Select Committee on Transport Seventh Report

4  The Department's Public Service Agreement targets

Current PSA targets

30.  The Government's Public Service Agreement (PSA) targets give an indication of the outcomes expected from the expenditure allocated to individual departments. Up to April 2008, the Department for Transport reported against the PSA targets set in the Spending Review 2004, which covered the period 2005-08.

31.  The Department had seven PSA targets (which is roughly in line with the average across Whitehall).[31] The Department explained that "taken together, the seven PSA targets cover key issues of public interest".[32] However, as we have noted previously, several transport modes were entirely excluded. Aviation, shipping, cycling, walking and freight were not directly covered by any PSA target during the 2005-2008 period. Two of the PSAs were 'green' (environmental) in nature. The Department's 2007 Annual Report listed financial results by Objectives, but not PSA targets, so the extent to which expenditure followed individual PSA targets is therefore not clear, a point we have also made previously.[33]

32.  Where applicable, we examine performance against individual PSA targets in the relevant chapters below. Table 1 below gives an overview of the Department for Transport's performance:

Table 1: DfT's Public Service Agreement Targets 2005-2008

PSA target Target met/on track
1Road congestion - strategic roads By 2007-08, make journeys more reliable on the strategic road network. Slippage
2Rail Improve punctuality and reliability of rail services to at least 85 per cent by 2006, with further improvements by 2008. 2006: met; 2008: on plan
3Buses & light rail By 2010, increase the use of public transport systems (bus and light rail) by more than 12 per cent in England compared with 2000 levels, with growth in every region. On course to achieve national patronage target and associated improvements to reliability and disabled access: target for growth in patronage in every region remains challenging.
4Road congestion - local roads By 2010-11, the ten largest urban areas will meet the congestion targets set in their Local Transport Plan relating to movement on main roads into city centres. The target will be deemed to have been met if, on target routes in the ten largest urban areas in England, an average increase of 3.6 per cent in person journey time per mile. Not yet assessed
5Road safety Reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured in Great Britain in road accidents by 40 per cent and the number of children killed or seriously injured by 50 per cent, by 2010 compared with the average for 1994-98, tackling the significantly higher incidence in disadvantaged communities. Disadvantage target met. Police data indicates that the Department is on course to meet other elements of the target.
6Air quality Improve air quality by meeting the Air Quality Strategy targets for carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, particles, sulphur dioxide, benzene and 1,3 butadiene. Joint target with Defra. Mixed - some met, some slippage
7Climate change To reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 12.5 per cent below 1990 levels carbon dioxide emissions below 1990 levels by 2010, through measures including energy efficiency and renewables. Joint with Defra and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR). Mixed - carbon dioxide slippage, overall Kyoto target on course

Future PSA targets

33.  Under the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) 2007, these seven PSA targets were replaced by four new ones that narrow down the focus further, to road (two targets), rail and project management. The 2007 CSR covers spending allocations from 2008-09 to 2010-11. The Department will also support the work of other departments in delivering PSAs related to housing supply and regional economic performance.

Rail PSA target

34.  The new rail PSA target (third indicator of PSA 5)[34] focuses on capacity and crowding on the network - it does not address reliability and punctuality. Although capacity is an increasingly salient issue, it will be of little comfort to passengers if they trade a situation where they can stand aboard a punctual train for one where they are able to find a seat on a train which is late. We are concerned that the Department for Transport appears to have lost interest in rail punctuality and reliability. The PSA targets on punctuality and reliability have not been met, so there can be little justification for dropping the target. A loss of focus in this area might lead to a reversal in such progress as has been made in the past five years.

Roads PSA targets

35.  The new roads PSA targets focus on urban journey times as well as reliability on strategic roads. They largely reprise the previous PSA targets in these areas. The new strategic roads indicator[35] is the same as the previous PSA target for strategic roads, i.e. to improve reliability of journeys on the strategic road network. This is not a very ambitious target, though the DfT has failed to deliver it so far (see below). The new urban roads indicator focuses on journey times, as did the previous urban roads PSA target. As this has not been assessed so far, it is difficult to comment on the worth of this target.

36.  The Minister has expressed the view that the Department must be both economic and green.[36] In light of this, the absence of an explicit 'green' indicator from the department's new PSA targets is a matter of concern. The Department's success or failure will be judged largely on the basis of its achievement of the PSA targets for which it has lead responsibility. There is a clear risk that the Minister's stated ambitions for synergy between economic and green imperatives in the Department's operations will fall by the wayside.

37.  The Minister stated that "using the Eddington framework we have three major priorities in this country. One is to improve our inter-urban networks between cities. The other is to improve our international gateways. The other is to improve mobility within our cities". This set of priorities does not map across to the new PSA targets in a self-evident manner. The two roads indicators clearly do, but none of the new indicators link directly to the objective of improving international gateways.

38.  We are concerned that the Department's approach to its new PSA targets lacks clarity. The new targets do not address the issues raised by the Eddington study in any obvious manner. In our judgement, there is no clear link between the new PSA targets and the Eddington priorities.

39.  The Department will also have supporting responsibilities for two further PSA targets, no. 7 (Improve the economic performance of all English regions and reduce the gap in economic growth rates between regions) and no. 20 (Increase long-term housing supply and affordability).[37] BERR (Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) and CLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) respectively are taking the lead on these two targets. The Department for Transport has been unable to clarify the manner in which it will contribute towards meeting the PSA targets in which it has a supporting role. The lack of clarity concerns the budget that the DfT intends to allocate as well as changes in strategy and approach. There is a real risk that responsibility for delivering the Department for Transport's element of these joint PSA targets will be too diffuse, undermining performance and accountability.

Future Departmental Funding and efficiency

40.  In addition to setting targets, the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) also set a budget for the three years from 2008-09. Under the 2007 CSR, the Department's budget will be boosted by a rate of real growth of 2.1% a year on average. Given the current constraints on public expenditure this is a reasonable increase, indicating the importance of transport to the overall success of the UK, as noted by the Secretary of State: "As Sir Rod Eddington's report argued, a well functioning transport system is vital to the continued success of the UK economy and our quality of life". We are concerned, however, that this spending will be concentrated in the capital. Major infrastructure improvements in London, such as Crossrail, are likely to have strong benefit to cost ratios because London's economy is strong, and the implication is that such projects will be favoured. We are concerned that the fourth indicator of the DfT's new PSA target, to "deliver reliable and efficient transport networks that support economic growth" could result in a very narrow perspective on transport investment. We recommend that, when allocating investment funds, the Department gives due consideration to factors beyond the absolute value of improvements in terms of economic performance and growth. It is important, for example, that the Department should take equally seriously its supporting role in regional Development PSA targets.

41.  By 2010-11 DfT will be spending £14.5 billion of public money. It is important in this context that the Department does not lose its focus on delivering efficiency savings to ensure that the highest possible level of service and investment is maintained. The requirement that future efficiency savings should all be "cashable"—capable of being quantified in cash terms—should not lead to a reduction in the achievement of non-cashable savings where these are possible.

31   The number of Departmental PSA targets held are as follows: CO 3, DCMS 4, MoJ ?, MoD 6, HO 7, DfT 7, ODPM 8, DoH 8, FCO 9, Defra 9, DWP 10, HMT 10, DBERR ?, DfEF ?, DIUS ?. Back

32   Autumn Performance Report 2007, page 5. Back

33   Transport Committee, Fourth Report of Session 2006-07, Department for Transport Annual Report 2006, HC 95, page 6 Back

34   PSA Delivery Agreement 5, 'Deliver reliable and efficient transport networks that support economic growth', p.5, available at  Back

35   IbidBack

36   Q2 Back

37   'Meeting the aspirations of the British people', 2007 Pre-Budget Report and Comprehensive Spending Review, Cm 7227, pp 189, 193 Back

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