Select Committee on Mersey Tunnels Bills Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 420-439)

MR CHARLES GEORGE QC and MISS JOANNA CLAYTON.

BIRCHAM DYSON BELL and MR JOHN McGOLDRICK examined

420. Those are in the Bill so the Committee have got the list there. The only other matter I wanted to ask you about was clause 91(1)(e) of the Bill. Mr McGoldrick entirely correctly referred to what I said yesterday, which is that that would enable you to repay the local authorities. What my instructing agent has pointed out to me is that so far as making the noise insulation patents, we have looked at where they have the power to make them, but in order to pay them out of the toll monies, that also would fall within little (e) as another purpose, otherwise in that list of matters on which you can spend the toll money there is no expressed reference to the acoustic works. Is that also your understanding?

(Mr Wilkinson) Yes, it is. I think Mr George referred to the wrong section, I think it is 91(3)(e), but that is indeed my understanding and I omitted to mention that earlier. I apologise.

421. CHAIRMAN: Mr George, you kindly said yesterday that you would be happy for an amendment to go down to the Bill to define "other purposes" and at that stage - you have just corrected yourself - you said it referred only to the £28 million MDC loan. You have now, I am sure correctly, added to that for acoustic works. Do the Promoters still stand by a statement to say that they would be prepared to see an amendment if "other purposes" was so defined as restricted to the loan and acoustic works?

422. MR GEORGE: My understanding of the position is that we do not believe that any amendment is necessary. If the Committee were to require an amendment, I am satisfied that an amendment could be drafted which refined down the meaning of the phrase. Essentially what we say is that, in any event, we cannot spend money on anything which is outside our general powers and therefore for that reason it is not necessary, it could only be spent on matters which it is lawful for Merseytravel to do. If the Committee were to indicate that they required us as a condition of the Bill proceeding to bring forward an amendment then certainly as a matter of technical drafting it could be done.

423. CHAIRMAN:Thank you. That is very helpful. Does that finish the examination and cross-examination of Mr Wilkinson?

424. MR GEORGE: Yes, my Lord Chairman, subject to any questions the Committee may have.

425. CHAIRMAN: Do the Committee have any questions?No. Thank you.

The Witness withdrew

MR PHILIP BATES, Sworn

Examined by MR GEORGE

426. MR GEORGE: My second witness and my last witness is Mr Bates and he is going to be a great deal quicker than the first witness at any rate in chief. If I could introduce you to the Committee and we can turn in the exhibits bundle to C1. Are you Mr Phil Bates?

(Mr Bates) I am.

427. You say at C1 that you are an Associate of the transport consultancy Steer Davies Gleave and you tell us about your past history, your experience as an adviser in relation to tolls and light rail schemes and on the right-hand column you tell us a little bit about Steer Davies Gleave who are one of the world's independent transport consultancies and you set out some of the work in which they are involved and we need not take any further time on that. If we then turn the page to C2, I think the evidence which you are going to give is on three matters which are underlined in C2. First of all, if we could look briefly at the nature of the traffic which is crossing the Mersey; secondly, at the indexing tolls to the Retail Price Index, and thirdly, and very briefly, a glance at the Merseyside economy and particularly looking at the Wirral. Is that right?

(Mr Bates) That is correct.

428. If as a starter we turn the page to C3, could you just briefly put the tunnels in the context of movement by road in Merseyside?

(Mr Bates) Obviously the toll has been in existence now for quite a long time and it has become engrained within the way people behave and travel. Motorists on the Wirral, if they wish to go to other destinations within the UK, have very good motorway connections. Just under 73 per cent of the population is under two miles from a motorway junction at a crow flying distance, with everybody being less than five miles from a motorway junction.

429. Just stop there for a moment. We are talking about people who live in the Wirral and in the bottom right-hand corner the Committee has got a box and your figure of 73 per cent is obtained if one totals the figures in the right-hand column of the box, the 1.9, the 9.5 and the 34 and the 27.4. Those come together to 72.8 per cent, is that right?

(Mr Bates)Correct.

430. So far as these lines which are drawn, they are from junctions on the motorway and we can count out from the centre: the first is 0.5 kilometres, then we are out to 1 kilometre, then to 2, then to 3 and this 73 per cent applied to the people who were living within 3 kilometres of one of the junctions of the M53. Is that right?

(Mr Bates) That is correct.

431. So far as the eight kilometres which you mentioned, that only applies in the top left of the plan where we can see the most western part of the Wirral. That is the area which is between seven and eight kilometres from the nearest junction, is it not?

(Mr Bates) That is correct.

432. Your overall conclusion then?

(Mr Bates) Obviously the population of the Wirral is very well connected to that motorway, that is the M53. The M53 leads to the M56 and then the M56 leads to the M6, so people in the Wirral have very good connections to the rest of the UK.

433. How does that relate to tunnel usage?

(Mr Bates) Obviously as a consequence the tunnel is effectively used by local traffic accessing the Merseyside region. There is access to the rest of the network without incurring the toll, and by a very high standard road network.

434. If I live in the Wirral or out to the west, and I want to get to Liverpool, what are the options?

(Mr Bates) If I want to travel from the Wirral to Liverpool I have four basic options. I can travel by road through the two tunnels; I can travel by rail, which again is a tunnel under the river; I can travel by bus - buses use the tunnel; and I can also use the Mersey ferries.

435. If we look at your Exhibit C.4, Lady Saltoun was yesterday asking about the ferries, and I promised her I was going to come back to the ferries. The black line shows the passengers still using the ferries. Is that right?

(Mr Bates) That is correct, yes.

436. We see on the lefthand side the various percentages for all trips. On the righthand side there is the figure for trips to Liverpool city centre. What observation do you have about the differences between your two columns?

(Mr Bates) Obviously the difference to note is the blue box, which is the travel by road, reduces dramatically as a percentage of total trips; and the red box which represents travel by rail increases; showing clearly that the mode of choice of people travelling to Liverpool city centre changes towards public transport, such that public transport is actually the dominant mode from the Wirral into the centre of Liverpool. This is reflected in the fact that the trains from the Wirral to Liverpool are very good. There are about 16 trains an hour in the a.m. peak; and that it takes about four minutes to travel from one side of the Mersey to the other on the train.

437. If we then turn on to your next, which is C.5, you break down the car trips to Liverpool city centre. Could you give the Committee your observations?

(Mr Bates) What this is trying to do, this is looking at the number of trips per car-owning household to travel to the centre of Liverpool. What we would anticipate is that the closer a location is to the centre of Liverpool the more trips to the centre. Obviously as you move geographically further from the centre of Liverpool you will be getting fewer trips as other destinations attract. What is particularly noticeable about this is that there is quite a significant difference between Knowsley and the Wirral. If you look at a map of the region you will see that Knowsley lies to one side of Liverpool, and the Wirral lies to the other, and are broadly equidistant from Liverpool to the centre. What this enables us to do is to assess the level of what calls the "suppression" of trips into the city centre as a consequence of the toll facility. Effectively what this is showing is that the existence of the toll over the last 70 years effectively alters the way people behave, such that we get less travel into Liverpool than we might expect had the toll not be there.

438. MR GEORGE: You would expect Wirral to be behaving the same as Knowsley but for the tunnel?

439. BARONESS McINTOSH OF HUDNALL: One might question whether the thing that suppressed the traffic was the presence of the river, rather than the existence of the toll?

(Mr Bates) In terms of drive times, for example, there would be no difference to drive across. Whether the river itself creates a mental barrier is always a difficult one to interpret, but I think it reflects an inherent barrier to travel.


 
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