20 Jan 2015 : Column GC357

20 Jan 2015 : Column GC357

Grand Committee

Tuesday, 20 January 2015.

Arrangement of Business


3.30 pm

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Viscount Ullswater) (Con): My Lords, if there is a Division in the House, the Committee will adjourn for 10 minutes.

National Networks: National Policy Statement

Motion to Take Note

Moved by Baroness Kramer

That the Grand Committee takes note of the National Policy Statement for National Networks.

3.31 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Kramer) (LD): My Lords, I welcome this second debate on the Government’s National Policy Statement for National Networks. I will use the abbreviation NPS, if I may, in the course of this debate. This House previously debated the draft NPS on 8 May 2014 and made a valuable contribution to shaping that final document. I can confirm that the final NPS has been voted on and approved in the other place—the procedure that allows for the document to be formally designated. That said, I welcome the opportunity to update this Committee on the positive changes that have been made in response to comments received through both the parliamentary scrutiny process and the public consultation. For far too long we have suffered stop-start in infrastructure investment, which is in no one’s interest. Investment, such as we are seeing in road and rail, not only improves the transport system but creates jobs. This NPS represents long-term planning that looks to the future.

It might be helpful if I begin by clarifying the role and purpose of the NPS. The NPS has a specific purpose: it will provide planning guidance for promoters of nationally significant infrastructure projects on our road and rail networks and for strategic rail freight interchanges. It sets out at a strategic level the need for development of our national networks and establishes clear, high-level policies by which any nationally significant infrastructure project on these networks will need to be decided.

Our national networks are already under considerable pressure, which is expected to increase further. Long-term drivers of demand to travel—GDP and, particularly, population—are forecast to increase substantially over the coming years and continue to influence the path of travel demand, even taking into account other important drivers such as changes to demographics. The development of our national networks and the improved connectivity it provides can also unlock regional economic growth and regeneration, particularly in the most disadvantaged

20 Jan 2015 : Column GC358

areas. Broader environmental, air-quality, safety and accessibility goals will also generate requirements for development to address safety issues, improve the environment and enhance accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists. The final NPS has benefited from earlier discussions with noble Lords in these areas; I will highlight some of those in more detail later in my speech.

Of course, the NPS needs to be seen in the context of other, wider transport strategy documents, such as the rail investment strategy and the recently published road investment strategy. These documents show that the Government take the need to invest in transport infrastructure seriously. The first ever road investment strategy outlines how £15.2 billion will be invested in our strategic roads between 2015 and 2021 and is part of a radical transformation of how we run our major roads. Between 2014 and 2019, Network Rail will be delivering a £38 billion programme to help transform the busiest parts of Britain’s rail network, helping to deliver more and better journeys. The Government’s rail investment strategy, also known as the HLOS, will support more than £11 billion of infrastructure enhancement in that period to run and improve the rail network, supporting economic growth and jobs and delivering a greener, more cost-efficient railway that is better for freight and better for passengers. All that is in addition to the investment committed for HS2.

The national policy statement supports a significant and balanced package of improvements across the road and rail networks, including improvements in safety, resilience, maintenance, environmental performance and access for cyclists and pedestrians. Indeed, the development of the strategic road network is primarily about upgrading the existing network rather than building new roads. Almost 40% of the investment in this and the next Parliament is for maintenance, and more than 80% of the schemes in the current programme are smart motorways.

Following the previous debate on the draft NPS held on 8 May last year, I have kept noble Lords who expressed concern updated on progress. The final NPS has taken those concerns into consideration and addressed them as far as possible. Those concerns included road traffic forecasts and appraisal, as well as impacts on local roads and transport policies. Some of those issues were too complex and technical to address in a debate and so I wrote individually to those noble Lords.

Turning to the final NPS, I would like to set out how a number of issues which have been raised by noble Lords have been dealt with in the final document.

I begin with forecasts. Road traffic forecasts and their prominence in the draft NPS were challenged in the consultation and parliamentary scrutiny process. The updated forecasts in the NPS have made use of new scenarios that take into account changes in travel behaviour that have been observed over recent years. These indicate that even with conservative scenarios of overall traffic growth, we still expect significant growth on the strategic road network. We also expect greater divergence between traffic in different locations. We have highlighted in the final NPS that the Government’s

20 Jan 2015 : Column GC359

aim is to tackle congestion rather than meet the level of growth forecast. This is why I can say confidently that we are not reverting back to a policy of “predict and provide”.

It is important to understand that the NPS does not mean that the national traffic forecasts will be used as the means to justify individual developments. Individual schemes will need to use local models to justify development and to understand local impacts. They will be subject to a full transport business case.

For rail, passenger demand is predicted to continue to grow significantly. Total average growth in passenger kilometres from 2011 to 2033 is predicted to rise by just over 50%, including phase 1 of HS2.

I turn to the environment. Following the consultation and earlier debates, we have further strengthened environmental protections. For example, we now have a presumption against road widening or new roads in national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. We have also made a number of other changes, including strengthening the text on biodiversity, landscape, land use and noise.

The NPS recognises that integration between modes is important, and the route strategies that feed into the rail and road investment strategies provide ample opportunity to integrate development where that is sensible. There is now an explicit expectation in the NPS that assessment of alternative transport solutions and modes takes place at the investment appraisal stage—that is, prior to the NPS—and evidence that that has taken place should be available.

The road investment strategy shows us that with improvements in design, the progressive decarbonisation of the vehicle fleet, and higher environmental and safety standards, there is no longer a forced trade-off between a well functioning road and rail network and a well protected environment. Some funds in the road investment strategy have been ring-fenced to ensure that interventions are sustainable and beneficial to society as a whole. They include a £250 million cycling, safety and integration fund to deliver, among other things, improved cycling facilities on 200 sections of the network, and a £150 million innovation fund to exploit novel and innovative technologies and techniques in road construction and management.

This Government take air quality seriously, and the NPS recognises the impact that new road and rail infrastructure can have on it. Over £2 billion has been invested in measures to increase the uptake of ultra-low-emission vehicles, sustainable travel and green transport initiatives. The Government have also committed £100 million to improve air quality on the strategic road network as part of the road investment strategy. This is on top of a commitment to have environmental measures built into all new road schemes as standard.

The policy in the NPS states that promoters of nationally significant infrastructure projects should identify air quality impacts and put suitable mitigation measures in place. These measures may affect the project design, layout and construction and may comprise measures to improve air quality in pollution hotspots outside the immediate locality of the scheme. The measures

20 Jan 2015 : Column GC360

could include changes to the route of a new scheme, barriers to trap or disperse emissions or speed control. Where a scheme results in a zone that is currently compliant with the air quality directive becoming non-compliant, or if the proposed timescale in which a zone is expected to achieve compliance is affected, the NPS is clear that the scheme should not go ahead.

We have listened to concerns raised on the importance of reducing carbon. The Government have already set stretching legally binding carbon budgets, which the NPS supports, but a planning inquiry on an individual road development is not the place to have a debate on our national carbon reduction strategy. Carbon impacts will still continue to form a key part of the transport appraisal and decision-making process for road schemes. We make it clear that applicants for any new schemes should provide evidence of the carbon impact of the project and an assessment against the Government’s carbon budgets.

The final NPS is clear that applicants should include design as an integral consideration from the outset and that independent, professional advice on design is taken. Visual appearance should be a key factor in considering the design of new infrastructure, as well as functionality, fitness for purpose, sustainability and cost. Good design goes towards ensuring that a development is sustainable, as aesthetically sensitive as possible, durable, adaptable and resilient. It contributes to safety and accessibility so that all users, including disabled people, have their needs met. The new company, Highways England, if established under the Infrastructure Bill, which is progressing through the Commons at the moment, will be required to establish a design panel to provide advice on design issues, which will be invaluable in ensuring that development takes account of geographical, environmental and socioeconomic considerations. This is further evidence that we have listened and responded on the matter of design.

New developments provide an opportunity to make significant safety improvements; indeed, some developments may have safety as a key objective. Our roads and railways are among the safest in the world but there is always room for improvement. The rail industry is required by law to consider the impact on safety of any proposed changes. The frequency of train accidents with passenger or workforce fatalities is now at the lowest level ever, despite more passengers and miles travelled.

The Government’s vision, in which Britain remains a world leader in road safety, is set out in the national Strategic Framework for Road Safety. The NPS sets out clear guidelines on this. A scheme will not be granted development consent unless all reasonable steps have been taken and will be taken to minimise the risk of road casualties arising from the scheme, and the scheme contributes to an overall improvement in the safety of the strategic road network. The road investment strategy includes a key performance indicator of reducing fatalities and serious injuries by 40% by 2020. I take this opportunity to remind the Committee that the NPS is a high-level long-term planning document that does not name specific schemes, as that would not be appropriate in such a document.

20 Jan 2015 : Column GC361

I ask that noble Lords recognise that this final NPS is much improved, following their valuable contributions and public consultation. The NPS has been produced following the requirements of the Planning Act 2008. As I mentioned, it is a high-level planning document. Consideration of issues such as the mode and integration are dealt with much earlier in the phase than this planning stage—essentially, at the investment appraisal stage.

What we have is a document which provides greater certainty for those developing much-needed transport infrastructure, along with robust environmental and safety protections and design requirements, which should help speed up the process for nationally significant infrastructure projects.

I hope that the Committee will welcome this much improved document, and I beg to move that the Committee has considered this NPS.

3.45 pm

Lord Shipley (LD): My Lords, I welcome the Government’s response to the public consultation. It is clear, as my noble friend said, that there has been significant scrutiny. There is evidence that the draft has benefited from that, and the quality of the responses received has clearly been helpful in achieving that.

I place on record that infrastructure investment under this Government has risen over recent years and commend the Government for their commitment to achieving that and rebalancing the economy as they seek to do, because it is important to recognise that transport planning helps to drive growth in all parts of the UK.

I want to raise two specific issues. One relates to integration of transport systems across the UK; the other is a specific query relating to freight. I note that most organisations responding were supportive or neutral. It is noteworthy in paragraph 12 of the executive summary that there were requests for the NPS to adopt a more integrated approach across transport modes. In paragraph 4.11 of the Government’s response, they acknowledge that the,

“professional planning community and scheme promoters also wanted the NPS to provide spatial specificity highlighting where development and specific schemes were needed”.

The Minister rightly referred to that.

I understand that transport strategy, as is made clear in paragraph 4.16, is,

“beyond the scope of this consultation”.

That is understandable, because the NPS is a planning document which represents the decision-making framework for national road, rail and freight interchange projects. It is fundamental to growth strategies, but it is not a national transport plan, although some parts of it share some similarities with it. My point is that we need a UK-wide strategic transport plan. You can call it that, you can call it a strategy or you can call it a policy, but it needs to be a practical, deliverable statement of policy intent to put the road investment strategy, the rail investment strategy and all other transport strategies into context. That context is connectivity for all parts of the UK to support growth.

20 Jan 2015 : Column GC362

Let me give a specific example of what I am getting at by referring to the planning for HS2. I have been puzzled by paragraph 1.9 in the section on the policy context that says that it,

“does not cover High Speed Two”,

because of the hybrid Bill process, although it does set out the,

“policy for development of the road and rail networks and strategic freight interchanges”.

I understand why that is the case given that there is a hybrid Bill for HS2. My query relates to the availability of the plan and the money for connecting existing transport capacity with HS2. As the House of Commons Transport Committee said in recommendation 10, the NPS should,

“make explicit reference to the desirability of connecting HS2 to the classic rail network, so that people from around the UK can benefit from the new high speed rail line”.

My question is: will HS2 link adequately with existing networks and what about the new linkages that will be required where new HS2 stations are constructed outside city centres? I wonder who is doing the thinking on that, who is planning what they will be and who is assessing where the budget will be made available from to pay for it. So that is connectivity. I think that it would be hugely helpful for there to be a UK-wide transport plan that sought to look well into the future, as best we can, about what is needed for all parts of the UK.

I mentioned a specific question in relation to freight. For strategic roads, the NPS covers a very small part of the total number of roads, understandably, but for freight the NPS actually covers two-thirds of freight. My question is whether our policy on connectivity for freight ports is robust enough. Are we clear how—over, say, the next decade—we are going to ensure that all the pinch points, which still exist in some places, that restrict or slow down the connection of goods into ports for export, are assisted? Secondly, on the question of the rail gauge, I have always thought that the work being done by the DfT on rail gauges was sufficient to ensure that containers could move easily to ports. However, there is a question around the potential size of containers and their growth. Although it is true that there may be extra capacity forthcoming through HS2, I wonder what the thinking is on the larger-gauge rail freight systems if they could actually get more freight off the roads and on to rail.

3.51 pm

Lord Berkeley (Lab): I am grateful to the Committee for allowing me to speak for a short time. I apologise for turning up late but my programme said that we were going to start at 3.45 pm. I apologise to the Minister in particular for missing the first part of her speech. I declare an interest as chairman of the Rail Freight Group.

Generally, I welcome this national policy statement. It has been some time coming but in the main it is good, and it will do an awful lot to make strategic development easier and possibly quicker—we will have to see how that works—and should certainly help integration, although the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, has put some questions down that I look forward to hearing the answers to.

20 Jan 2015 : Column GC363

I came across an example a week or two ago when I was privileged to go to the Port of Felixstowe and meet the biggest container ship in the world, which came in there. The Chinese ambassador was there along with other important people. The noble Lord, Lord Deighton, was there, making a very important speech about how good the UK was for business, and how with these big containers you need proper road and rail links inland to ensure that the containers can get away and arrive. I did not say anything in the speeches but I went up to him soon afterwards and said, “The solution is in your hands. Why don’t you speak to the Secretary of State for Transport and a few other colleagues and get the Felixstowe branch doubled and improve the links across the country, which are really bogged down?”. He said, “Well, I’m talking to Hutchison Ports”. I said, “That’s wonderful, but they’re not the people who will actually be doing it”. Maybe the Minister could take that on board and see where it has got to, because it is a major hang-up in getting these extra numbers of containers on to the network to where they want to get to or come from.

My concern echoes the criticism of the Commons Transport Committee about the projections for road and rail that the NPS does not explicitly address the criticisms that many people have made. In a Question in your Lordships’ House a few months ago, we debated the fact that the predictions always show an increase in road traffic, when in fact if the predictions 20 years ago had been true, which said that we would more or less double the amount of traffic, we would probably have more than three times the amount of traffic now than we actually do.

There are many other problems that point to a failure of being able to consider alternative modes. If someone is proposing to build a motorway, or to widen a motorway, to increase the capacity, will anybody look at the alternative for taking it by rail? I think it probably stems from the way in which the projections are done. If you build a bypass or something and you get many millions of cars saving half a minute on their journey, and if you aggregate that up, it will give you a wonderful cost-benefit, in the positive sense, to build the road, without looking to see whether those people could have gone by rail or have cycled or walked. There has been massive criticism of this from groups such as the Campaign for Better Transport and the CPRE, which the Minister will have seen. I wonder whether the time has now come—now that this NPS will, we hope, be confirmed and published and we can all work to it—to reflect on whether there could not be more detailed discussion and investigation into the traffic forecast modelling that the department used, to consult all the experts and to see whether we can get something that is a little more acceptable to many of the users and developers.

3.55 pm

Lord Davies of Oldham (Lab): My Lords, first, I am grateful to the Minister for the way in which she presented the issues in her opening contribution. It was welcome to see the extent to which it was a question not of “predict and prescribe” but of “listen and respond”. That is to be much commended. That is

20 Jan 2015 : Column GC364

listening and responding not only to the general public consultation but to debates in this House and in the other place, which have also contributed significantly to a much improved government position. Still, as the Minister would expect me to say, the Government’s position falls short of the aspirations that have been presented on this side of the Committee.

I am very glad that my noble friend Lord Berkeley was able to enter the debate in the gap, as I feared that I would have to spend considerable time on the issues of rail freight and the relationship to road/rail connections. He provided a crucial dimension on that link and questions for the Minister to answer. I particularly appreciated the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, on connectivity, which I am sure is at the heart of these issues, not just in the areas that he mentioned, but the relationship between the strategic road structure and local roads. We all know that those responsible for our local roads—our local authorities—are having a parlous time at present in sustaining the quality and effectiveness of the roads. It would not be possible to have this debate, however far-reaching and far-looking it was, without emphasising to the Minister that there is a real need which needs to be incorporated into any documents of this kind.

My noble friend Lord Berkeley was kind when he said that the document has been a long time coming. It has been a mighty long time—what I would call a Parliament—in coming. It is, after all, the product of the Planning Act 2008, and here we are with the coalition Government, having taken up the reins of office in 2010, producing a planning document—let me emphasise again that it is a planning document and not a policy document—a couple of months before the next general election. So the Minister stands chided that the Government have neglected these critical issues, and they are critical. The Minister’s response to what has been said in criticism of the original documents shows how critical these issues are. The Government have largely neglected these issues over a considerable time, and that is bound to be a cost to the nation.

It is not as if the Government are not practised at the art of postponing big policy positions until after the general election. This document at least obliges them to respond to a debate in this House a couple of months before the election. However, action—the question of what resources will be available with the Government’s commitment to eliminating the deficit by 2018, if they are in office—raises profound issues. Those can of course be brushed aside by their strategy of not committing themselves too far before the general election. It is a bit like the airport issue, where all the real issues will be dealt with after the next general election.

As my noble friend Lord Berkeley indicated, we welcome the statement because it should ensure that fairer and quicker decisions are taken on major infrastructure projects. We are glad that the extensive work has been done and that there has been the opportunity for a response to the initial documents, which I think on many sides were regarded as somewhat inadequate to the issues which confront us. The Government came in for much criticism, some of it from the Opposition, but the Government would expect that. After all, that is the Opposition’s job.

20 Jan 2015 : Column GC365

The Minister mentioned the Select Committee on Transport in the other place. It emphasised the issues which were developed in the other two speeches that we have heard thus far. In particular, what has been emphasised is the link-up between road freight and rail. The rail freight interchanges are clearly critical, as an issue of connectivity, to the expansion of the economy and the effectiveness of conveying freight. My noble friend Lord Berkeley gave us a most interesting and up-to-date example of that. It was a tremendously important one when we think of the amount of trade that we have with China these days, although I wish that he had picked on the process of the outward movement of goods rather than their inward movement. I would like to think that that massive vessel he referred to and the containers on it were full when going back to China as well as when arriving at Felixstowe in such extraordinary and welcome circumstances, given the size of the vessel.

I hope that the Minister will talk a little more fully about rail freight interchanges and the clear objectives that we must have on almost every dimension of transport policy to get goods, as much as we can, off our crowded roads and on to an expanded rail capacity. This part of the programme might well have been accelerated if this document had been produced somewhat earlier in the Government’s life. However, the statement, after all, is meant to carry across changes of government as an infrastructure position to which both major parties in broad principle subscribe. The other major parties also subscribe to the principles that infrastructure requires some continuity of investment and production. The Minister will be in no doubt that we broadly welcome the statement in those terms. As she will know, we did not press the issue to a vote in the other place.

One issue which I think the Minister touched on and indicated that the Government were responsible for—but I do not think she has given satisfactory responses at this stage—is in response to that criticism which came in from outside bodies, fully voiced by the Select Committee on Transport in the other place, that there seems to be little in the way of serious integration of modes of transport in this country. After all, this statement is no roads and rail statement; it is a roads statement and a rail statement. That indicates the important point that we have to think in terms of the effective connectivity between two major forms of transport on land.

On roads, many well informed critics have detected a return to “predict and provide” rather than clear evaluation of priorities. As my noble friend Lord Berkeley and the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, noted, Governments’ record on prediction—more than one Government—does not give one the greatest degree of confidence and is often characterised by an overestimation of traffic demand. The Campaign for Better Transport was quite emphatic in its criticism of the estimates. The Minister touched on that in her opening statement, but I hope that she will furnish us with more detail on how this will be presented in a more effective and confident form than has been the case in the past.

The central forecasts for rail have remained despite the anxieties of Network Rail, which is in a position to make serious judgments on the matter. It is clearly

20 Jan 2015 : Column GC366

concerned that if expansion is not carried out rapidly enough, present problems of overcrowding in certain parts of the country will remain. We know of parts of northern England where it is acute, but my goodness there are still major problems on commuter lines into London and our other major cities in England. An issue which stood out in the discussion on HS2 was that something had to be done about New Street station in Birmingham because of the sheer pressure of commuter numbers there and the necessity for that station to be vastly improved. Unless that situation is to deteriorate, we need a bit more than HS2, which after all is a considerable way in the distance. We need within this framework some clear realisation of what needs to be done.

The Minister will forgive me if I failed to listen to her opening remarks carefully enough, but it was extraordinary not to hear the word resilience, and I do not think that it appears much in government documents. That gives one the thought that it does not occupy minds much in government in circumstances where we are anxious about climate change and the ferocity of certain aspects of climatic events. The Dawlish phenomenon may not be unique. I give the fullest praise for the way in which Network Rail reconstructed the line at Dawlish so effectively and so quickly, but it did not alter the fact that a significant section of western England was close to being cut off for many weeks. We can think of other pinch points that might be a good deal more disastrous than the line that goes through Dawlish down to the south-west. I hope that the Minister will therefore acknowledge in her response the necessity in planning for rail for a degree of resilience that enables us to overcome real disruptions of existing networks and indicate how provision is made for alternative strategies in the mean time.

Prior to the debates and the Transport Committee’s response, I had anticipated having considerable criticism for the Government’s approach to carbon emissions, which I thought was pretty cursory. In her speech opening the debate, the Minister spent considerable time on that matter, so I will not take it amiss if she feels that she does not have to repeat all that in her winding-up speech. I take pleasure in the fact that that has come to the fore of thinking in circumstances where we know that carbon emissions are an important aspect of the quality of life and health of the public. Certain people happen to inhabit areas much more exposed to that problem than others, and they deserve consideration.

I know that the Minister is concerned about the Highways Agency and the strategic roads, and so she should be, because they are critical. They take so much of our freight and we all rely on an effective motorway system. However, I hope that she will say something about the question of local roads. After all, they are the receivers from and, we hope, deliverers to the main highway system, and there is precious little in the statement about the interconnectivity of local roads.

We broadly welcome the statement. After all, we look forward in a few months to starting to implement certain aspects of it. However, we would feel a good deal more confident about the brief which we will pick

20 Jan 2015 : Column GC367

up if the Minister gave us some convincing replies to the questions asked by the three of us who have spoken after her in this debate.

4.11 pm

Baroness Kramer: My Lords, as usual, this has been an excellent debate, with a significant number of issues raised. I very much appreciate the informed way in which this House approaches what to me are some of the most fascinating issues that a Government could look at, because transport is essential for both quality of life and the economy of the country.

I shall try to address some of those issues. First, this is a planning document and it may well be that some of the issues raised fall very far outside the scope of a planning document, so if I mention those only in passing or omit them, please forgive me. Your Lordships know that I am always happy to discuss those broader issues.

Let me first pick up the issue of forecasting. I am rather pleased with what I think has been a real consideration of methodologies for forecasting now reflected in this final NPS. It is probably true to say, if we look at some of the historical numbers that we have had, that the methodology that has typically been quite reliable for the road network outside the major cities, especially outside London, did not seem to reflect changing patterns within London. Your Lordships will find in the document that more factors have now been brought in. That has been thought through in a broader way to derive the current set of forecasts. Also, the forecasting part of this document looks across a range of scenarios. The reality is that even when you look across a range of scenarios and take a pretty conservative position, there is still a powerful drive in the direction of growing demand.

However, as I said in my opening speech, recognising all that, the Government’s programme has still focused very much on existing roads, hotspots and congestion, rather than a new roads strategy, so we are certainly not in “predict and provide” mode, but we must be conscious as we move through all this work that we are paying attention to growing demand. Frankly, if that was not part of the understanding process, we would find ourselves in real difficulty. A look at the description and discussion of forecasting in the document itself might be of real interest to those with concerns around these issues. A great deal of attention has been paid to this area and, in my eyes, the forecasting is certainly much more sophisticated and appropriate than some which we might have seen in the past. I am not saying that it was bad but that there are more complexities now, which are being introduced into that process.

I want to pick up quickly on the issue of resilience. Chapter 2 of the NPS does that rather well, frankly, so I stress it because resilience is crucial. However, if we are talking about the performance of Network Rail, that is really outside the scope of the planning document. There are lots of issues to discuss there which are not really part of the NPS, but keeping resilience within the frame for an NPS is important and does matter.

20 Jan 2015 : Column GC368

Lord Berkeley: But surely resilience, either on rail or road, includes having alternative modes when something goes wrong. Is that not part of planning?

Baroness Kramer: First, that is reasonably well covered but in terms of determining how you cope with resilience, the resilience study for the south-west—a study which the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, will be very aware of—was also interesting because all modes were looked at in its production. However, it seems to me that it has to be apropos the event location that one is coping with, so we would need resilience on individual modes as well as for broader access. The NPS has that within its language. Part of the way in which the department and the Government are now working is also demonstrated by something like that resilience study, which addressed that wide range of issues. It is picked up again in the RIS where, for example, something such as the A303 is absolutely critical to resilience in access down into the south-west, even though the crisis was on a rail line at Dawlish. To tell the honest truth, I think we have that one sorted.

There are issues of integration and considering an overarching transport plan, which my noble friend Lord Shipley addressed and the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, to some extent echoed. First, if one were to look at page 102 of the planning document—the very last page—it is quite instructive because it shows, as it were, the food chain. To me, the work on looking at alternative modes and setting out a broader transport plan happens much earlier up the food chain than in this planning document. It is too late by the time that progress has got as far as the NPS. There is a section called “strategy and policy”, which is a crucial area to bring in this thought around various modes and a much broader perspective on transport. Critically, and as I think I said in my speech, when it progresses to the investment planning and decision-making phase that would be where the RIS, the route utilisation strategies and the work required in the various control periods for Network Rail would appear. It is at those stages that those issues need to be addressed.

Once it gets to planning, it is not that one ignores integration and alternative modes but we would be just past that point when this document begins to apply. I think that is healthier. I say that for this reason: I look at what seems to have been real progression in this area over the last few years. If I had looked at transport planning even four or five years ago, I am not sure that when we looked at HS2 we would have been so incredibly focused as we are now on building that east-west connectivity across the Midlands and the north. It has become an implicit part of looking at HS2 to talk about not just HS3 but much more complex work. A significant part of the responsibility for that has now been devolved to Transport for the North—that is, having remembered its acronym, TfN—which will be producing its initial report in March. That devolved engagement is crucial to that step. That comes well before we would ever get to an NPS; it is a much earlier piece of thinking. Also, when we look on a project-by-project basis, Sir David Higgins of HS2—my noble friend Lord Shipley specifically raised HS2 and connectivity—has said that that is a key theme. He works closely with Network Rail around those issues, because as he builds rail infrastructure, building in the

20 Jan 2015 : Column GC369

rail interconnection or ensuring that it is optimised will be key. Indeed, one reason that we have not finalised the route for phase 2 is that it is so important to bring connectivity into that picture. Much of that is relatively recent thinking, but it comes at a much earlier stage than the NPS. Very important issues have been highlighted, but I am not sure that they are something for this document. In fact, it would almost be a failure if we were suddenly to start considering that at the NPS stage. It has to have been dealt with much earlier in the process.

I completely agree with the noble Lords, Lord Davies and Lord Berkeley, that rail freight interchanges are crucial. I think that there is now general satisfaction with the provision for that as described in the NPS document. It takes what the industry and much—although not all—of the environmental community thinks is an appropriate approach. We are investing heavily in access to the ports. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, will know of the upgrade from Felixstowe to Northampton. Across the various controlled periods, we are looking at the necessary improvements for port capacity. An area that will need a lot of focus in future years is that HS2 releases west coast main line, east coast main line and Midland main line in ways that create capacity for freight that we have not been able to explore historically. Although freight always has to be near the centre of our thinking, there will be a great deal of change as we explore how we can maximise the benefits of that freed up capacity. That will be important.

On modal shift, we have our revenue fund—about £80 million—to try to encourage a modal shift from road to rail. I am now falling back entirely on memory, but I think that the road investment strategy highlighted some parts of that strategy as ensuring relevant port connectivity. If that is not right, I will write back to your Lordships, but I certainly remember that being a great subject of conversation and I am pretty sure that it ended up in the road investment strategy.

My noble friend Lord Shipley talked about continental gauge. My husband, who is now long dead, was one of the supporters of Central Railway, which proposed a

20 Jan 2015 : Column GC370

dedicated freight line. I think that a Member of Parliament in the other place, Kelvin Hopkins, is a supporter of Eurorail. A number of such projects are coming forward; none is proposed at the moment. It will be complex to consider them until we have a sense of what HS2 releases.

Lord Berkeley: Just for the record, Kelvin Hopkins MP has a scheme which he has been promoting for several years. It is still on his table; whether it is on anyone else’s table, I cannot say.

Baroness Kramer: I do not think that it has come forward to Parliament. I am giving a personal view, but I believe that a major project on that scale is outside the NPS, just as HS2 is, and that the hybrid Bill process would be used because it affects so many communities and so many localised planning issues that require people to have a voice. I cannot believe that it would be appropriate to handle it in any way other than through the hybrid Bill process, but I could certainly be proved wrong in future. My sense is that it belongs there rather than within the NPS framework.

I think that I have covered most of the issues that were raised. As I have said, they are all crucial to transport thinking, so I appreciate the fact that they have been raised in the context of this opportunity to discuss transport. However, we have also to recognise that the NPS is a very specific document meeting a very specific purpose and it is with that in mind that I am narrowing down my comments. The NPS does not introduce new policy; it states current policy. It is a planning document and it is central to our long-term economic plan. We have responded seriously to discussion and debate in this House and the other place as well as in public consultation because we have wanted to get it right. I hope that, on that basis, your Lordships will feel able to support the document today.

Motion agreed.

Committee adjourned at 4.26 pm.