Select Committee on Transport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Joint Committee for Strategic Planning and Transportation (MMS 14)


  1.  The Joint Committee for Strategic Planning and Transportation comprises members of the four Unitary Authorities of Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. It was established in 1996 to prepare a Joint Structure Plan and to provide joint advice to the four councils on strategic planning and transportation.

  2.  Of particular concern to the Joint Committee is the London to South West and South Wales Multi-Modal Study (SWARMMS), which was published in May 2002. The Joint Committee submitted a joint, inter-authority response on SWARMMS to the South West Regional Assembly (SWRA), which supplemented individual submissions by the four councils.

  3.  In its response, the Joint Committee:

    —  noted the importance of the former Avon area in the SWARMMS study area, as the largest urban centre in the region at an important gateway to the South West;

    —  agreed in principle with the objectives of the study and welcomed the general thrust of the strategy as far as it was developed in the consultants' report;

    —  supported many of the study's proposals, whilst requiring further information on others; and

    —  agreed that further testing was needed to support the study's objectives by means of a further strategic transport study of the Greater Bristol Area.

  4.  In particular, the four councils supported all the rail proposals in the SWARMMS Greater Bristol Area Plan, as consistent with Regional Planning Guidance (RPG 10) and the Councils' Joint Rail Strategy (agreed in June 2000). This strategy had been intended to form:

    —  a statement of the Councils' rail aspirations in the four Local Transport Plans;

    —  the Councils' input to Railtrack Network Management Statements and programmes;

    —  the Councils' input to the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority for franchise specifications; and

    —  a basis for Rail Passenger Partnership (RPP) bids and the application of other funds.

  5.  On many proposals from the study, there was a need for further information before the Councils could express firm views one way or the other. Costs for some schemes appeared unrealistically high or much too low. In some cases, the location and nature of the proposals was in doubt. Schemes on which further information was required included:

    —  the Intelligent Transport Systems techniques on motorways, where more information was needed on the methods proposed for dealing with motorway incidents;

    —  motorway widening proposals in Air Quality Management Areas: the likely scale of trip generation, their interaction with public transport improvements, and effects of the relative phasing of different schemes, were all needed;

    —  the "Coachway" and coach service proposals: more clarity was needed about whether these were realistic, and how they could be taken forward; and

    —  park and ride schemes, where information was needed on the revenue implications, and clarification that there were not alternative locations where car users could be intercepted earlier in their journeys.

  6.  The four councils agreed that a further strategic transport study of the Greater Bristol Area was needed:

    —  to test further some of the SWARMMS schemes to establish the interactions between them and their order of phasing, ensure value for money (eg improvements on parallel rail and road routes), and to test further alternatives to traditional road widening solutions which could lessen reliance on the car;

    —  to supplement the SWARMMS proposals by finding additional local solutions to yield strategic benefits, and additional schemes to address peak period problems not dealt with in SWARMMS (eg light rapid transit and road user charging); and

    —  to test future land-use options in the region's biggest Principal Urban Area for the period to 2016, to inform a review of the Joint Replacement Structure Plan, and to establish the transport provision needed to address traffic congestion and make them more sustainable.

  7.  In their submission to the South West Regional Assembly, the councils pressed for early completion of the follow-up strategic transport study proposed by SWARMMS and for it to feed into the forthcoming review of the Regional Transport Strategy. They also called on the Government to safeguard funding to implement schemes that would emerge from the follow-up strategic transport study. They were concerned that this new study should not delay funding for schemes already identified in SWARMMS and agreed by the Councils as short-term priorities, whilst further work would lead on to clarify medium- and long-term priorities.

  8.  Although the SWARMMS study covered many of the area's strategic transport corridors, the councils reminded the Regional Assembly that there were also other strategic priorities not included in SWARMMS. These included the Bristol and Bath to South Coast corridor, which is the subject of a separate study and includes the problems of linking the A36 and A46 in the Bath area. Rail schemes arising from the Strategic Rail Authority's Bristol Area Rail Capacity Study should also receive urgent priority.

  9.  Finally, the councils noted that the SWARMMS study placed heavy reliance on existing funding streams including Local Transport Plan funding and local revenue streams. In the Greater Bristol Area, substantial extra funding would be required to address existing problems, accommodate the pace of development set in Regional Planning Guidance and secure the public transport improvements needed before road user charging could be introduced.

  10.  The four councils participated in hearings held by the South West Regional Assembly and are satisfied that their views were reflected in the Assembly's response to the Secretary of State.

  11.  The Joint Committee's response to the SWARMMS study addressed a number of the questions posed by the Select Committee. These questions are now addressed more specifically.

  12.  Limitations of the SWARMMS study included its attempt to cover a very large area—probably the largest of all the Multi-Modal Studies. This appeared to result in varying levels of detail being applied to different parts of the corridor and insufficient detail in the Greater Bristol Area, in particular, to the relationships between strategic and local transport problems and solutions.

  13.  The time-scale of the study raises questions, inter alia, about the land-use assumptions that were applied to the study. Although the TEMPRO database is a consistent approach used for all Multi-Modal Studies, it cannot reflect land-use changes over a long period in an area of rapid change. The study promised to consult on different land-use scenarios but did not do so.

  14.  There are doubts about whether SWARMMS was value for money in this area, as it has left a lot of unanswered questions to be investigated in the follow-up Greater Bristol Strategic Transport Study. Amongst these is the need for more detailed study of almost every scheme to make the business, economic, environmental and regeneration case required by the Government. The four councils are currently working with the Government Office and the Highways Agency on the brief for the Strategic Transport Study and are being asked to make financial contributions.

  15.  As outlined above, there are concerns about the reliability of the cost estimates, especially as many proposals have not been defined in sufficient detail in this area. There are also concerns about the deliverability of the SWARMMS proposals. This is partly because of the reliance on existing funding streams, including Local Transport Plans and revenue funding, especially for the "soft" measures required to counter growth in road traffic, including "local" use of the strategic road network. It is also because of concerns about the apparent disparity of approach between different modes and different agencies. It appears that the backlog of investment that has to be made up to repair the area's deficit in transport infrastructure is far beyond the scope of the Government's 10-Year Plan and (even more) the Strategic Rail Authority's Strategic Plan.

  16.  At the Regional Assembly's hearings, it became apparent that the Strategic Rail Authority did not expect to be able to fund many of the required investments in rail improvements for many years. However, the Highways Agency appeared to be in a position to implement some motorway widening schemes at an early stage, with ministerial approval, before other solutions to congestion had been examined fully.

  17.  The councils are concerned, therefore, that a multi-modal approach to studying strategic transport corridors may not be carried forward into a multi-modal, inter-agency, approach to investment priorities. This is primarily because of the separate and independent nature of the implementing agencies. It arises partly because of the different objectives, levels of funding and other resources available to those agencies and partly because of the apparent lack of mechanisms to co-ordinate transport investment between modes and agencies at regional and sub-regional levels.

  18.  A specific concern is that Government targets for the Strategic Rail Authority, expressed in terms of growth of passenger-kilometres, are biased in favour of improvements in capacity for long-distance rail journeys. This approach appears to discriminate against investment to enhance local rail travel within the sub-region: the benefits of which include relief of congestion, improvements to the local environment, urban regeneration and stimulus to economic development.

  19.  The four councils are concerned therefore that measures to reduce road traffic growth may follow some time after additional motorway capacity has been provided. The result may include additional, induced, local traffic using the motorway network, which will add to urban and local road congestion at its origins and destinations, and may weaken the case for public transport improvements. There was a strong feeling that measures to manage the motorway network should be tried before additional capacity is added. Measures to reduce traffic growth, including area charging should also have received more attention.

  20.  A specific problem for the Greater Bristol Area—and the reason for needing a further strategic transport study—was the failure of SWARMMS to consider fully the relationships between local and strategic movement: the resulting problems and their solutions. As this area is at a gateway to the South West region, there are conflicts between local and long-distance traffic on the road and rail networks. In peak hours, some 60 per cent of road traffic on the motorway network has an origin and destination within the Greater Bristol area. Measures to increase rail capacity for long-distance travel are already leading to problems in improving or even maintaining local services, which are of critical importance for relief of urban road congestion, environmental protection, economic growth and urban regeneration in various parts of the area.

  21.  The failure of SWARMMS to address these issues is associated with its focus on all-day, average traffic flows rather than the peak hour conditions when conflicts between local and long-distance journeys are most severe. These conflicts disadvantage both the Greater Bristol Area, which "has a key role for economic growth regionally and nationally" (RPG 10) and the wider South West Region that relies on access through this area.

  22.  Some of the failures of SWARMMS may have been due to the way the consultation programme was handled. A substantial expenditure of effort and money went into this programme, although it was spread over a wide area and issues raised in the consultation programme (such as alternative land-use scenarios and the roles of "principal urban areas" identified in RPG 10) were not carried forward into the final report.

  23.  The need to co-ordinate implementation as well as planning appears to have been neglected in the multi-modal studies and this constitutes a serious flaw in the process. The four councils are now working closely with the Government Office and the Highways Agency to ensure that they are involved more fully in the follow-up strategic transport study. They are also working with these and other agencies, including the Regional Assembly, to tackle the barriers to effective implementation of transport investment: to achieve an inter-agency, multi-modal approach to transport investment.

October 2002

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003
Prepared 25 June 2003