Memorandum by the County Surveyors' Society
1.1 This memorandum outlines the response
of the County Surveyors' Society to the request by the Select
Committee for assistance in its investigation of the Government's
10 Year Transport Plan. The County Surveyors' Society represents
local government directors of strategic planning, transportation
and environment functions throughout the United Kingdom.
1.2 The memorandum lists its issues under
the areas of work identified by the Committeeassumptions,
implementation, targets and integrated transport policy.
2.1 The assumptions made about the introduction
of congestion charging and workplace levy schemes seem optimistic.
Progress with congestion charging and workplace levy schemes is
slow. There are relatively few areas committed to the introduction
of such schemes and significant urban areas that are not.
3.1 The Society is concerned at the level
of financial resources available for the implementation of the
Plan. The recent paper sponsored by CfIT has illustrated the degree
of under-investment, of "two generations of neglect, of a
transport network starved of investment for half a century."
3.2 The increases in transport spending
are welcomed but there is evidence that they are not sufficient
to deliver a transport system in which we can take pride. In particular,
it s not clear that the levels of spending now proposed will realise
the ambition of John Prescott when he announced his intention
that the UK was to rival the best in Europe when he published
the Government's 10 Year Transport Plan.
3.3 There is a danger that the current situation
in the railway industry could divert resources from other areas.
The problems in other aspects of transport must be recognised.
3.4 The Government issued guidance on the
level of capital resources that should be assumed for local transport
in its Guidance on Full Local Transport Plans (LTPs). It stated
that "LTPs must be based on realistic expectations of the
resources which are likely to be made available."
3.5 Experience is indicating that the level
of capital investment proposed in LTPs as a result of that Guidance
will be insufficient to deliver the required improvements and
meet targets. As well as the sheer scale of work required, unit
costs of work are also increasing.
3.6 The emerging multi-modal studies are
disclosing additional projects that need to be implemented over
and above those originally identified in LTPs, requiring additional
resources. Some authorities are considering submitting new LTPs.
Some other authorities not planning to submit new LTPs are considering
the submission of supplementary bids to increase levels of investment.
3.7 The limitations on the provision of
grants to fund capital investment through LTPs is also an issue.
In previous years, grants were provided by Central Government
for major projects (which were then defined as projects costing
over £2 million), principal road maintenance and bridgeworks.
Grants may now only be provided for major projects (which are
now defined as projects costing over £5 million) and there
is no guarantee that grants will be available for each major project.
Central Government provides borrowing approval to cover the remaining
capital investment requirement but local authorities are having
to meet a significant proportion of the resulting increasing cost
3.8 The cost of preparatory work for major
schemes is posing a serious problem. While the Government may
have approved the implementation of a major scheme, it limits
the provision of resources for preparatory work. In these circumstances,
local authorities have to use borrowing approvals granted for
other areas of work (eg integrated transport or maintenance) to
fund preparatory work. The effect on those other areas of work
can be significant because the scale of preparatory costs for
major projects is high and there are more major projects than
in the past.
3.9 A further area of potential concern
is the level and distribution of funding that may be required
to deliver the objective of eliminating the local road maintenance
backlog in the 10 Year Plan. Local authorities are in the process
of performing detailed analyses to determine budget requirements
to meet this objective. On the basis of work completed so far,
it would appear that there may be a shortfall in funding if the
highway maintenance settlements received in years 2001-02 and
2002-03 are projected to 2010. It is not yet clear from the limited
work that has been undertaken whether this is more likely to be
a problem due to the distribution of the settlements rather than
a genuine shortfall in the total projected allocation of £30
billion. CSS would however wish to contribute further to the debate
in order to inform future decisions on budget allocation.
3.10 The new transport agenda raises revenue
pressures, particularly for public transport (see comments below),
highway maintenance and bridge maintenance. These pressures are
made worse by the emphasis on integrated transport initiatives
that are adding to maintenance costs eg traffic calming measures,
cycle tracks etc.
3.11 There is evidence that staff shortages
are delaying implementation of Local Transport Plans (LTPs). A
lack of sufficient staff has been quoted as the most significant
obstacle to the implementation of LTPs with unitary authorities
more likely to suffer from the lack of in-house expertise than
the larger county councils and metropolitan districts. The latest
(LTP) settlement letters also identify this issue, again the issue
seeming to be particularly acute in the smaller unitary authorities.
3.12 Transport planning seems to benefit
from economies of scale with staffing problems seeming less acute
in larger authorities. As well as the staffing issue outlined
in the previous paragraph, county councils and metropolitan districts
are also able to devote more staff resources to the production
of LTPs than the smaller unitary authorities. They are also more
likely to have a dedicated LTP team than the unitary authorities.
4.1 The LTP produces capital resources but
revenue resources are also needed to achieve public transport
targets. Surveys have consistently shown that the top priorities
for the public are cheaper fares and more frequent services. These
improvements are primarily dependent on revenue spending, not
capital investment. The recent survey by CfIT showed that UK operators
charge the highest fares in Europe although they achieve the lowest
operating costs per vehicle kilometre. The survey showed that
"European Governments are willing to subsidise public transport
fares to a far greater extent than is the case in the UK."
4.2 The issue of providing significantly
more subsidy from the public sector to the private sector raises
the issue of institutional arrangements for public transport.
Bus quality partnerships are not considered to provide a suitable
way forward. Bus quality contracts seem to be a better option
but there are difficulties in their implementation. These difficulties
will need to be addressed if contracts are to be commonly adopted.
4.3 The intention of arresting local road
maintenance deterioration with a view to then eliminating the
maintenance backlog by 2010 is fully supported, although there
is a need for clarity in defining the steady-state condition to
be achieved by 2010. This is currently being interpreted as a
residual 7 per cent or 8 per cent of the network being in need
of investigation or treatment, having regard to UKPMS criteria
and the similar outcome expected for the trunk road network. The
detailed interpretation of this target will however impact on
the budget requirement for its achievement.
5.1 There is a need to review the arrangements
between central and local government in terms of delivery of the
local transport improvements. There is a need to decentralise
to local government those matters which can best be dealt with
at a local level.
5.2 There is too much detailed involvement
by Central Government in the production and monitoring of LTPs
as can be seen from both the detailed nature of Government Guidance
and Government responses to published documents. This results
in LTPs being long, complex documents designed for bureaucrats
rather than as a means of communication between a local authority
and the community. It also results in Central Government keeping
too detailed a level of control on local government. LTPs are
"judged" by Central Government at a very detailed level.
A broader, more transparent approach to judging performance would
5.3 The announcement in the Local Government
White Paper of the intention to scrap existing capital financing
rules and introduce "prudential indicators" is welcomed
as an example of the relaxation of controls that should be introduced.
6.1 The Government's initiative in the production
of the White PaperA New Deal for Transport and the Ten
Year Transport Plan are most welcome. Any memorandum such
as this inevitably focuses on issues but, overall, the new emphasis
on transport is applauded.
6.2 However, these initiatives are disclosing
just how much needs to be done, not just to provide a better transport
system but to provide a transport system that will "rival
the best in Europe."