Select Committee on Economic Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 357-359)

Professor Andrew Evans

14 FEBRUARY 2006

  Professor Evans: I will do my best, My Lord Chairman.

  Q357  Chairman: Professor Evans, we are delighted to see you and we are most grateful to you for coming to give us some help with our inquiry. I know you want to get away, so if it comes to the point where you have really got to go, just give us a signal and we will completely understand. We are going to try and ask our questions in as short and succinct manner as we can, and I have no doubt you will give us clear and short answers if that is possible.

  Q358  Chairman: Thank you very much. I am told to say to all our witnesses, speak up and speak slowly, if that is not a contradiction of what I said earlier, in order that we can hear what you are going to tell us. If I may start, willingness-to-pay values of safety have been used for some time now in both road and rail safety project appraisal, and I gather they are recommended by the Treasury. What we would really like to know is whether you think in principle this method is appropriate, and if this method is used should then the same values be applied to all transport modes, or are there good reasons for using different values in different contexts?

  Professor Evans: I think that willingness-to-pay is an appropriate method for valuing the prevention of casualties, and the main reason for that is that it is consistent with the principles under which other attributes are valued in economic appraisal, so I am quite content with that. The only qualification I would make is that I am not personally a direct researcher into establishing these values; I rely on other people's results and I rely on assessments by colleagues who I, as it were, respect as to the reliability of the conclusions. In a sense, therefore, it is slightly second-hand for me, but subject to what my colleagues say I think it is an appropriate principle.

  Q359  Chairman: Then the question about using different values in different contexts.

  Professor Evans: One general point is that I am reluctant to give different values in different contexts, because I am very conscious that, if you do adopt different values, whatever safety resources you deploy you will not minimise the number of deaths by having different values, and if you are not going to minimise the number of deaths you need quite strong reasons not to do so. My view is that I cannot see any general reasons for valuing casualties differently on the different modes. There might be some specific reasons, but generally I do not think there is any reason for saying rail and road should have different values. That is for casualties; there might be some differences in the valuation of preventing accidents which involve other losses beside casualties like disruption and damage et cetera; you may have a different average package for the different modes, but I think the casualties themselves would be the same. However, the one qualification I would also make to that is that you might have different values in different contexts, and the one that is most persuasive to me, which has been effectively put on the table lately by the Rail Safety and Standards Board, is the valuation of trespasser casualties. It seems quite reasonable to argue that they should not be valued at zero, but there should be a lower valuation for preventing them than, as it were, law-abiding citizens.

  Chairman: That is very helpful and very clear. Lord Macdonald.

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