Infrastructure Bill [HL]

Written evidence submitted by the Local Government Technical Advisers' Group (IB 17)

Dear Chair and M embers of t he House of Commons Infrastructure Bill Scrutiny Committee

INFRASTRUCTURE BILL PROPOSALS FOR STRATEGIC HIGHWAYS COMPANY, A ROAD INVESTMENT STRATEGY AND A NEW MONITOR AND WATCHDOG FOR THE COMPANY

1. Introduction and background to TAG

1.1 Thank you for the opportunity to raise issues and submit evidence to the Scrutiny Unit . As a background , we have submitted responses to G overnment and given evidence to the Hou se of Commons Transport Select C ommittee (HOCTC) on various documents published in the prep aration of the G overnment s intentions to expand the strategic road construction programme and the changed management arrangements.

1.2 TAG represents a large number of local authorities in the country, these include those with highway and transport responsibiliti es such as Transport for London, most London boroughs, Metropolitan authorities, Unitary authorities, consultants providing highway and transport services for major local authorities and many of the districts and towns in two tier authorities. While ‘second tier’ authorities do not have direct responsibility for transport, they do have a major role in looking after significant towns and the sensible overall planning of them including providing a reasonable environment and trying to ensure, through the Highways and Transport Authorities, that the transport system is fit for purpose. Overall we represent over 100 different authorities. We should add that Local Authorities have the responsibility for managing 97.6% of the total road network and , although between a quarter and a third of all road traffic (in vehicle miles) are reported to be carried on the strategic network , nearly all trips using roads by whatever mode ( including by foot ) use the local roads at their beginning and at their end .

1.3 TAG was first created as a joint officer body to coordinate across the various areas of Local Government and was formed by an amalgamation of the Associations of London Borough Engineers (ALBES), Metropolitan District Engineers (AMDE) and Chief Technical Officers (ACTO) of the districts in two tier areas . One of the major reasons for this combination was so that advice could come from one body. TAG still has a major role in advising the LGA and recent submissions from the LGA on transport issues usually reflect TAG advice.

2. Objectives of the changes and summary of TAG’s views

2.1 It appears to TAG that the government ha s the firm view that:

· more infrastructure will help the UK economy ;

· the reduction of congestion by expansion of the Strategic Road Network is a recognised part of this need to expand the infrastructure ;

· l ong term planning of construction programmes by a ‘company’ freed from some controls will ensure better delivery of the infrastructure.

2.2 TAG fully accepts that a level of infrastructure of power, communications buildings etc . are necessary for every economy to function. However , before we build any more infrastructure - adding to the maintenance costs , we should ensure our existing infrastructure is maintained adequately to serve the needs of people and businesses. Maintenance of the road network is suffering very badly on much of the 97.6% of the road network throu gh woefully inadequate funding over many years. Similarly public transport for people to reach jobs and essential services is not being properly maintained outside of London and a few other areas. Furthermore the claimed and calculated economic benefits of road enlargements are not representative (see para 3.4 below and Appendices 1 & 2 ).

2.3 TAG agrees that traffic congestion, including for buses and pedestrians, is wasteful and we support any reasonable measures that can be shown to alleviate congestion. The Eddington Report ( a link to the documents produced by Eddington can be found on http://collections.europarchive.org/tna/20100408160254/http:/www.dft.gov.uk/about/strategy/transportstrategy/eddingtonstudy/ )

identified that the worst congestion was in urban areas and that road pricing/ congestion charging was ‘a no brainer’ as part of the solution to congestion . (TAG recognises the political difficulties of road pricing but is concerned that strategies making such solutions more difficult will not help) . TAG believes , with evidence , that enlarging the Strategic Road N etwork anywhere near major cities will in the relatively short term increase traffic levels , congestion , CO2 and pollution levels especially in urban areas (see paras 4.3 and 4.4 below and Appendix 3 ) .

2.4 TAG fully understands the benefits of consistent program me s of workload (and would wish a similar stable programme be applied to the other 97.6% of the network ) . It is however concerned that moving so much responsibility to an arms - length company will reduce the scope elected MPs and other representatives will have to monitor the work of the people involved with managing the best use of our transport infrastructure or indeed public spending.

2.5 In summary , while the initial objectives of the government’s proposals would seem very sensible, proper scrutiny ( of the legislation, strategies and programme ) are likely to show that the suggested legislation and programme will not deliver what the country really need s . Furthermore it is likely to be damaging to the UK economy and environment and waste large sums of taxpayers money.

2.6 After the draft of this submission was written , the Government have published the National Policy Statement for National Networks (on 17 th December) . While it would be difficult to analyse exactly what changes have been made since the draft version of the NN NPS (TAG’s views on that are included in Appendix 4 attached), it does appear that this final NPS does slightly address (but very inadequately) aspects of integration between the 2.4% of the road network and the other 97.6% of the network and also demand management . However the fundamental aspects appear unchanged and the programme and s trategy for the Strategic Road N etwork , with many proposals in or near major urban areas , will not deliver the real objectives for people and businesses as explained in this submission.

3. Infrastructure to help the economy

3.1 W e believe that before spending large sums expan ding our infrastructure (and adding further to the long term main t enance costs), we should properly finance basic maintenance of what we have already. With the present shortage of public funds it seems illogical to build significantly more road infrastructure.

3.2 If we wish to improve the transport and communications between people and businesses this can only be really addressed by policies and strategies for whole ( end to end ) journeys. An integrated transport policy is needed covering all roads and other modes not just the very limited Strategic Road N etwork. Furthermore planning of development needs to minimise transport requirements.

3.3 It is usually accepted that urban areas are the powerhouse of developed countries’ economies. Eddington identified that 89% of traffic congestion is in urban areas. This suggests that transport investment needs to go into such urban areas but not for road enlargements (the reasons why are explained in para 4.3 below and Appendix 3 ).

3.4 The most important part of the assessment of road schemes has for many years been based on ‘calculated’ cumulative time savings to travellers between a ‘do nothing’ or ‘do minimum’ situation and a situation with a transport scheme . These calculated time savings are then turned into an ‘economic benefit’ largely based on assumed values of the time savings . TAG and many others in the Transport field have been very critical of the m ethods used in the calculations – two documents Appendix 1 and 2 explain our criticisms in more detail. Suffice it to say , the methods rely on a large number of assumptions including a ‘natural’ traffic growth figure . It is also of particular note that when the calculated benefits of road schemes are looked at, it is found that most of the economic benefits appear for car traffic during peak periods and for the period 30-60 years hence. On the former , most areas and particularly urban areas do not want to encourage car commuting ; secondly , returns so far in the future for the peak time period are likely to be very arbitrary.

4. Strategies to reduce congestion

4.1 Parking control and management have been recognised for nearly 60 years as powerful tools in managing transport and traffic in towns. The policies have been deployed by : development standards for new buildings on parking provision, provision of public car parks, charging for the use of the valuable commodity of a parking space and enforcement to ensure roads are kept clear and spaces are rationed to help essential users and functions .

4.2 I f the government has set its sights against road pricing for the foreseeable future (for understandable political reasons) it needs to provide support and help for all strategies at local and national level to encourage individuals to use sustainable modes - (e.g. by effective management of public and private parking, park and ride, workplace parking levies, congestion charging, rating changes for premises with plentiful parking, travel planning, planning standards, bus and high occupancy vehicle lanes, cycle provision, wider footpaths etc.) . Nevertheless there should also be nothing to stop the Highways Agency company from investing in such measures rather than Strategic R oad enlargements . This would help to complement the meagre funding of revenue and capital available to local authorities for such measures and help really deliver the government’s objectives and the public needs.

4.3 Road construction in or near major urban areas is often likely to be counter-productive (– it is noted that the Highways Agency programme does include a large number of road enlargement s in or near our major towns). A first consideration from a person behind the steering wheel is that if a road is congested widening it should reduce congestion . Such a proposition at first sight appears perfectly logical however practical research has shown , particularly near urban areas , that more road capacity and faster car journeys encourage substantially more traffic and extra congestion at the ends of the enlarged road. This extra traffic usually appears one to five years after opening and can often result in worse transport for all. A document (Appendix 3) including some key links to other documents explains this in more detail. (Please note - the models usually used for evaluating Strategic Roads do not adequately model this actual real world situation with a secondary consequence that CO2 and pollution levels will tend to be under predicted for such new roads .)

4.4 It is a much more difficult message to get across to the press, the public , politicians or even some transport professional involved with road construction. Furthermore it is likely to feel very counterintuitive to anyone trying to ‘end the war against the motorist’ and hence difficult to accept. Members of TAG have found that with a small audience people who thought that road construction would help soon recognised that this was not always true; TAG would be more than willing to appear before the Committee to explain and discuss this subject.

4.5 TAG recognises that some new road construction will have substantial benefits to local communities - for example a small scale bypass to an historic village. We also recognise that many authorities , especially in less prosperous areas , will often willingly bid for and accept money from Government offered largely for road improvements, if it is the only funding available.

5. Concluding comments

5.1 TAG has made significant efforts to address the shortcomings in the development of transport and road policies over the past few years and has submitted many papers to Government and HOC Transport Committee. Unfortunately many of the shortcomings in the Government Transport policies and s trategies now appear in th e I nfrastructure Bill. While we have drawn attention to some details supporting this submission in Appendices 1-3 we would also like to submit as appendices our evidence to HOCTC on the National Networks National Policy Statement draft and our submission to Government on the ‘arms length’ proposals for the Highways Agency as Appendices 4 & 5.

5.2 Please do not hesitate to contact me or other TAG colleagues if you require us to appear before the committee (which we would welcome) or if you require further information, explanation or copies of other documents.

December 2014

Prepared 6th January 2015