Select Committee on Environmental Audit Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Merseytravel

  Thank you for giving Merseytravel the opportunity to contribute to the Environmental Audit Committee's (EAC) current inquiry.


  Merseytravel is the operating name of the Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority (PTA) and the Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive (PTE).

  The Passenger Transport Authority (PTA) is comprised of 18 elected councillors drawn from each of the five metropolitan district councils in Merseyside: Liverpool City Council; Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council; Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council; St Helens Metropolitan Borough Council and Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council. The PTA was established in 1986 on the abolition of Merseyside County Council.

  The PTA sets the transport policies in the sub region, and the Passenger Transport Executive (PTE) implements those policies. These policies are set out in the Merseyside Local Transport Plan, a statutory document covering the period 2000-01 to 2005-06. The draft Local Transport Plan 2 was recently submitted to the Department for Transport and was given a "very promising" outcome. This will be finalised in July 2006 and will set out the transport priorities for the sub-region between 2006-07 and 2010-11.

  While there are seven PTAs and PTEs located in the metropolitan areas in the UK, Merseytravel is unique in that the PTA and the PTE is one operating organisation.

  Merseytravel is responsible for ensuring that an effective public transport service is available, maintained and developed throughout the Merseyside region. Merseytravel provides financial support to non-commercial bus services and to the local rail network, as well as owing and operating both the Mersey Tunnels and the Mersey Ferries.

  One of Merseytravel's core beliefs is the provision of sustainable transport to promote regeneration, improved air quality, good health and accessibility across Merseyside and the wider region.

  Our policies have been fully integrated to deliver economic, environmental and social benefits that include regeneration for the sub-region and communities within it, and positive effects on air quality, climate change, energy consumption and resource use.

  This will lead to improved accessibility and social justice for all. In addition they allow integration with healthier forms of transport such as walking and cycling.

  It is Merseytravel's view that the Department for Transport (DfT) missed a significant opportunity by not including climate change as one of the Local Transport Plan (LTP) shared priorities. Had it been made one, then each LTP would have to have contained targets for carbon reduction. As it is, climate change is considered as one of the quality of life issues and as such does not necessarily attract the same level of commitment from those responsible for the production of the plans.

  It is also difficult to make a comment on progress with regard to the Government's Climate Change Programme, as that is currently being reviewed. The production of the review is long overdue.

  One point to be made is that it is very difficult to extract sufficient and adequate information from Government websites on the data necessary to make such judgements. This is not made any easier by different departments such as DEFRA and DfT using different base data and the lack of clarity on exactly what has been included in any calculations.

  The growth in private vehicles on the roads seems to be set to outstrip any environmental benefits of improved engine efficiency. The DfT believes it has a range of tools to address this, for example, the use of differing tax bands for carbon emissions, introduction of a renewable fuels obligation, potential road pricing, surface transport to be included as part of the Emissions Trading Scheme, technological advances including low carbon vehicles.

  All the varying analytical tools that exist will take a different amount of time to start yielding any results, and the scale of the impacts on carbon is likely to vary considerably. Also, it is not clear exactly what benefits each tool will deliver in terms of carbon emission reductions.

  The key tool that is missing is a greater commitment to demand management. The number of journeys made in private cars will have to be reduced if we stand any chance of halting the carbon emissions from transport. This needs more radical measures.

  It may be better if the Government made more definitive commitments to schemes such as car sharing, car clubs, multiple occupancy lanes, low emission zones, parking restriction, access restrictions, workplace user charging, in parallel to the promotion of public transport.

  Merseytravel believes that little progress has been made in achieving the targets set out in the "Powering Future Vehicles Strategy". This would appear to be Government's own view as contained in the Third Annual Report (December 2005).

  However, there does not seem to have been an active push on the take-up of low carbon vehicles. No research appears to exist that indicates whether consumers are taking consideration of the varying tax bands. Anecdotally the Toyota Land Cruiser continues to outsell the Toyota Prius with carbon emissions of three times the hybrid car. Consumer awareness is a different thing to positive action.

  The Government made considerable promises with regard to the production of hybrid buses. The Energy Saving Trust seems locked into a long running debate with the EC over the provision of grant-aid to stimulate the market for this sort of technology. In effect, this has stopped any progress being made. The current prices for these vehicles are too expensive. There are very few alternative fuelled bus schemes that can operate in a cost effective manner. The majority of future fuel/vehicle projects will require outside funding.

  The UK Government will require a lot more cross-sector collaboration for successful implementation of alternative fuels on a large scale.

  To make any significant changes to carbon emissions, large-scale changes in transport will be required; however the Government and local authorities find it very difficult to place legislative pressures on fuel and vehicle suppliers. There is the sensitive issue over the price and tax of fuel in the UK.

  It may be necessary for the Government to legislate to achieve greenhouse gas reductions.

February 2006

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