Examinations of Witnesses (Questions 260-279)
MR CHARLES GEORGE QC and MISS JOANNA CLAYTON, BIRCHAM
The Petition of David Loudon, John McGoldrick and
MR JOHN McGOLDRICK examined
260. CHAIRMAN: That is extremely helpful,
Mr George. Thank you most sincerely. Do we have that in any
of our bundles?
261. MR GEORGE: No, my Lord. You will have
262. May I apologise for repeating. I cannot give
evidence, and I did not want someone to say later that the witness
had not mentioned it. But I take that point, my Lord.
263. I am told we can circulate the noise insulation
regulations now. It is the schedule which is the key matter.
264. CHAIRMAN: I doubt whether we will want
to comment any further on those at this stage, because we have
not had a chance to look at them, so I suggest we press on.
265. MR GEORGE: We will press on straight
away. I wanted to turn to the local transport plan and what the
surplus moneys could be spent on. First of all, Mr Wilkinson,
to what extent is Merseyside dependent on public transport as
opposed to the private car?
My Lords, Merseyside is hugely dependent on public transport.
The level of car ownership on Merseyside is quite low compared
to the national figure. Something in the region of 62 per cent
of households have a car, 38 per cent of households have no car
at all, and that is the main reason why we have, we think, in
the region of 400,000 Merseysiders regularly making a trip on
local public transport every day.
266. Let us turn to exhibit B30, page 87. We can
see there the 38 per cent with no car, and the one car, 42 per
cent. The Committee may not be very familiar with other areas.
How does this stand compared with other areas?
It is low, my Lords, compared with, for example, the West Midlands
or Greater Manchester, which in both cases have car ownership
10 per cent higher than the Merseyside figure. So those without
in those two areas are probably about 28 per cent of the population,
whereas in Merseyside it is 38 per cent of the population.
267. If we look at page 87 and the position so far
as Liverpool city itself is concerned, we see those very high
figures under the no cars.
That is right, my Lords. There is the average for the county
of 38 per cent, which disguises the fact that in Liverpool it
is as high as 48 per cent. Nearly one in two households has no
car as a basic means of transportation.
268. What is the key policy of the Merseyside local
transport plan, that is, the local transport plan for the entirety
The plan has a variety of strands to it. The plan sees public
transport as supporting sustainable economic development. We
are required under the Transport Act to produce a plan that promotes
safe, integrated, efficient and economic transport. That we believe
we are doing, with our district council partners. There are other
aspects to the strategy: to moderate the upward trend in car use.
Harking back to the schedule, for example, exhibit B30, the census
in 1991 would show that car ownership at that stage was 55 per
cent across Merseyside; it has gone up to something in the region
of 62 per cent in ten years. It is something which the plan seeks
269. So far as the preparation of the local transport
plan - I held that up to the Committee earlier - is there consultation
before the local transport plan is adopted?
Extensive consultation, my Lords. The plan is not only jointly
produced with the borough district councils of Merseyside, but
it is widely circulated to all neighbouring local authorities,
to business and commerce, to universities, to trade unions, to
public transport operators, to motoring organisations. We give
it the widest possible spread for consultation purposes.
270. The local transport plan lists all sorts of
projects. Can you very briefly - the Committee do not want the
detail of this - indicate the sort of matters upon which this
surplus toll would be spent? You cannot guarantee it would be
spent on any particular item because that will have to be judged
at the particular time, and we know that initially it is rather
small surpluses, but can you just give the Committee the flavour
of the matter?
As far as the bus network is concerned, we would probably spend
the money on more smart bus services. That is one of our flagships.
It means spending money on improving buses in a particular corridor,
the street furniture in the corridor, the information provided
to passengers and so on. We would like to continue and accelerate
the upgrading of the Merseyrail system, part of which is under
way. That includes very specifically the electrification of the
Bidston to Wrexham service - initially to the Woodchurch estate
on the Wirral. We believe that would provide an alternative to
many people who currently use the Mersey Tunnels.
271. Can you pause there. We need to go back to
bundle A, exhibit A4, page 4. If we go to the Wirral, we can
pick up Birkenhead, and just below where Birkenhead is written
in red there is Bidston. Do you see that, Mr Wilkinson?
Yes, I do.
272. You talked about electrification of the line
from Woodchurch. Is that right?
I did, my Lords.
273. We can see Woodchurch: south of Upton and between
Upton and Thingwall we can see Woodchurch.
It is there on the map, my Lords, the Woodchurch Estate. We would
propose to establish a new railway station to serve that estate
of 4,000 people and to electrify that line and dovetail into the
Merseyrail Electric's network, providing 15-minute frequencies
of services into Liverpool city centre.
274. You have given an example of buses, and you
have given an example of electrification. Is there any other
aspect which you would like particularly to draw to the Committee's
There are numerous ones, my Lords. I could go on at length. Ultimately,
we need new rolling stock for the Merseyrail network. We would
like to introduce a smartcard system on Merseyside. We want to
improve the information supply as part of our public transport
improvements. We would like to do something about freight rail
lines. We also, of course, have a scheme afoot for the provision
of a three-line Mersey tram, a light rail system to be built over
the next decade.
275. £25 million sounds an awful lot of money
for a year, but of course, set against the whole of the local
transport budget for a particular year, it is not that large a
sum, is it?
No, it is not, and if available, my Lords, in 25 years' time,
of course, in theory would at least sustain either debt charges
on capital projects or it would be available to meet the running
costs of a variety of the sort of projects you see photographs
of in the bundle before you.
276. We have this wish-list of public transport
projects which are in the local transport plan, Mr Wilkinson.
In one scenario you are going to have an income stream available
from the tolls which could make a contribution towards it. If
you do not have that income stream, how are these works financed
and over what sort of timescale?
The normal funding cocktail for local transport plan schemes is
as follows: effectively, there are grants from the Department
of Transport, rarely given, I have to say; borrowing approvals,
more frequently given, but grudgingly given; we have been successful
in obtaining grant from the European Regional Development Fund
from the Merseyside Objective 1 status; we have been equally quite
successful in obtaining contributions from partners, from developers,
for example, who contribute to the schemes that we are involved
in. The last port of call at this point in time is our levy on
the five district councils in Merseyside. The difficulty with
that, of course, is that increasing our levy is a very unpopular
act as far as the district councils are concerned. They often
maintain that any increase in our levy means a reduction in spending
on their own range of services to make room for our costs.
277. Moving to an entirely different topic, local
consultation on the Bill, I showed the Committee the list of those
who were consulted with your consultation paper when the Bill
was being considered. Do you have any comments on the matter?
How full was that consultation exercise?
We followed the advice on the public consultation process to the
letter. We covered a period of three months, we sent follow-up
letters, giving people the opportunity to give a reply if they
had not already done so. We tried to give it publicity on the
website, we tried to get news stories featured in the press, and
we accepted responses from anyone, whether they had been consulted
directly originally or whoever wrote in. We tried to make it
the widest possible response.
278. Could we turn in bundle A to A16, page 33.
There are there set out the four questions which were asked and
the various responses. Mr Wilkinson, to the best of your knowledge,
is that an accurate summary in the document at page 33?
Yes, it is.
279. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of people
responded that they did not want the surplus toll income used
to cross-subsidise local public transport services. Do you have
any comment on that matter?
My first comment would be that I was surprised at the low level
of response. We contacted 12,000 Fast Tag users and got just
over 300 replies. I was entirely surprised to find that those
who felt the toll should be index-linked with inflation were almost
equivalent to those who disagreed with that. I was less surprised
to find that there was a large majority who wanted to keep the
requirement to reduce tolls when the tunnels' debt was paid off.
In the summary of responses I included some responses from Merseytravel
to a number of the points made by respondents, because people
did not just say "This is my view"; they gave reasons
for their view, and some of those reasons were misguided or based
on inaccurate facts, and I just felt it was right and proper to
try to explain matters and give background to some people who
had misunderstood the situation.
There was a majority against using toll income to
subsidise public transport services. I well understand that,
and I was not in the least bit surprised by that factor.