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1995-04-10 DoT-001
Department of Transport

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Local authorities must play leading part in developing transport solutions says Mawhinney


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Department of Transport



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Department of Transport

Local authorities must play leading part in developing transport solutions says Mawhinney
_______________________________________________________________


date
10 April 1995
source Department of Transport
type Press release

note 113


There are no simple answers to the problems of urban transport, Dr
Brian Mawhinney, Secretary of State for Transport said today.

Speaking to the Leeds and Bradford Chamber of Commerce, Dr Mawhinney
was making the last of six speeches which have encouraged a wide
debate about the future direction of transport policy.

He said there was clear evidence that simply providing alternatives
to the car by making improvements to public transport or making it
easier to make journeys on foot or by bicycle was not enough.

"That is why I have asked my Department to do some serious work on
how we can make it easier for people to switch from one form of
transport to another."

Dr Mawhinney emphasised the role of local authorities in tackling
local transport problems:

"Central government cannot impose a single blueprint which will be
effective everywhere. People need to make their own choices and so
do local communities. Local authorities must contribute to
developing transport solutions for their urban areas.

"I stress the importance of local decision making. One of the more
frustrating aspects of my job as Secretary of State for Transport is
that too often local authorities seem to look to me to act as judge
and jury over transport problems in their areas. Perhaps, when
considering local road schemes, local authorities should place more
emphasis on reaching a consensus locally - between residents and
business and between neighbouring authorities.

Dr Mawhinney went on to pose a series of questions about the
respective roles of central and local government in transport
matters:

"This raises interesting questions about the roles of central and
local government and about the mix of national and local
responsibilities. At present there seems to be little logic - and
certainly little public understanding - of who owns which parts of
the road network. Perhaps local authorities should have more
influence over the roads which genuinely impinge on their
communities?

"I am aware that there is a view that the management of roads
warrants a closer look. How do we strike a balance between national
and local priorities? Is it a question of "ownership" of the roads
or is it a question of getting the various highways authorities to
work better together?"

Dr Mawhinney emphasised the private sector's role in partnership with
local and central government, in tackling transport problems and
posed a number of questions:

"Business can become involved in funding specific transport projects
- such contributions may relate to large schemes where a particular
business benefits, or to offering bus services to local facilities,
as some supermarkets do. They can enter into partnerships with other
businesses and local government to work out transport strategies.
The sorts of issues they might address are:

- Could a park and ride scheme be made more effective if a private
developer ran it and made it part of a wider commercial development?

- Could employers do more to encourage car sharing by their
employees, or encourage them to use some other form of transport, say
by providing improved facilities for cyclists, as part of an
agreement with the local authority to provide more dedicated cycle
routes?

- Could businesses adjust their working patterns, for example, by
staggering working hours, by allowing more employees to work at home
or making more use of the information super-highway and rather less
of other sorts of highway?

Dr Mawhinney called on organisations and individuals to look at the
series of speeches:

"I hope people will look at the speeches together, and then get
together to suggest some answers to the questions I have raised; not
in comfortable, like-minded groups but in difficult and challenging
forums. Only by taking such risks and accepting such challenges can
we move forward to the next stage of the debate."




SECRETARY OF STATE FOR TRANSPORT

SPEECH ON URBAN TRANSPORT

10 April 1995

Introduction

1. In this series of speeches about transport policy, I have looked
in turn at the economic importance of transport, at environmental
considerations, at freight movements and the international dimension.
Two weeks ago I spoke about the importance of choice and the effect
this can have on travel patterns. Today I want to draw these various
strands together to see how they interact at a local level.

2. Local economies depend on good transport. And the way transport
decisions affect local environments is among the most hotly debated
of local issues. There is a range of fresh ideas -big and small -
being generated at local level and which are coming together to help
sustain thriving communities in ways that are sensitive to local
needs. There may be pointers here to some practical solutions which
could be available to us nationally.

What is urban transport for?

3. Competitive, thriving cities depend on moving goods and people
efficiently and in comfort within their boundaries. Although we tend
to think of people commuting to city centres to work, over 60% of
workers in cities of over 250,000 people work outside the centre,
often travelling between suburbs.

4. Journeys to work represent 20% of all journeys of 1 mile or more.
People also travel in order to go shopping and to acquire all the
goods and services they want for their daily lives. They make the
multitude of choices to which I referred in my last speech. The
growth of car ownership has given people much greater flexibility -
indeed liberty - in how they make these different journeys within and
around towns.

5. Changes in the way our businesses have organised themselves have
also affected urban transport patterns. National and international
distribution tends to be from fewer and fewer centres. Manufacturing
has become more concentrated in specialised suppliers with components
delivered "just in time". The result is an extraordinary diversity of
urban trip patterns which it is very difficult to reduce to a simple
pattern of flows between fixed points.

Is there a problem?

6. The way urban economies are organised reflects this diversity.
Towns and their people adapt to change. They seek new opportunities
for business and new ways of providing the necessary transport
infrastructure. Ways have to be found to keep people and goods moving
around our cities and to keep their economies vibrant. In doing so
local communities are well aware of the importance of tackling the
potential problems of congestion and environmental damage. Unhealthy
cities, where people and goods cannot move freely, will not work.

7. As more people use their cars traffic increases, congestion
worsens, journey conditions become less pleasant for everyone and air
quality deteriorates. As a result, commerce and industry may be
required to meet extra transport costs. Buses may not be used fully
despite - perhaps because of - the heavy congestion through which
sometimes they have to struggle. Consequently, in some places,
people have started to move out and look for places to live which are
more agreeable and less affected by traffic noise and pollution.

8. This presents a challenge to our towns and cities. Each community
- those who live and work together - will not be keen to see their
town decline. Many others do not want to see urban development eating
up more and more of the surrounding countryside. They would probably
also say that they value the traditional urban town centre and that
they do not want to see it die - quite the contrary.

Transport and land use planning

9. All these factors point to the desirability of supporting
traditional town centres in ways which will ensure sustained
prosperity and provide people with real choices. This is the thrust
behind the revised Planning Policy Guidance 13 (PPG13) on transport,
which my Department and the Department of the Environment published
jointly just over a year ago.

10. The Guidance encourages local authorities to promote developments
which are accessible through a variety of travel modes. I want to
help create the circumstances where people can make intelligent,
informed choices between a range of increasingly attractive options.
I am not in the business of telling people to stay at home. The
concepts behind the planning guidance are not revolutionary. To a
large extent they are about reinforcing those patterns of development
which we value most: the high street, the neighbourhood, and the
community which mixes rather than segregates activities. But land
use planning is incremental and its effects are long term. So we
need to draw on other measures too.

Private transport and road use

11. The private car will continue to play a vital role in the urban
context. The question is, will it be used primarily for those
journeys for which there is no real alternative? If not, can we
persuade people to change their behaviour and encourage them to use
alternatives where they exist? And we ought to ask, if there should
be persuaders? If so, who should assume that role?

Public transport

12. When we look at other forms of transport, we see that public
transport is not the forgotten Cinderella of transport as some in the
media would have us believe. Public transport long since came to the
ball and is having a lively time!

-buses

13. As one who recognises the great potential of the bus, I am proud
of the initiatives we have already taken to breathe new life into
this form of travel. The bus is flexible, relatively cheap and is
likely to remain the predominant way of travel in urban areas. Since
we deregulated the bus market and put the industry back into the
private sector, where it properly belongs, bus mileage outside London
has risen by 24% and operator costs per vehicle mile have fallen by
about 41% in real terms.

14. Passenger interests have been brought to the fore. Private
operators have introduced greater choice of services and more
flexible ones. In many cases this has meant newer, smaller vehicles
providing services to places not previously served. Recently there
has been an upturn in the purchase of new vehicles with modern
specifications that are aimed at meeting the needs of all passengers.
And, very importantly, some 90% of new buses now have some features
designed to make bus use easier for elderly and many disabled
passengers.

15. Equally, the Government has shown itself willing to innovate. In
London, for example, we have experimented successfully with Red
Routes. On the pilot route, bus users now enjoy faster journeys
while road casualty rates have fallen. Red Route plans include
pedestrian crossings, bus lanes, new parking spaces and even tree
planting. They are designed to balance the needs of everyone living
and working along the routes with those who drive along them.

16. Urban local authorities throughout the country take a similar
view of the role buses can play in sustaining a healthy economy and
environment. Authorities have powers to support services which cannot
be provided commercially. They also have the power to look at
priority measures to ease traffic flow on bus routes.

17. Local authorities and private operators can -and do - work
together. Here in Leeds for example the City council and an operator
- Yorkshire Rider - have got together to plan a "guided bus" scheme.
New "Superbuses" are already running on the streets of Leeds, with
provision for guide-wheels to be added later, when the guideways are
completed. Construction of these by the City council is about to
begin. There are plans for guided bus schemes in other cities, such
as Hull. Such schemes are less expensive than putting in place light
rail schemes.

-railways

18. Most of the largest urban areas have well developed conventional
rail networks. These need to be used better so that they can make
their full contribution to serving local transport needs.
Privatisation will increase the scope for the development of new
services - those which are geared to what the passenger wants. They
are likely to make the most contribution where there are large,
heavily concentrated flows of passengers. In some areas, light rail
will also have an important role to play.

-modal interchanges and better information

19. But providing alternatives to the car is not enough. That is why
I have asked my Department to do some serious work on how we can make
it easier for people to switch from one form of transport to another
- in the jargon `modal shift'. I am particularly keen to see
different operators getting together with each other as well as with
local authorities to make it easier for people to move from one
transport mode to another. A seamless journey would be welcomed by
all travellers - it is at the seams where journeys tend to come
apart. This will happen only if travel operators consider the
services which they provide from the passenger's point of view.

20. There are large scale interchanges where we see this working in
practice. Gatwick and Heathrow Airports, for example, are served by a
range of transport modes and are actively seeking to improve them.
Gatwick links to Victoria Station in London and onto the M23.
Heathrow links to the M25 and M4, by tube line to Central London and,
soon by express rail service to Paddington. Both are served by
coaches. And you will not have missed my announcement last week about
how we intend to ensure that better use is made of road, rail, coach
and airport services in the South-East to increase choice for both
private and business travellers.

21. But not all improvements need be on this scale. Reliable
up-to-date information can make all the difference to the choices
people make about how they travel - and to getting our cities to work
more smoothly. A lot of time is wasted sitting in traffic jams or
cruising around looking for car parking spaces - and a lot of road
space is taken up as a result. People might avoid this and travel by
other means if they have the right information at the right place and
the right time.

22. This might mean something as simple as better or more
comprehensive timetables - perhaps combined to cover both bus and
rail services. It might involve harnessing the potential of new
technology, such as the "Countdown" trial which is delivering
up-to-date information at bus-stops in parts of London, or even more
sophisticated schemes such as the integrated ROMANSE system under
trial in Southampton. The effects of better information on moving
from one transport mode to another was one of the key issues
considered by the Transport Panel of the Government's Technology
Foresight Programme in their recently published report.

Cycling and walking

23. Towns and cities see concentrations of people making many short
journeys. This means lots of pedestrians and the potential for lots
of cyclists. Cycling and walking are the most environmentally
friendly of all forms of transport - but sometimes towns and cities
seem to be the least friendly environments in which to practice such
healthy pursuits.

24. Just before I came to the Department of Transport last summer,
the Government set out its policy for the future of cycling. I was
Health Minister at the time and the Department of Health was one of a
number of Departments that was actively involved in developing that
statement. I have ensured that cycling - and walking - remain on the
agenda. Indeed, earlier this year, I am told that I became the first
Secretary of State for Transport to make an oversees trip
specifically to look at ways to encourage cycling.

25. Changing attitudes to cycling and walking will not be easy. What
local authorities can achieve is the demonstration of best practice
and encouragement to others. This might mean local authorities
setting up safe pedestrian and cycle routes and introducing new
traffic calming measures. It can mean employers showing the way with,
for example, loans to help buy bicycles - as offered in my Department
- or more facilities for safe parking for bicycles and showers for
employees. What lessons, can be learnt from York and Hull, for
example, where cycling represents 20% and 14% respectively of all
journeys to work? Traffic restraint

26. To be effective, any strategy to tackle transport problems in
urban areas will almost certainly need to combine measures which
manage car use with measures to improve other forms of transport.
There is clear evidence that improvements to public transport or
pedestrian and cycle measures alone are not a sufficient answer. That
was one of the findings of research, sponsored by my Department,
which examined the impact of a range of transport policies on traffic
and vehicle emissions in five cities, including Leeds. Similar
messages emerge from studies of how certain European cities have
dealt with congestion.

27. Managing car use may mean some restriction of car use. Examples
of restraint already abound, in a variety of forms, such as:

- pedestrianisation of city centres;
- Leeds' proposed public transport box;
- parking restrictions, including clamping, aimed particularly at
commuter traffic. These can be tightened progressively as in Ipswich
or Exeter;
- capacity reductions along routes into town as bus priority is
established and so- called "rat-runs" are closed.

28. And we should look carefully at the role parking can play in
managing car use in urban centres. Local authorities need to think
about whether to encourage the provision of more parking -and if so
should this be for shoppers or for those who want to drive to work?
Or should they seek to discourage the provision of parking - perhaps
by restricting the number of car parking spaces allowed at new
developments? And are local authorities talking to each other enough
to ensure that we do not face a situation where one council
discourages parking but a neighbouring council encourages it?

29. There is concern that restrictions on car use may spell
commercial death for traditional urban centres. This is particularly
worrying for heavily urbanised areas where a number of different
commercial centres are seen to be in competition with one another.

30. I recognise this concern but I do not accept that decline is
inevitable. Towns and cities that have successfully put such schemes
in place have done so as part of their attempt to maintain thriving
city centre economies. It is a question of getting the balance right.
So ultimately it may be in the commercial interests of the whole city
to restrain car use, preserve the quality of life and ensure that the
city remains one to which people want to come and in which they want
to do business.

City congestion charging

31. Economists tell me that the most efficient way of allocating
scarce road space would be to charge for it. They may be right; using
the price mechanism is an economically efficient way of allocating
resources and ensuring that the benefits to society from those
resources are maximised. However, introducing city congestion
charging would be a major - and controversial - undertaking. And at
the moment it unrealistic for we do not have necessary information
about its potential consequences - good or bad. Indeed, we do not
have sufficient facts on which to make a policy determination.

32. That is why we embarked on a major three-year research programme
to look at what might be the impact of introducing congestion
charging in London. I expect the results of this research to be
available this summer.

33. While I will not prejudge the results, I believe further work
will be necessary before we will be able to formulate a policy.
Large issues will need further examination, such as:

- When will the technology be available to deliver a feasible,
viable system which can be implemented, administered and enforced
over a wide urban area?

- How would people react to being asked to pay for something which
plays a central part in their lives, and which they have been used to
getting for nothing?

- Could they be persuaded that the wider economic benefits of
charging outweigh the costs to them personally? And would that be
true?

- What kind of price would need to be charged to bring reductions in
car use in urban areas?

- What would be the effect of charging on local businesses and
property values?

- How would the necessary charging legislation deal with privacy
concerns?

- Who would pay to install the vehicle systems and how would towns
cope with occasional visitors?

The role of local authorities

34. Whatever the future of congestion charging, central government
cannot impose a single blueprint which will be effective everywhere.
People need to make their own choices and so do local communities.
Local authorities must contribute to developing transport solutions
for their urban areas.

35. I stress the importance of local decision making. One of the
more frustrating aspects of my job as Secretary of State for
Transport is that too often local authorities seem to look to me to
act as judge and jury over transport problems in their areas.
Perhaps, when considering local road schemes, local authorities
should place more emphasis on reaching a consensus locally - between
residents and business and between neighbouring authorities.

36. This raises interesting questions about the roles of central and
local government and about the mix of national and local
responsibilities. At present there seems to be little logic - and
certainly little public understanding - of who owns which parts of
the road network. Perhaps local authorities should have more
influence over the roads which genuinely impinge on their
communities?

37. I am aware that there is a view that the management of roads
warrants a closer look. How do we strike a balance between national
and local priorities? Is it a question of "ownership" of the roads or
is it a question of the various highways authorities working better
together.

38. I want to support local strategies which provide genuine
choices. I am keen that local authorities develop programmes with a
variety of complementary measures which seek to address their local
transport needs, rather than concentrating on individual transport
schemes in isolation. That is what is behind, for example, my
Department's approach to local transport funding - the so called
"package approach".

-local targets

39. In deciding which mix of measures will be most effective for any
area, the relative costs of the measures will be important. Some
schemes, such as new large-scale public transport infrastructure, are
very expensive; others, perhaps to encourage cycling, may not be so
expensive. But the cost-effectiveness of all schemes will be
enhanced by the implementation of a strategy to manage demand.

40. One way of achieving this balance, of assessing
cost-effectiveness against a common standard, may be through the use
of local operational targets. As I have argued before, the important
thing is that any such targets should be realistic, cost-effective
and focus on the right measures. They must also meet with widespread
public acceptance. Focusing on a set of clearly defined objectives in
this way could be a way forward and I would welcome views on this.

The role of the private sector

41. Local authorities can develop local strategies only with
effective input from others in the community. And they do not have to
be the ones to take the lead in initiating change. Transport
operators themselves could do this. They are the ones with practical
experience of the journeys people actually want to make. This
experience must be captured in the planning process.

42. Then there is the business community as a whole. Business can
become involved in funding specific transport projects - such
contributions may relate to large schemes where a particular business
benefits, or to offering bus services to local facilities, as some
supermarkets do. They can enter into partnerships with other
businesses and local government to work out transport strategies. The
sorts of issues they might address are:

- Could a park and ride scheme be made more effective if a private
developer ran it and made it part of a wider commercial development?

- Could employers do more to encourage car sharing by their
employees, or encourage them to use some other form of transport, say
by providing improved facilities for cyclists, as part of an
agreement with the local authority to provide more dedicated cycle
routes?

- Could businesses adjust their working patterns, for example, by
staggering working hours, by allowing more employees to work at home
or making more use of the information super-highway and rather less
of other sorts of highway?

The role of individuals

43. Finally, we need to remember that while central and local
government can introduce measures which will influence people's
travel behaviour, only the people themselves can take the day to day
decisions which will determine future travel patterns and so help to
determine the quality of urban life.

Conclusion

44. The challenges for local transport raise many of the questions
which are fundamental to the national transport debate.

- Is there sufficient consensus that the vitality and prosperity of
traditional urban centres are seriously threatened unless active
steps are taken to manage traffic flows?

- Is it accepted that any policy may need to employ both the sticks
and carrots approach and if so, which sticks and which carrots? Could
the adoption of local targets help in striking the right balance?

- What part can land use planning realistically be expected to
play? What restrictions are people prepared to accept on the places
they can live, work and shop?

- What role does parking policy have to play in encouraging more
use of public transport?

- How can we make public transport more attractive? And how can we
encourage better quality vehicles, better interchange facilities and
better information for passengers?

- What restrictions on car use in urban areas might people think
justified to help solve the problems of congestion and pollution from
traffic?

- Do local authorities have the tools they need to tackle their
job? If not, what more could we do to help?

- How can the local business community be more closely involved in
the process, whether as developers, as employers or as transport
users?

45. If there were simple answers to all these questions, there would
be a simple solution to the problems of urban transport. I have
encouraged this national debate and made my six speeches because I
recognise that there are no simple answers.

46. I hope you and others will look at the speeches together, and
then get together to suggest some answers to the questions I have
raised. Not in comfortable, like-minded groups but in difficult and
challenging forums. Only by taking such risks and accepting such
challenges can we move forward to the next stage of the debate.


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