Memorandum by the Institution of Highways
and Transportation (TYP 47)
1. The Institution of Highways & Transportation
(IHT) welcomed the publication of the Ten Tear Transport Plan
(the Plan). For many years, transport has suffered from under-investment,
short-termism and stop-and-go spending. During this time transport
policy failed to adequately consider the appropriate roles for
the different modes or to provide appropriate funding for them.
The Plan is seen by the Institution as an opportunity to put right
these deficiencies, to raise confidence in the industry to invest
in and develop its resources, and to invest in transport on a
medium to long term, multi-modal, basis.
2. The Plan is primarily a financial plan
that allocates resources to different aspects of surface transport
infrastructure and operations. Although it does predict demand
for travel under different investment scenarios, it is generally
weak on examining the response of travellers to different policies
(service supply, costs of travel, location of activities and land
use). In addition, it does not attempt to predict the situation
between years 2000 and 2010. It is likely that, even if the Plan
succeeds completely by 2010, travelling conditions will deteriorate
for most of the period before the effects of the Plan's investments
3. A significant weakness is that the Plan
provides mainly capital funds and depends on substantial levels
of assumed private sector investment. Many local authorities are
finding that they do not have the revenue funds, and hence numbers
of staff, to utilise these capital funds promptly and effectively.
We face a situation where local authorities are "capital
rich" but "revenue poor", presenting increasing
problems for scheme development, public transport support and
maintenance. This is a separate and additional issue to the question
of whether there are sufficient trained professional staff, particularly
in transport planning and project management, to plan and implement
the programmes required under the Plan. This is particularly true
of "integrated transport projects" where, compared to
traditional construction projects, goals are often more ambiguous,
there are more significant external environmental pressures and,
above all, the needs of individuals affected by the proposals
have a greater influence on the project.
4. An analysis of the Plan by Martin Richards
(Richards, 2000 for the "Nottingham Conference") shows
that the reality of the increased funding provided by the Plan
is much less than is suggested by the headline figures. Richards
questions whether the proposed funding is sufficient to achieve
the results needed. Subsequent events on the rail system, where
private sector confidence is threatened, support his conclusions.
Roadcar and truck
5. For all journeys except very short (under
one mile) and very long (over 350 miles), road transport is dominant
for both passengers and freight. Given the current pattern and
locations of land use and activities, which have been planned
to be easy to serve by road (car and truck), it is difficult to
foresee any significant change in this situation during the next
10 years. However, marginal changes are possible, leading to larger
changes over a longer timescale.
6. The fundamental challenge for road transport
over the next 10 years is to match demand for road space to available
capacity. Without the Plan, traffic is forecast to grow 22 per
cent nationally. Growth will be higher in rural areas and on motorways
and inter-urban trunk roads, and lower in the cores of urban areas.
While the Plan provides funding for some increases in capacity,
particularly by treating bottlenecks and widening some motorways,
congestion can only be reduced if traffic growth, particularly
on inter-urban roads and radial roads approaching cities, is significantly
less than it would be without the Plan. Many professionals are
concerned that insufficient is being done to control demand for
road space, for example through price mechanisms, so that congestion
will not be reduced as predicted by the Plan. Congestion is primarily
caused by the number of cars competing for road space. To date,
local authorities have been reluctant to initiate congestion charging
or work-place parking levy schemes, and ways to encourage local
authorities to introduce more schemes to attract motorists from
cars are needed.
7. In recent years, DTLR surveys of journey
speeds show that speeds in English urban areas have changed little,
but that on many inter-urban trunk roads, speeds fell by over
10 mph (that is, about 20 per cent) in the three years 1995 to
1998. This was particularly the case on the approaches to the
larger cities. Congestion stress maps for the trunk road network
in 1996 and 2016 from the White Paper show that, without the Plan,
by 2016, conditions on most of the motorway network (particularly
the M1/M6 and M62 corridors) will be as bad or worse than conditions
were on the M25 in 1996. The results of speed surveys on trunk
roads for 1999 to 2001 are due shortly. Many professionals believe
that, unless much more is done to manage demand, we are facing
a situation of increasing congestion, increasing journey times
are greater unreliability of travel times.
8. Given that travel patterns are largely
set by land use and the locations of activities, the only ways
to reduce the amount of car traffic, and hence congestion, is
to persuade people to make more use of local facilities and to
make more of their journeys by public transportbus and
metro/tram. In each case, these changes will only happen if the
desired behaviour is seen by the motorist to be in their best
interest. Making local facilities (including employment and schools)
more attractive than larger, more remote, facilities is outside
the remit of a transport plan, but is fundamental to managing
the transport system. This is whynotwithstanding the pressing
need to streamline delivery processescare is needed in
the on-going review of the planning system to ensure that the
integration of land-use and transport planning is not compromised.
9. Many, but not all, motorists would be
willing to use public transport for journeys where it provides
a better service than they could achieve for themselves using
their own car. This will only be possible for journeys along heavily-travelled
corridors where there is sufficient demand to justify a frequent
service, where priorities allow public transport to achieve quicker
journeys than the car, and where the locations of activities match
a pattern of efficient public transport routes (see Planning for
Public Transport in Developments, IHT 1999). For many cross-town
urban journeys, and for almost all rural journeys, buses will
never be able to offer services that are more attractive than
using the car. However, for journeys from low-density areas to
urban centres, car to a Park & Ride interchange (quite possibly
on a green belt site, unfortunately) can offer an attractive service,
where public transport is reducing traffic on those parts of the
road network that are most congested, and the car is used where
capacity is available and the bus cannot compete.
10. The requirements for attractive public
transport that can compete with the car are: bus priority measures
to avoid congestion delays; frequent service (headways probably
no more than about six to eight minutes, so no timetable is needed);
high quality vehicles and well-trained staff; and, affordable
faresat least for regular travellers. The combination of
the Plan funding and bus quality partnerships/contracts is a good
start, but fares nearer European levels are needed if buses and
metros are to attract European levels of use. This does not appear
to be possible under the present regime for the regulation of
Roadwalking and cycling
11. Funding for walking and cyclingand
the acceptance of the need for a National Walking Strategyare
to be welcomed. But there are real technical problems in producing
attractive environments for walking and cycling. For walking,
in some areas, it may be necessary to reverse the priority that
has been traditionally given to moving traffic over pedestrians.
This requires a new approach which, inevitably, will take time.
Furthermore, walking is only attractive for short journeys, and
already 77 per cent of all journeys under one mile are made by
walking (NTS 1998/2000). To switch many more journeys from car
to walk will require people to switch destinations from remote
to local facilities.
12. Cycling should not be regarded as similar
to walking. It is a different mode, used for different journeys,
and requiring different provision to make it attractive. It is
potentially much more of a competitor to bus and car for journeys
of up to at least five miles. To increase the modal split to cycling
requires, above all else, that cycling be made objectively much
safer and be perceived to be safer. It is far from clear
that this is likely, even with the funding provided by the Plan.
13. For the past 30 years, road freight
companies have been used to journey speeds increasing as the road
network and freight vehicles improve. They have exploited these
gains by reducing the number of distribution depots and by serving
larger areas from each depot. It is these changes that have steadily
reduced the transport cost element in most goods. In recent years,
however, congestion delays have started to increase and the reliability
of journey times has reduced. To overcome this, wherever possible,
freight distributors are operating off peak, particularly at night.
14. Distribution managers have seen that
the Plan promises to reduce congestion, and are using this to
base their depot location plans on current journey times. If this
does not prove to be the case, the road freight industry will
find itself with a depot network that cannot serve the required
areas at the lower speeds implied by increased congestion.
15. It may be possible to give commercial
vehicles (coaches and trucks) priority lanes on trunk roads (as
mentioned in the Plan) and priority access at junctions, to avoid
the penalties of increased congestion. The inevitable result of
such policies would be further increases in congestion for cars.
16. While rail moves only a small percentage
of passengers and freight nationally, for certain niche markets
it has a larger modal share and contributes significantly to reducing
road traffic. The primary case is traffic into central London,
where rail is the dominant mode. Other niche markets are inter-city
passengers, particularly over distances greater than about 100
miles, and some specific freight movements. However, apart from
the approaches to London, it must be appreciated that traffic
on the railway is much less than road traffic. Even large increases
in rail traffic would correspond to only a few years of growth
of road traffic. Diverting freight from road to rail will need
interchange depots near the trunk road network, unfortunately
quite possibly on green belt sites. Using railway land in cities
for interchanges would draw goods vehicles into cities where they
would otherwise not go, which is the last outcome required.
17. The rail network is close to capacity
in many places, and also needs much investment to make up for
lack of investment since 1945. Some professionals fear that the
funds needed for rail improvements will be taken from the road
budget, which would undermine any chance of reducing congestion
and of reducing traffic casualties.
18. The Plan anticipates large injections
of private finance in the rail system. In the current difficulties
in the rail industry a reality check must be kept on whether the
predictions can be achieved and, if not, what needs to be done.
One also has to question how rail can play a substantially larger
role in personal travel given the high fares faced by passengers
in the UK, particularly family groups (who could otherwise use
a car), and those who need to travel at relatively short notice.
Congestion charging and workplace parking levies
19. At present it appears that eight congestion
charging and 12 workplace parking levy schemes in cities outside
London is optimistic. If the initial schemes are successful, these
numbers may be achieved by 2010, but too late to have much effect
on travel behaviour and investment. There is a need to find ways
to make these schemes more attractive to local authorities and,
particularly, to elected members, the general public and business.
20. Congestion charging and workplace parking
levies should only become operational after attractive alternatives
to car travel are in place. Developing these alternatives puts
back the start date of charging schemes. Initial charges will
probably be modest to avoid political backlash, so at first the
schemes will raise revenue but probably not affect behaviour very
much. This, again, will delay their potential to reduce congestion.
Finally, the largest increase in congestion is likely to be on
inter-urban trunk roads and the approaches to major cities. Some,
at least, of these areas are unlikely to be much affected by urban
21. There is a serious shortage of experienced
professional personnel, particularly transport planners. This,
plus the lack of revenue funding to enable appropriate staff to
be employed at attractive salary rates, is already delaying delivery
of the Plan improvements. There is clear evidence of this in some
of this year's Local Transport Plan Settlement letters and gradings
for Local Authorities (as reported in Local Transport Today, 3
22. In this respect the Government could
help professional Institutions like IHT promote initial and continuing
professional development and vocational qualifications, and help
to promote "transport management" as an attractive career.
23. Reducing congestion is certainly an
important target, though it should be accompanied by improving
the reliability of journey times. Also, at present, it is not
at all clear how congestion is going to be measured and monitored.
Modal shift targets are probably more appropriate than numbers
of journeys by rail, bus, walk and cycle. These targets should
certainly be regional, and indeed could well be much more specificfor
example, targets for modal split along specific corridors at particular
times of day. These specific targets can be made more realistic,
can be better related to local policies and measures, and can
be better monitored.
Integrated transport policy
24. Overall, the Plan appears to be seriously
optimistic with respect to the extent to which motorists can be
persuaded to use modes other than the car, the objective performance
of the transport system can be improved and congestion can be
reduced. It is likely that the level of investment will need to
be greater and local authorities will need more revenue funding
to manage the Plan programme. In this respect, a reality check
will also need to be kept on the impacts of the introduction of
a Single Capital Pot for local authority capital investment (particularly
in respect of road safety and highway maintenance).
25. It is also possible that the regulatory
regime for buses may need to be changed to make possible services
of European attractiveness in terms of quality and cost.
26. Streamlining statutory and delivery
procedures (yet safeguarding accountability and community involvement)
is important, including modernising compensation arrangements.
The Institution will be responding to the Government's Planning
Green Paper, and associated proposals, in due course. There is
also thought to be some merit in examining the effectiveness and
outcomes of the multi-modal studies to check that the process
is cost effective, and that the outcomes are affordable and deliverable.
27. The Government would be well advised
to develop contingency plans to cover failure of elements of the
Plan. It should also develop projections for intermediate years
between 2000 and 2010, to be prepared if travel conditions deteriorate
before they improve. It should also develop scenarios for travel
to, perhaps, 2025 or 2030 to ensure that the Plan is taking the
transport system towards a situation that will be desirable and
sustainable in the longer term. By 2030, land use policies would
have had time to have effects, technology will have changed many
aspects of road travel, and the ageing population and rising prosperity
will be changing some aspects of travel demand.
28. There is growing evidence that the general
public are increasingly dissatisfied with the level of service
offered by our transport systems and infrastructure. Timely and
cost-effective delivery of noticeable improvements is crucial.
29. The Plan is a welcome and positive move
away from the curse of short-termism which has dogged transport
investment over so many years. As such, it should be commended.
30. What is now needed is delivery of better
day to day transport operations and maintenance, delivery of the
major road and rail projects which are necessary to keep Britain
moving, and delivery of a coherent joined up transport strategy
for the years ahead. This means providing better choices for all
modes, including buses, walking and cycling.
31. There is no quick fix, and it will not
be easy. Accomplishing what is necessary in transport is not possible
in one electoral term. That is why the key issues have been ducked
for so long. But transport is crucial to the social, economic
and environmental well-being of the nation. Far from being seen
as "humdrum", transport is increasingly looking like
the defining issue for the Government. The Plan provides a good
overall strategy, and there have been some successes, but we need
sustained investment (both capital and revenue), top-level political
commitment to improving our transport systems and infrastructure,
better policy presentation, and an unshaken determination to do
what is necessary.
32. The Institution of Highways & Transportation
(IHT) represents over 10,000 professionals working in highways
and transportation in the public and private sectors. It promotes
professional excellence as the leading learned society dealing
with urban and regional transport systems and infrastructure at
all stages of the project life cycle. We would be delighted to
present oral evidence and answer questions if the Committee would
find it of value.