Memorandum submitted by PJ Thompson
1.1 I wish to comment, at sections 2 & 3
below, on just two of the strategic issues specified by the EAC,
followed by a brief comment on aviation at the end. Although I
have no professional qualifications or business involvements in
this general area I have been interested in transport, town planning
and the environment for many years, and I use public transport
(and very occasionally my car) to get to work. I am a local and
national taxpayer and am interested in our general state of affairs
at national and local levels.
1.2 It seems unprofitable to discuss transport
and its consequences without reference to land use, given that
this determines transport patterns. The creation (in 1997 ?)
of the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR)
seemed an ideal arrangement, but this was dismantled after a short
life, and "Transport" was put back under a single ministry.
1.3 If we are now really faced with life changing
and threatening challenges, then no major emissions generating
sector can just continue on a "business as usual" basis.
So some unpalatable, awkward and embarrassing questions must be
asked and faced, and some long-held assumptions as well as long-entrenched
vested interests must be re-examined and challenged so as to protect
our quality of life and even our very existence.
1.4 It seems that the DfT's brief is to cater
for any and all road traffic demand, rather than first examining
why it is there and whether its presence is desirable or undesirable.
The Highways Agency used to monitor (and no doubt still does)
the vehicles per day (VPD) flow on roads, and when VPD came near
the design capacity of a road then a widening case was made. There
seemed to be no analysis of traffic into trips which were purely
"voluntary" and those which were "compelled".
The latter would comprise those who would choose a non-road mode
if one were available, and those who did not want to make the
journey at all but were forced to do so by change in work location
outside their control. The HA just assumed each VPD was a sort
of vote in favour of more roads.
1.5 There is a difference between mobility and
access. To cater exclusively for the first can hinder the second,
as well as prompting many journeys.
1.6 There is the issue of whether transport
is a cost or a benefit. It depends upon one's standpoint in the
process; to the producer needing to move his product to market
it is a cost; it is a benefit to the transport provider who will
want to encourage as much of it as possible; to the bystander
affected by increasing traffic it is an unadulterated nuisance.
Excessive use of transport might be a sign of wasteful activity
not true economic gain (eg: out-going holiday flights ?). The
government has to balance these conflicts somehow.
1.7 There are increasingly sophisticated facilities
based on telecommunications technology which lessen the need to
make personal journeys, and these should be encouraged and integrated
into life- and work-style packages, to save us all time and effort
as well as the climate.
2. WHETHER DFT'S
2.1 To the lay person, the answer seems to
be a resounding "No"
2.1.1 This may be unfair because central government
is funding Quality Bus Corridors in partnership with Passenger
Transport Executives in the (six ?) former Metropolitan County
Council areas; these are achieving some increase in bus ridership.
I do not know if this funding is via the DfT or via ODPM.
2.2 Given road traffic's emissions problem,
one would expect to see alternative travel modes being encouraged
in a really major way, but this is not so.
2.2.1 The Manchester "Metrolink" tram
expansion schemewhich will switch many commuter journeys
from cars, as well as regenerate poorer areas of that conurbationis
still on hold because of price increases. Then early in November
2005 the DfT rejected the Leeds and Liverpool plans for new tramways.
2.2.2 Far worse, the DfT is currently reviewing
the Northern Rail franchise on grounds of excessive cost. Actual
rail closures are fearedeven of lines through up-market
car commuter areasand this (unbelievably) in the congested
and urbanized Greater Manchester area where rail can greatly help
to relieve road congestion. Even more fatuously it is suggested
that some local trains be replaced by buses using already congested
roads. To close a train service is to destroy commuters' consumer
2.2.3 In other parts of the UK, small scale
rail improvements could bring considerable benefits but these
are rejected while much more expensive local road improvements
are nodded through.
2.2.4 The trolleybus is not on anyone's agenda.
Most UK residents, politicians and policymakers don't even know
what it is, despite London having had the largest fleet of them
in the world during the 1950s, and San Francisco using many on
its hills to good effect.
Trolleybuses are to be seen in many Eastern
and not a few Western European cities (they have just returned
to Rome), and they are a useful hybrid combining the advantages
of the tram and the diesel bus. Many UK cities and larger towns
had them until the 1960's.
2.3 Historically the DfT worked on the basis
of predict road traffic and provide road space for it. Currently
it is being said that we cannot build our way out of congestion,
ironically after we have built our way into it. This stated change
of policy would be most welcome if it were accompanied by corresponding
changes in DfT attitudes and practices, see 2.2.1 to 2.2.3 above.
"Predict and provide" may indeed be a very hard organism
to kill, but kill it we must.
3. SPECIFIC STEPS
REDUCE . . . EMISSIONS
3.1 A good "shopping list" would
3.1.1 Examine the origins of and reasons for
the traffic flows which cause the congestion.
This is the land use issue, eg green field site
developments which generate new journeys by car because they cannot
have the public transport access characteristic of in-town locations.
The plans for many thousands of houses in SE England will also
generate many new car journeys, as well as destroying farm land
which might be sorely needed in a globally uncertain future; these
housing plans seem additionally undesirable when it is learnt
that water supplies for them could be problematical.
The under-use of train services through high
income car commuter belts because of sheer lack of imagination,
co-ordinated policies and appropriate road pricing and rail funding
is another failure to limit car journeys. Car users will use trains
if they are reliable, convenient and reasonably priced; they will
not use buses. Many do use trains, and the railway should be able
to claim a "double credit" for such users who have paid
to use the road but do not; instead they pay out even more to
use the train and so relieve the roads at peak times.
3.1.2 Re-examine forecasts of road traffic growth
and evolve policies to prevent this growth or to transfer it to
Measures to cope with the problems in 3.1.1
would be to stop further developments on green field sites, and
locate them to existing urban areas; also road congestion charging
coupled with improvements to local commuter rail services. Tighter
urban parking controls would assist public transport which must
be visibly good enough to offset these disadvantages imposed on
3.1.3 Give maximum support to alternative transport
modes to lessen road traffic.
Reverse the recent Light Rail delay and rejection
decisions. Protect all local rail services and get them better
used. Give statutory protection to all abandoned but still intact
former rail routes for future re-opening to freight and passenger
use, or conversion to tramway. There is a case for re-nationalizing
the railway to get its operating costs down and pass these on
in lower fares and freight charges. Ensure the trolleybus option
is put back into the planning mix. Consider the old canals for
some freight journeys.
3.1.4 Reject once and for all any further increase
in the size of lorries.
Existing large lorries damage localities by
being run along totally unsuitable roads; they are parked on pavements,
damaging not only the paving but also water and gas mains underneath.
The last time lorry size was increased there was a definite shift
of freight from rail to road. To move to 60-tonnes would intensify
all these problems.
184.108.40.206 The lorry sector needs far tighter supervision.
The Classic FM radio travel report at around 6.40pm Monday to
Friday almost always features at least one major lorry accident
each day, causing great congestion. Unbelievably many of these
are lorries on fire; others are lorries overturning, and this
all in moderate weather conditions. These sound like stories from
the 1920's with primitive vehicles on solid tyres with wooden
bodies and indifferent petrol engines; fires and overturning then
were fully understandable. It is quite incomprehensible that such
accidents still occur in 2006. In the bus and rail industries
they would result in major public outrage and enquiries. Punitive
fines should be imposed in such cases, specifically to drive incompetent
and negligent, even criminal, lorry operators out of the business,
and rules devised to prevent the individuals involved from re-entering
3.1.5 Cease all further roadbuilding, and limit
construction to junction improvements, traffic management schemes
and provision of local access to new local developments.
220.127.116.11 This seems Luddite, but stems from the
fact that over 40 years I have never seen a road scheme which
has done what it said on the tin, ie: cure the congestion it was
aimed at; for a time traffic flowed well but within five years
it had increased, and was creating the delays which had prompted
the earlier scheme; any further road expansion would have meant
destruction of part of the locality, and sometimes this was undertaken.
It seems that to expand road space merely increases road traffic,
which is self-defeating and a waste of public money, given the
many other competing social priorities far more important than
traffic. Indeed the Treasury in John Major's time blocked any
road expenditure designed to cure peak time traffic problems;
"peak spreading" was the preferred solution.
18.104.22.168 New roads were often justified as creating
jobs; they will have done so, but there seems no analysis of
the loss of jobs inflicted on many of the localities involved.
Easier road movement enables big business to concentrate its multifarious
activities at a very small number of key locations after having
shut down a larger number of smaller ones. This increases profits
but also car and lorry journey lengths. "Just in Time"
deliveries also raise profits by minimizing/eliminating warehouse
space. This is good for business but not for the local economy,
nor the public purse (infrastructure demands) nor for those who
have to endure the resultant traffic and who are compelled to
drive the longer distances.
22.214.171.124 The view that new roadbuilding is needed
to keep traffic moving to prevent emissions from standing traffic
is profoundly suspect (see 126.96.36.199), and it also torpedoes any
policy aimed at road traffic limitation.
3.1.6 Scrap the annual vehicle excise duty (except
for a nominal annual re-licensing fee to accredit the vehicle
on the DVLA system), and replace it by either a very much higher
fuel price, or by road pricing which would vary according to congestion.
This would more accurately show the cost of
each vehicle trip; at the moment, once the tax is paid and the
tank full, road use "feels" free, even though everyone
knows it isn't; perversely, the annual VED could be a spur to
more vehicle use, so as to get the most use out of the road network
for that year's payment. Whereas "pay as you go" on
the road would provide some saving if a car owner used public
transport or just did not make the trip. Modal switch might occur
more often. Car usage rather than ownership is the problem.
3.1.7 Re-regulate all provincial bus operations
so as to provide the same standard of network stability and route
predictability as exists in the still regulated London bus system.
The UK is said to be the only Western (and westernized)
country to deregulate its provincial urban bus transport. Bus
loadings had been reducing since the late-1950's start of mass
motoring, and continued slowly ever since. The October 1986 de-regulation
unleashed so much instability in services, timetables and operators
that passenger decline accelerated and service quality plummeted.
It also brought great concentrations of poorly
maintained buses on to profitable routes, causing local air quality
4. EUROPEAN PUBLIC
4.1 Public transport is regulated, and each
city has only one provider for the area, even if there are various
modes (tram, trolleybus, bus, underground metro). Other operators
from other areas ran in, but they appeared to have some arrangement
with the main urban provider. The passenger vehicles are painted
in a livery distinctive to the city, and staff wear uniforms to
a house style. Route networks and service numbering are co-ordinated
and stable, and route maps of the overall area are generally
available. Stopping points are well provided with timing and route
details of services calling there. Railway stations are well served,
making interchange with trains quite easy.
4.2 There is therefore a high degree of predictability
in the service, and it is quite easy to get around these places
by public transport which is frequent with affordable fares and
multi-ride tickets valid over the whole system. It was also very
well used at most times of the day. There is an intangible feeling
that the system is a valuable asset which belongs to the city
and is valued as such by the local inhabitants.
4.2.1 A recent visit to Oxford revealed at least
two competing bus operators with their own exclusive tickets and
route networks. To travel about there needed two sets of tickets;
car usage is more convenient when faced with these frustrations.
4.3 Belgian Railways (SNCB) have a basic hourly
frequency on all lines, with more journeys on busier routes and
extras at peak times. SNCB seem to have aimed at a memorizable
timetablethe hourly times on a given line are always the
same "minutes to or past" throughout the whole day.
The UK has improved here but there is still a way to go. SNCB,
although it makes a loss like all the other European State railways,
is very well used with fares which feel very cheap to the UK visitor;
on every journey made, the train ran more or less to the minute,
rolling stock was clean, and the smartly uniformed train conductor
checked tickets after every station.
4.4 Dutch Transport Planning. In 1989 discussions
there advocated not allowing public transport fares to rise faster
than the variable costs of motoring. Another proposal was to reduce
a motorist's annual car tax by the cost of public transport season
tickets, should he/she buy these.
4.5 The public transport contrast between the
UK and much of Europe is stark, and shows us up very badly. It
is often said that we have the worst public transport and (to
rub salt into the wound) the most expensive. Buses outside London
must be re-regulated and railways either re-nationalized or run
on a not for private profit basis. This would restore the predictability
and community stakeholdership we once had, the aim being to provide
an improved and co-ordinated set of networks to induce people
to use their cars less and to attract some freight off the roads.
5. CLOSING COMMENTS
Transport impacts upon numerous areas of our
lives outside the DfT's remit, so there should be productive inter-departmental
working between the DfT and those ministries which deal with these
other areas. Four areas are at 5.1-5.4, below. To remedy the
transport related problems which affect these will both assist
the carbon emission problem and improve these areas of life.
5.1 Health and Safety. Transport's impacts include
accidents/fatalities, noise, pollution, stress of journey to work
(duration and quality), lack of exercise because of the tendency
to drive everywhere and not walk or cycle. Rail's very low accident
rate should be contrasted with higher road casualties. Driving
isunless one is specifically paid to do itineffective
time; on a train or tram (less so on a bus) one can read or do
some work while in transit.
5.2 The Urban Built Environment. Transport's
impact here has been quite brutal in the past; some good properties
were swept away with those which admittedly were expendable; the
longer term social consequences of neighbourhood disruption may
not have been appreciated. We are now faced with a re-run of this
in Liverpool, partly for road widening reasons.
5.3 Loss of Open Space and Farmland. Easier
road access (provided at public expense) to such areas has resulted
in their development for substantial private profit, in preference
to urban brownfield sites. The result is more travel emissions
and loss of irreplaceable natural resources. Loss of local open
space also forces people to make longer journeys to open space
5.4 The local economy. To revive this with all
its multifarious "co-located" activities would surely
lessen the need for lengthy passenger and freight trips. It is
not clear how this can be done in today's global era. Local light
rail systems, especially the currently stalled Manchester "Metrolink"
expansion plans, would be a start because a fixed track network
knits together the areas it serves and encourages many trips between
and among them, so fostering a sense of local identity. More roads,
by complete contrast, just promote even more "anywhere to
anywhere" journeys and even further dispersal of dwellings,
journeys and economic activities.
5.5 Blocks to Progress. Recent tram scheme delays
and rejections seem to stem from the dead hand of Treasury control,
and this must be contested; how much is caused by the costs of
the current controversial defence involvements? Stopping tram
schemes just to save money seems like cutting the funds to repair
the New Orleans levees, and we all saw what happened there.
5.5.1 Historically, road expenditure has been
seen as "investment" and desirable, whereas rail expenditure
has been seen as "subsidy" and undesirable. This is
most ironic because the rail sector has from its very inception
170-odd years ago always had some sort of an accounting system
to show profit and loss, which with some extra effort could produce
analyses by individual railway line. The road sector is totally
deficient in this respect, and in strict accountancy terms road
expenditure is money thrown into a black hole.
5.5.2 Road, rail, air, canal and coastal sea
should all be planned together so as to produce a balanced transport
system where all the modes work together to best advantage and
with minimum environmental impact. I fear however that this is
quite beyond the abilities of the government machinery, although
there must be people within it who could ably rise to the challenge,
given the chance.
5.6 Aviation. Given that we can now get almost
anywhere by air, it seems reasonable that aviation, because of
its significant emissions problem, should be limited to function
within a pre-determined emission quota on journeys where it performs
to best global advantage. Short haul overland flights must be
replaced by trains, and aviation's tax loopholes and exemptions
must be entirely and immediately stripped away. Cheap fares airlines
must be carefully examined to ensure they are not breaking safety
and hygiene rules. The policy for increasing air travel by a large
amount by 2030 should be rejected.
6. Finally, I wish the EAC every success in
its deliberations which I hope will achieve action on this fraught
subject to bring us all some long term benefits and safety.