Memorandum by Warwickshire County Council
1.1 This memorandum outlines Warwickshire
County Council's response to the request by the Select Committee
for assistance in its investigation of the Government's Ten Year
Transport Plan. It is submitted following consultation with Elected
Members of the County Council.
1.2 The memorandum lists its issues under
the four areas of investigation specified 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 Council 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. Its comment was that there have been "two
generations of neglect, 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. It is
not clear that the levels of spending now proposed will realise
the ambition of John Prescott which he announced when he published
the Government's 10 Year Transport Plan that the UK was to rival
the best in Europe.
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
to meet targets. Improving conditions for pedestrians, cyclists
and users of public transport is not a cheap option. As well as
the sheer scale of work required, unit costs of work are also
3.6 The introduction of the Single Capital
Pot could also affect the level of investment available for transport.
3.7 The emerging multi-modal studies are
disclosing additional projects that need to be implemented over
and above those originally identified in LTPs which will require
additional resources. Some authorities are considering submitting
new LTPs. Warwickshire County Council is not planning to submit
a new LTP but is considering the submission of supplementary bids
to increase levels of investment. Other authorities might be considering
the same action.
3.8 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
3.9 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. Warwickshire County Council is currently implementing
three major projects. Warwickshire had no major projects at all
in previous years when levels of investment were less.
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 because some integrated transport initiatives add to
maintenance costs eg traffic calming measures and cycle tracks.
4.1 The LTP produces capital resources but
revenue resources are also needed to achieve public transport
targets. Surveys in Warwickshire 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.
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 document 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 initiatives 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."