Select Committee on Mersey Tunnels Bills Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 440-459)



440. I think the trend that I would like it to reflect is the difference between Knowsley and the Wirral in relation to Liverpool city centre is that the Wirral is on the other side of the river and Knowsley is not. There is no barrier other than the distance?

(Mr Bates) In terms of drive-time there is no difference accessing, clearly if one believes that these mental perceptions build up as a physical barrier; but do not forget there have been people moving across the river for many years because there used to be vehicle ferries before the tunnel - the baggage boats. Indeed, the whole purpose of building the tunnel was because it was felt the Wirral was very closely connected to Liverpool and needed a connection to enable that to occur. I would say the Wirral has always seen itself as part of Merseyside, and is particularly very closely linked to Liverpool. What is reflected is a suppression effect of the toll. Indeed, if one then takes this a step further and says, "If we might imagine the Wirral would behave in a similar manner to Knowsley had the toll not been in place", then in fact we can estimate that there are about 1,500 vehicles in the peak hour alone which are not travelling into Liverpool as a consequence of the toll. This is having a significant suppression effect in terms of car trips to the city centre.

441. CHAIRMAN: Mr Bates, you made considerable play, I am sure correctly, when looking at C.4 on the excellent and frequency of rail travel from the Wirral to Liverpool. How does that compare with rail travel from Knowsley to Liverpool?

(Mr Bates) Knowsley also has two different rail lines.

442. How many per hour in the rush hour?

(Mr Bates) A similar sort of level. I do not know exactly to be perfectly honest with you, but similar levels. Do not forget that the high frequency of the trains is in fact in part a product of the demand for it. Services will be provided to meet the demand. In reality part of the high frequency is the product of the demand for an alternative method to cross the river. They are, by definition, circular in terms of their existence. This is undoubtedly why there is quite a high usage of public transport from the Wirral into Liverpool. One of the ways in which the toll has been addressed is by people using a more sustainable, more environmentally acceptable mode into the centre of Liverpool.

443. LORD BRADSHAW: Historically the Wirral was part of Cheshire and Knowsley was part of Lancashire. The Wirral was much better served by train services than Knowsley. Historically there were very good trains because of the investment in those train services by the original Mersey Train Company. I think if you asked people from Wirral they would not take very kindly to be described as "Merseysiders". I agree that there is a geographical divide.

(Mr Bates) That is obviously an issue for one's own interpretation. I am sure Lord Bradshaw would agree that cost has an implication upon mode choice and destination choice. I am sure you would agree that, by definition, the existence of the toll must be affecting the way people travel around.

444. CHAIRMAN: It will have an effect.

445. MR GEORGE: You gave a figure of 1,500 as an attempt to quantify it for the peak hour. Do you have a table in which you show the mathematics of the 1,500. We will not burden the Committee with it, but could you just say how you get to 1,500 and if the Committee want a table they can have it.

(Mr Bates) There are effectively 134,300 car-owning households in the Wirral. If you multiply 134,300 by the trip rates for one, and then by the trip rate for the other, and then deduct the difference that, effectively, is the suppression measurement.

446. CHAIRMAN: I must challenge you on the suppression element. It is the difference - it is not necessary the "suppression element"; it is the statistical difference.

(Mr Bates) It is the statistical difference. In my opinion it is a reflection of it.

447. Indeed, that is your opinion of it, but that is all it is. That is not provable.

(Mr Bates) It is almost unprovable anyway, not least because what you have to remember is the toll has been in place for so long it has created a whole historic different pattern of travel. This has been here for 70 years, and indeed the ferries beforehand were charged as well. So what you have is historically a completely different pattern such that it is quite possible people do not even realise they are doing it now. It has just become a behaviour pattern that people do. That does not mean it is not the toll that is causing it.

448. MR GEORGE: I think the matters have been identified but are very difficult to quantify, but all transport planners tend to work on journey distance times and costs of journeys. Is that right?

(Mr Bates) That is correct.

449. There may be other matters but, of course, they are the unquantifiable. 1,500 for peak hour. What is your figure for the off peak?

(Mr Bates) You do the same calculation for the off peak and you get 950 vehicles an hour.

450. If we then turn on to Exhibit C.6 you break down the origins and destinations of tunnel users. One straightaway sees there is a blue portion. The 2 per cent is a very small number of people who have got both an origin and a destination outside Merseyside?

(Mr Bates) That is correct, yes.

451. So far as the 76 per cent are concerned, they have got both their origin and their destination inside Merseyside; and so far as the yellow is concerned, they have got either an origin or a destination inside Merseyside?

(Mr Bates) Correct.

452. We have got, therefore, 98 per cent, if we add 76 per cent and the 22 per cent, who would potentially directly benefit from any improvements which are brought about by public transport in Merseyside?

(Mr Bates) That is correct, yes.

453. Can we just pause here for a moment, because some members of the Committee may be wondering whether, if the Bill was to proceed, the money should be spent not on Merseyside generally but on a smaller area of Merseyside - the area close to the tunnel. Could you please give your observations on that matter and generally on the use to be made of the money?

(Mr Bates) I think one has to be very careful with those sorts of assumptions. What we have increasingly understood over the last five to ten years is the travel patterns are far more complex than simply A to B journeys. Indeed, increasingly we realise we have to take a far more holistic view of the whole journey to understand how we might affect it. If I can give you four examples to highlight this. Example one is what one might call the multi-leg trip, where if someone was travelling from, say, the Wirral to the Knowsley Business Park, which is a large employment area on the far side of Knowsley, at the moment you can get a train from Wirral to the centre of Liverpool - a fairly good service, which is fairly frequent - and that in theory might attract you to use public transport rather than the car. However, to get to Knowsley Business Park there is not, at the moment, a railway station at Knowsley Business Park; therefore, your second leg of the journey is in fact very unattractive by public transport because of this problem of the absence of a railway station. Clearly, therefore, if one was to spend money in improving the movement between Liverpool and Knowsley Business Park you might in fact attract people from their cars using the tunnel into public transport. Clearly the money is being spent geographically at a location quite distant from the tunnel. That is one good example of where this more holistic approach needs to be taken. The second thing to understand is that a lot of trips are multi-model, or multi-activity, and therefore often an improvement to an adjacent element of the journey might affect a change. There are two examples I can think of. One at the moment is that a lot of journey to school initiatives have been progressed to encourage people not to drive their children to school. Clearly, an initiative that encourages children to make a journey to school other than by car in fact frees up part of the car journey for someone who is currently dropping his child off at school. That clearly is a benefit to that person. That person might have to divert from school before going through the tunnel or whatever. Clearly, that would be a benefit to him but it might seem to be an unrelated issue. In the same way, if I travel from the Wirral to central Liverpool, I may at lunchtime wish to go to a social facility or a service facility somewhere in the city centre, where good public transport in the centre of Liverpool would be very convenient to me to move around the city to go to banks, solicitors or other facilities. That might not immediately appear to be directly related to that journey across the river, but clearly would be of benefit to me. Of course, what we must remember is that every time somebody who currently drives in a car switches to public transport everybody else who stays in their car gets a benefit. Even if I do not myself make a change but other people do, then I still get the benefit as a road user through less congestion. I think the other concerns with defining boundaries is that if it there was a bottleneck problem immediately outside that boundary then again it is difficult to address. I think one of the reasons why people are nervous to define boundaries is that the problem becomes just outside and you are always constrained that you just cannot spend that money that little bit further out. That is why we feel that the Merseyside region as what we call the "journey to work region" for the area is the most appropriate area.Finally, I think, Merseyside and the four highway agencies - and we must remember that the Local Transport Plan is progressed not just by the Public Transport Authority, but also by the four highway agencies - are also operating as regeneration agencies as well. The fundamental problem actually in Liverpool is economic regeneration and money that can be spent on economic regeneration of the region will in fact feed back to everybody in a virtuous circle of greater employment, greater spending in the region leading to greater employment, as I said, what we call the "virtual circle", so in that respect again a regional approach to spending in fact will still give benefits to people who use the tunnel.

454. You said four highway authorities. There are five local authorities, so there are five highway authorities, are there not?

(Mr Bates) That is indeed correct.

455. Is all transport planning in Merseyside done now on a pan-Merseyside basis?

(Mr Bates) Yes, it is all driven through the Local Transport Plan where the highway authorities and the Public Transport Authority, which is Merseytravel, work together for a holistic approach to transport, as I said, reflecting all the issues I have just discussed.

456. And is there any form of sensible alternative, in your view, if there is to be hypothecation other than a hypothecation which is limited to spending on transport in Merseyside?

(Mr Bates) No.

457. We move on to the RPI point. We can turn first to your exhibit C7. That is set out. Can you help with this, Mr Bates, as to why the RPI rather than any other measure?

(Mr Bates) I think there are two reasons. Basically the RPI measure is measured independently. Therefore, the general public has a lot of confidence in it because it is independently measured. It also is a measure which has been recorded for a very long time. You can actually find RPI indices going back to 1947 and clearly so much now is linked to RPI that it is inevitably an index which will continue into the future.

458. In the early days of the Bill and its predecessor, there were suggestions that one ought to be having some construction index rather than the RPI. If we turn over to exhibit C8, you have set out first of all in black the RPI which we can see and also a variety of other indices which could have been contemplated. Your observation please.

(Mr Bates) Simply here I am showing that in fact construction price indices have increased at a much faster rate than RPI. Therefore, the adoption of RPI by Mersey tunnels will in effect enforce efficiencies in their activities anyway because construction work will undoubtedly be going up at a higher rate.

459. I explained to the Committee yesterday the function of the RPI, the two broad policy objectives, which are maintaining the status quo of travel costs and ensuring that revenues kept pace with the increases in tunnel costs. Do I correctly state the matter there?

(Mr Bates) Yes, you do.

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2004