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

Memorandum by Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority and Executive (TYP 31)


  1.1  Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority and Executive are pleased to submit evidence to the Transport Sub-committee for consideration in its inquiry into progress towards delivering the improvements set out in the 10 Year Plan.

  1.2  The Passenger Transport Authority is responsible for public transport policy in Greater Manchester, in particular:

    —  Procuring socially necessary bus services which cannot be provided commercially.

    —  Specifying the level and quality of services on the local train and tram (Metrolink) networks.

    —  Providing the concessionary fares scheme.

    —  Providing bus stations, shelters and stops and travel information.

    —  Planning the long-term development of the public transport network.

  1.3  The Authority comprises 33 Councillors who are appointed by the 10 district councils of Greater Manchester. The Executive puts these policies into practice and provides the Authority with expert professional advice to enable it to make appropriate and informed decisions.

  1.4  The Transport Act 2000 determined that the Passenger Transport Authority should be the designated Local Transport Authority for Greater Manchester.

  1.5  In this memorandum the Authority and Executive has sought to address the 16 questions raised in Press Notice 22/2001-02 dated 5 December 2001.


  2.1  The Authority and Executive welcomed the publication of the 10 Year Plan and the commitment to increase the level of transport spending, particularly the emphasis on public transport initiatives and the increased funding for Local Transport Plans that will help achieve our wider social and economic objectives. Our Local Transport Plan stresses the importance of an efficient transport system in order to secure our wider economic and urban regeneration objectives for the County. We see a need to invest in both public and private transport facilities so as to address the problems in urban areas arising from increased use of the private car, particularly environmental concerns and social exclusion concerns. But, we will seek to do this in ways that do not compromise the continued economic development of Greater Manchester and that recognise that the interests of the residents of Greater Manchester will be best served by widening travel choice options.

  2.2  One of our greatest concerns is that delivery of the 10 Year Plan targets cannot be achieved through investment alone and needs higher revenue expenditure to support such investments. This is not addressed in any detail in the 10 Year Plan and is a matter we consider further in paragraph 3.7 below.

  2.3  However, as implementation of the 10 Year Plan begins to roll out, and the full construction costs and implementational problems associated with schemes emerge, the magnitude of the challenges posed in the 10 Year Plan increase. In addition, the recent "apparent" shifts in national transport policy, for example less emphasis on pricing mechanisms and greater emphasis on resolving road congestion problems by infrastructure investment in both road and public transport facilities are a cause for concern.

  2.4  Further supporting evidence can be given to the Sub-Committee if required.


3.1  What assumptions should be modified or challenged?

  The key assumption running through the 10 Year Plan is that congestion can be reduced primarily from a programme of enhanced capital investment. This has two aspects of concern, firstly that the predictions in the 10 Year Plan depend on the definition of congestion. This is itself a very difficult concept and there is currently no widely accepted definition of congestion, a point noted in "Transport 2010—The Background Analysis". Indeed it is unclear how the estimates of current and predicted levels of congestion quoted in the 10 Year Plan have been derived. Secondly, there is less emphasis placed in the Plan on the roles of, and need for, pricing mechanisms (road user and workplace parking levy schemes) which will need to be widely adopted in most large urban areas if the plan projections are to be achieved.

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

  We consider it unlikely that many such schemes will come forward in the early years of the Plan. Whilst a scheme in London can be expected to go ahead and some smaller specific local schemes, it is unlikely that major area wide urban conurbation schemes will be in place for a number of years because of:

    —  The need to have in place public transport systems of sufficient quality and quantity necessary to absorb displaced car trips before introducing charging schemes. In the case of Greater Manchester the extension of the Metrolink system will not be completed until 2007-08 and significant investments to increase the capacity of the local rail network will probably take longer.

    —  Serious concerns about damaging the local economic competitiveness of any area that introduced charging on its own and the displacement of potential inward investment to adjacent "non-charging" areas.

3.3  How important are the assumptions to the outcome of the Plan? What remedial action is necessary if assumptions or targets need to be changed?

  Assumptions on traffic growth/congestion are crucial but vary considerably if assumptions on car running costs, inter-urban road pricing and workplace parking charges are varied (see paragraph 9.12 of the Plan). This makes the target of 15 per cent reduction in congestion, which depends on all three, difficult to achieve; particularly since the Plan states that car costs will reduce (but makes no proposals to address this) and is non-committal on implementing road pricing.

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

  There are very real concerns that the level of design and construction activity implied by the 10 Year Plan is creating a skills shortage of qualified transport professionals and engineers. This has two impacts, first that less experienced staff will be used to take forward elements of the plan proposals, and secondly that the skills shortage will be reflected in increased prices with both transport consultants and construction industry tender bids. In addition a problem could arise with a lack of bus operating resources, especially if a high level of revenue spend is allocated to support schemes such as those proposed in the South East Manchester Multi Modal Study report.

3.5  How will the current situation in the railway industry affect the need for a provision of private and public sector finance?

  We have the following concerns:

    —  From the outset, GMPTA/E has been sceptical of some of the Plan's assumptions, in particular that £34 billion can be raised from private sector resources. Yet Ministers still talk of "some £60 billion" going into the rail network over 10 years, including the private sector contribution. GMPTE is confident that the private sector will invest in railways but that it needs a very clear appreciation of its obligations, its risks and its rewards. This needs very clear specification and Train Operating Companies (TOCs) still complain privately to GMPTE that this guidance is still not forthcoming. The Manchester Metrolink gained private sector confidence along a fairly steep learning curve for all parties. These problems on rail can be recovered but it needs careful handling. Railtrack was never fit for purpose without massive government intervention and the Northern TOCs were let franchises on expectations made by the private sector and supported by OPRAF/SRA which were frankly risible. Both franchises were effectively bankrupt within three years. Both of these failures burned private sector fingers badly.

    —  The fragmentation of the rail industry has been a major obstacle in securing investment at a local level. At the time of writing, there is still no SRA Strategic Plan around which we would be looking to secure significant investment in the capacity of the rail network around Central Manchester (the "Manchester Hub"), which is constraining growth in rail use not just in Greater Manchester but also for much of the North West region.

    —  The SRA preference for short extensions of franchises will lessen the scope for attracting private sector funding of any significance. The SRA's intentions on franchising are still not clear. The Trans Pennine Express franchise proposition has not been put out to bidders and there is now a move towards promoting the amalgamation of Inter City and local franchises with the short-term objective of creating more capacity for trains primarily at London termini. Again this seems to indicate a focus on short-term gains rather than the long term benefits envisaged in the 10 Year Plan.

    —  There is a widely held concern that the money set aside for rail improvements will be diluted by it being spent to keep Railtrack functioning in administration and funding its metamorphosis into whatever type of organisation it will eventually become. In addition, there is no prospect of there being Railtrack (private sector) funds towards the public sector funds outlined in the 10 Year Plan.

    —  Added to this essentially financial issue is the virtual embargo on any new rail infrastructure projects because of an alleged shortage of key personnel and the complete allocation of these technicians to existing predominantly safety related schemes.

    —  In short, as stated, there is a need to review the targets against the reality of funding—certainly for the first five years of the Plan. If more money is needed from the public sector this should be acknowledged—the DTLR's response to comments on their "draft statement of policy on passenger rail franchising" states that the "plan will be reviewed in conjunction with the 2002 review of public spending". This does tell us that it will be reviewed but there is no comfort that additional money will be made available.

3.6  Is the balance and phasing of investment across funding areas correct?

  What is becoming clear is the magnitude of investment that is going to be needed across all modes, the Railtrack issues raised in 3.5 above serve to illustrate this point. However, if public transport is to take a greater share of existing trips particularly in urban areas, then there is a need to secure this investment in the early years of the Plan to enable charging initiatives to be introduced in later years of the Plan. At the same time it is recognised that there will continue to be worsening levels of congestion on the road network which will not achieve Plan objectives of reduced traffic congestion.

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

  The greater financial certainty arising from the introduction of LTPs is most welcome. However, some specific changes to funding mechanisms would be helpful in metropolitan areas where PTAs are now designated as the Local Transport Authority. These include:

    —  The scope for revenue support offered by Government in support of transport capital programmes to be channelled directly to PTAs rather than via district councils which then needs to be "reclaimed" by the PTA via the levy.

    —  Scope for rail funding, currently channelled via Railtrack to be via PTEs and also the possible transfer of ownership or management of local rail stations to PTEs.

    —  Significant improvements to local bus services will only partially be achieved through investment in measures such as Quality Bus Corridors. The Authority's Best Value review of bus revenue support, which is currently scattered across support for subsidised services, concessionary support and Fuel Duty Rebate shows clearly that this funding structure is neither focused enough nor transparent enough to secure public sector objectives.

    —  A need to recognise the revenue implications of new capital investments, for example the costs of maintaining Quality Bus Corridors at a high level of quality, in terms of priority detection for bus traffic signal equipment costs, additional shelters, enhanced passenger information (real time) and coloured road surfacing costs, together with higher enforcement costs, should be reflected in on-going revenue support settlements. Again providing this revenue resource direct to PTAs would also be beneficial for management purposes.

    —  The value of revenue support for bus services needs to be recognised more clearly. This is currently constrained by legislation, which makes partnership and cross-subsidising initiatives difficult, in particular, the difficulties of introducing Quality Contracts, see also paragraph 3.15. Also Urban Bus Challenge resources are short term so long term benefits are in doubt.

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

  Experience of the South East Manchester Multi Modal Study (SEMMMS) has raised two matters of concern. First the total of investment cost (circa £1 billion) for an area covering ¼ of the Greater Manchester conurbation, itself one of six English Metropolitan areas highlights the scale of investment that will be needed over the next 10 years or so. A second, and more pressing concern, is the recognition in the Multi Modal Study of the importance of revenue-funded activities to the achievement of government transport objectives. In the SEMMMS area these additional revenue costs, excluding local rail support, are in the order of £10 million a year (ie £100 million for a full 10 Year period).

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

  Within Greater Manchester we continue to suffer from a lack of revenue funding relative to capital. This has implications for the provision of bus and rail services both with respect to the frequency of services and to customer care issues. For example:

  There is a lot of scope for improving performance and service quality by increasing staff numbers. At present the local service operators tend to employ the bare minimum of management and supervisory staff. In addition the revenue consequences of increased capital investments have been noted in 3.7 above. It is important that, once capital investments have been made to upgrade transport facilities particularly public transport facilities, those facilities must be maintained to a high level if the support of the travelling public is to be maintained.

  With respect to capital investment the Greater Manchester Local Transport Plan has for some time recognized the need to "get the small things right". For example these could be related to the level of lighting around bus stops, the quality of the footpath access to bus stops, the provision of dropped kerbs and adequate pedestrian crossing points and so on. However, it must be noted that the design and implementation of such local small schemes, whilst very important to the success of any transport policy aimed at reducing car use are very labour intensive and this has implications for both scheme costs and the ability to deliver such schemes where there are technical skills shortages.

3.10  Are the targets and the dates for their achievement well designed (eg is reducing congestion the right objective)?

  Looking at four of the key targets by 2010 we would comment as follows:

    —  50 per cent increase in rail passenger kilometres—this should be achievable, indeed as the Plan notes (paragraph 2.3) there has recently been a 17 per cent increase in rail passenger journeys. But even a 50 per cent level of increase in rail passenger kilometres will only result in a marginal decrease in car kilometres. In Greater Manchester we have sought a significantly more challenging target of a three or four fold increase in local rail passenger journeys which will only be achieved by increasing the frequency of many local rail services.

    —  Road congestion reduced below current levels; particularly in large urban areas. This is a particularly difficult target and has already been partially considered in the above paragraph. However, since a reduction in congestion could be achieved by switching car trips to other times of day, encouraging more decentralisation, increasing road capacity or encouraging greater use of streets in residential areas, then such policies could achieve a road congestion reduction target but would be in conflict with other transport policy aspirations.

    —  10 per cent increase in bus passenger journeys—Two concerns here. First the ambiguity in the report with respect to whether this target includes bus use growth in London. If so this target could be achieved even with a continued decline in the rest of the UK. The Plan target needs to be clarified. Secondly given that bus use has been in long-term decline this will be a tough target to achieve. However, in Greater Manchester there are signs that this decline has halted and has even started to be reversed. A 10 per cent increase should be possible if current levels of capital investment on bus schemes are maintained and revenue support is available with the flexibility to target resources where required.

    —  More cities and towns with park and ride schemes—The plan (box on p 60) seems very upbeat about Park and Ride. Our own work suggests that more caution is required although we consider there will be a case for more schemes to reduce town and city centre congestion. We consider there is a strong case for a government sponsored research programme into the circumstances under which P & R is beneficial.

3.11  What other targets, if any, should be included (eg modal shift, walking, traffic levels)?

  We have no strong views on this as many other targets are expressed locally in Local Transport Plans, including key measures such as bus vehicle speeds and targets for integrated ticketing schemes. In general it is considered that a "bottom up" approach to targets should be adopted where targets are set locally through the LTP process and the totality of impact of these is then fed through to national targets.

  One target of major concern however, is that which seems to incentivise the SRA to pursue South East and Inter City based schemes because they can more easily achieve the desired increase in passenger kilometres. The preferred target from a Greater Manchester perspective, would be to increase passenger journeys. This would give a better chance of schemes outside the south east being funded.

3.12  Should a more regional approach be adopted for target setting?

  In general we would support this in line with our view that targets should be set locally. There is a risk otherwise that there will be a focus on the south east either in actuality or as a perception. There should be a move away from the plan being dominated by London based organisations.

3.13  How well does the Plan balance social and environmental policy with efficient investment?

  The Plan tends to be more focused on the delivery of transport infrastructure investments aimed at reducing traffic congestion rather than on the impact that those investments will have on supporting wider social, economic and environmental objectives. This imbalance should be addressed to give a higher priority towards policies to reduce social exclusion, reduce the environmental impacts of road traffic and support the economic regeneration of our urban areas. There is also a need for other agencies to be required to take into account the transport and access implications of their location decisions. This is particularly so with respect to health and education facilities where decisions to concentrate service provision have often led to more and lengthy access journeys.

3.14  Does the Plan set out a balanced approach to all modes (eg walking)?

  Insufficient weight is given in the Plan to initiatives to reduce the need to travel either by reduced trip lengths or by encouraging non-motorised trips. Stronger integration with land use planning policies and development plans will be necessary here.

3.15  Are there any conflicts between the Plan and the policies in the White Paper—A New Deal for Transport?

  The aims of increased bus usage and more integrated transport are not well serviced by the hurdles involved in introducing Quality Contracts. There is evidence (eg Peter Mackie in Chapter 2 of "Any more Fares? Delivering Better Bus Services") that Quality Contracts would result in better bus services and greater growth in bus patronage.

3.16  What impacts will policies in the European White Paper on Transport have on the Plan?

  It is not clear how these policies will help deliver the objectives of the Plan. There is, however, concern in the rail industry that adopting European standards will increase costs, especially in safety related areas. If such measures are to be adopted, then additional funding to that set out in the 10 Year Plan should be made available.

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