Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200 - 219)



  Q200  Emily Thornberry: It is 25%, not 4%?

  Dr Austin: I think it is about 24%. This is PM10 from taxis.

  Q201  Emily Thornberry: What is PM10?

  Dr Austin: It is particulates, dust that comes out of the back of the exhaust.

  Q202  Emily Thornberry: The sort of stuff that gives you asthma?

  Dr Austin: That is it.

  Q203  Mark Pritchard: Do you think the reception you would get from taxi drivers would be a positive one? Perhaps part of the answer to that question might suggest why, if you will forgive me, Transport for London, whilst being strategic and forward thinking in many areas that you set out in our evidence today, when it comes to taxis are being slightly shy, because you are fearful of the reception you might get. Am I being unkind?

  Dr Austin: I think the power is with the PM10[1] emissions that they have got 20p extra on their "flag fall" which goes towards the cost, so every time they have a ride they get an extra 20p which will go towards the cost of them purchasing equipment that can reduce the emissions or, if they have already got a new cab, that is additional money for them. But there has to be a financial incentive for them to change.

  Q204  Mark Pritchard: Do Transport for London agree with me that if I step out as a hopefully environmentally discerning consumer, if I have 10 Black Cabs going past me I would like to have an indication of which one I can choose that is using alternative fuels, not just having a catalytic converter put on the exhaust to try to mitigate certain people within the Black Cab lobby who will not be too happy if the Mayor is more serious about the environmental agenda?

  Ms Dedring: That might be a way to pursue that policy, to do it on a voluntary basis at first and see whether those cabs have better take-up or are particularly used by people. That could be a way to approach it. We have not thought about it yet but it is only because we are at the beginning of the discussions internally. You are quite right, it is an issue.

  Emily Thornberry: The Black Cab lobby is already going. All the London MPs have been contacted by the Black Cab lobby already about this; I am just telling you.

  Q205  Mr Chaytor: Can I ask about light rail because in London there are two light rail schemes, the Docklands Light Railway and the Croydon tram. What assessment have you made of the economic value of light rail and the effectiveness in bringing about modal shift in reducing emissions? Is there any consideration of a third light rail scheme at any point in the conurbation?

  Dr Austin: You mentioned the two schemes, those being DLR and Tramlink. Certainly with the Docklands Light Railway, that scheme has been quite effective in terms of modal shift. If you take between 1991 and 1998, in 1991 about half drove to the Isle of Dogs by car, and that went down to a third by 1998. Conversely, about a third used DLR in 1991 and that went up to a half. That shows the impact of DLR and switching people out of cars. In the same way with the Croydon Tramlink, a detailed impact study was undertaken following its implementation and that found about 19% of people switched from car to tram. It does show a properly designed, thought-out and implemented scheme can have a very good effect in terms of taking car journeys off the roads. In terms of future schemes, the scheme that is being progressed furthest at the moment is the West London tram scheme which will go from Uxbridge to Shepherd's Bush along the Uxbridge Road and will follow, I think, the busiest bus corridor in London which is the 207 bus corridor. We are hoping by the end of the year to put the Transport and Works Act in.

  Q206  Mr Chaytor: Sorry, by the end of the year?

  Dr Austin: By the end of the year to put the Transport and Works Act in, and then it will all go through the obvious processes. Other schemes that we are looking at are to extend the Croydon Tramlink scheme to Crystal Palace and to deliver a tram through central London from Peckham to Camden, which is the Cross-River Tram. They are the most developed ones. There are others that are at a feasibility stage which we are looking at but they are the three that have been taken forward furthest.

  Q207  Mr Chaytor: On those three, you are confident that they are cost-effective economically?

  Dr Austin: Yes. Certainly the West London tram and Croydon Tramlink and these are being developed further to a further stage, and they provide a very good benefit-cost ratio. There is also the extension to the Docklands Light Railway. They are starting to bore through from London City Airport through to Woolwich, and there will be a number of extensions in the next two or three years to cater for the Olympics, for example to Stratford. DLR is working very well; its passenger numbers are increasing from a very low base several years ago to 55 million people now and probably up to 80 million within five or 10 years.

  Q208  Mr Chaytor: What do you think about the Department for Transport's views of light rail because there has been some criticism that they are cooling down an earlier enthusiasm in favour of supporting light rail? Is that your experience?

  Dr Austin: Regardless if it is light rail or buses, any scheme can be effective and shown that that is the best alternative, then I would hope the Department for Transport would support that. They have not given me any indication of a lack of support for West London tram or any other schemes in London.

  Q209  Mr Chaytor: The Climate Change Programme Review does not make any reference to light rail at all, as far as I recall. Is that an oversight or do you think we should be considering this more seriously?

  Dr Austin: We should be considering the best type of public transport for the conditions; in some cases it will be bus, in other cases the improvements could be light rail, in others it will be heavy rail. It is really horses for courses. The Review does say that investment in public transport is essential and needs to be continued. You just need to look at the right types of transport for the right places.

  Q210  Mr Chaytor: In terms of the Uxbridge corridor, the 207 corridor, why is it that you came down in favour of light rail there?

  Dr Austin: Firstly, it is effectively the busiest bus corridor in London. Secondly, looking at the projected future growth in passengers along that corridor, buses would not be able to cope; the number of buses would be affecting the operation of junctions, et cetera. The only way you can cater for increased demand over the next 20 years is for light rail.

  Q211  Mr Chaytor: You cannot make any generalised judgments about the equivalent cost of light rail as against quality of bus corridors? It depends entirely on the usage of the route, does it?

  Dr Austin: Exactly. At low passenger levels, buses are the most efficient way of transporting people. As passenger levels go up, it becomes the case that it costs more to operate the bus than light rail, so when you move to a certain point, you have to say that light rail might be more economically viable at this point.

  Q212  Mr Chaytor: Is there any evidence that light rail is intrinsically more attractive to people in terms of modal shift? Are people more easily persuaded out their cars because of a tram as against a bus?

  Dr Austin: Certainly that was the case with the Croydon Tramlink. That was a good incentive for people to switch; you do not want to get a bus where the journey takes longer, and you have got comfort et cetera on light rail.

  Q213  Lynne Featherstone: You state that the Congestion Charge has been very successful in reducing carbon emissions, around a 20% reduction. What lessons have you learned from running the scheme that you would advise the Department for Transport or local authorities on? What should they or should they not take into account in bringing forward other road-user charging schemes?

  Ms Dedring: If you look at transport emissions in London, as you probably know, 50%, by far the bulk of the emissions, comes from private vehicles and motorcycles. Obviously if you want to reduce emissions and you are looking for the biggest bang for your buck, you would want to focus on private vehicles. There are two sides to that: one is offering a viable alternative on the public transport side and the other one is providing the incentive for people to get out of their cars. The London example demonstrates that pricing is the most effective way to do that. If you are looking for a significant reduction in transport CO2 emissions, then it would seem to me that a pricing tool in the private vehicle arena would be one obvious place—just purely from a numerical standpoint—that you would be looking at, if not the primary policy that you would be looking at.

  Q214  Lynne Featherstone: It is just that in terms of being an attractive proposition for other places or other local authorities, there was one scheme that did not come to be in Edinburgh, I think. Should the Department for Transport be given a stronger lead or more support to local authorities in setting up other road charging schemes? When I say "What lessons have you learned?", I know that the pricing mechanism is a good idea in terms of what we see but were there pitfalls? What could you do to sell it to other places to make it more attractive than it apparently is so far?

  Dr Austin: I think in terms of allowing other towns and cities to take up that option, it does need strong local leadership, that is for sure. The money that the DfT is putting forward as part of the transport and innovation fund—I think it is £200 million a year for five years or so—is a good way. They can provide the funding to get things up and running so it does not rely on local taxpayers et cetera paying for the set-up charge, but obviously in many places it is going to be controversial. It has to be sold; but there are significant benefits. Many centres in the UK have significantly high levels of congestion, possibly not as bad as central London but not far off, and they also have very good public transport. There are good alternatives to the car; there are options. Selling the benefits to the actual quality of life, the town, et cetera, is one way to do that, but it is never going to be easy.

  Ms Dedring: Just to add on the £200 million that appears to be flagged within the TIF funding, the set-up costs for the Congestion Charging scheme in London will be roughly £200 million. If you are looking at that on a national scale, then your question about "Is the DfT providing a sufficient lead from a financial standpoint?", no would be the answer, I would say, purely because of the cost, of course other conurbations will be smaller but that is not going to cover a significant volume of these kinds of schemes nationally.

  Q215  Emily Thornberry: Can I ask a question about the Congestion Charge, because low-emission cars can go into central London without paying the Charge. Has it had a significant effect on the take-up of low-emission cars in London, do you think?

  Ms Dedring: It is difficult to know because there are market forces and green desires among consumers anyway and it is difficult to disentangle those. I guess on balance our view would be yes, it has had an effect. Certainly, on sales of electric vehicles, I know, for example, that the manufacturers are saying the Congestion Charge had a significant effect on that.

  Q216  Emily Thornberry: Do you know what proportion of low-emission vehicles are being used in central London?

  Ms Dedring: That is a good question, I do not.

  Dr Austin: I do not. Part of the thing is that the number of vehicles in central London is relatively small, but I think the help that the Congestion Charge has given to say, "Low-emission vehicles are great. You can go into the Congestion Charging zone free" is a very good marketing tool for them.

  Q217  Emily Thornberry: You can count them, can you not, so you will know presumably? Can you get back to us on that?

  Dr Austin: Yes.

  Q218  Mark Pritchard: We are currently consulting on proposals to establish a low-emission zone, I just wonder whether you have got any comments on how that might impact on London's tourism given that part of the objectives is targeted at buses and coaches and that very large parties of people come into London on coaches. What impact might it have on the capital's tourism?

  Dr Austin: That is something that we are going to be looking at as part of the monitoring exercise.

  Q219  Mark Pritchard: Sorry, can I just interject, when you say "monitoring", monitoring suggests post?

  Dr Austin: Before and after. I think the first thing to say is the majority of coaches, particularly international-type coaches et cetera, coming into London will meet the criteria by 2008 anyway. In terms of the work that we are doing on monitoring, I am happy to come back to you and highlight what we are doing.

1   Footnote inserted by witness 26.04.06: We have introduced an emissions strategy for taxis to reduce PM10 emissions. Back

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