit is applied; there must be a review of the signing of speed limits so that all drivers understand what the speed limit is; the results of the new Road Assessment Programmes should be studied carefully by highway authorities to assess what improvement works should be carried out to ensure that the death penalty is not paid by drivers and passengers for minor driving errors. Targets should be set for these requirements, and measurements applied to demonstrate success or otherwise.

The 10 Year Plan is the investment plan to deliver the Government's integrated transport policy.

  Transport policy and thinking have moved on since the term "integrated transport" was coined. Since then it has become apparent that almost the entire UK transport infrastructure needs major re-investment, that traffic demand will continue to grow to meet deep routed social, demographic and economic needs, and that roads will continue to be the dominant means of moving freight and people. Integrating transport modes is highly desirable, for example, integrating the car with bus and train through park and ride schemes. But everyone's vision should now move on from integrated transport to the national goal of building a transport system the rival of any in Europe. The AA believes the Plan is the basic mechanism to achieve this. The Plan needs on-going review and development, but above all it needs the commitment to invest.

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