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TRANSPORT BODY FLAGS UP KEY ISSUES FOR GOVERNMENT TO ADDRESS

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The Commission for Integrated Transport today published its annual assessment report on progress in delivering the ...
The Commission for Integrated Transport today published its annual assessment report on progress in delivering the 10 Year Plan for Transport.

While the report welcomes the increased funding for transport and significant progress in many directions, it flags up key issues that will have to be addressed in reviewing the plan and stepping up the pace of delivery. These include questions about performance in a number of important areas and value for money.

Commission chair David Begg said: 'We have seen some real progress from government in the past few years in policy development and resourcing.

'But there have been some problems too. For example we have seen stronger than expected traffic growth, slippage in delivery timescales, a growing gap between public transport fares and motoring costs, a deterioriation in rail performance and slow progress on congestion charging.

'Two of the three main delivery agencies - the rail industry and local authorities - have turned in disappointing results. They have been given new powers and additional funding. But costs in the rail industry have rocketed and delivery has slipped. A large number of local authorities are behind with their transport plans. As a result rail targets have not been met and traffic congestion has grown.

'We have to question, therefore, whether some of the Government's targets can be met. In the circumstances it is right that the Government is undertaking a review of its Transport Plan.

Professor Begg continued:

'Cost escalation poses a serious threat to continued spending on the rail network. The public is just not getting value for money for its investment and Network Rail will be judged on its ability to bring costs under control. CfIT is yet to be convinced that it can do this.

'The government has recently, and rightly, started to increase funding to ease road bottlenecks and pressure points, but we need to make sure that the service improvements this brings (reduced congestion and jou rney reliability) are not quickly swallowed up by traffic growth. These improvements, therefore, need to be accompanied by demand restraint measures such as road pricing. Alistair Darling is to be commended for recently grasping this issue in a way that his predecessors have not. This now needs to be followed up with a firm plan of action. The Commission believes that a fundamental review of how motorists pay to use the road network should form the starting point.

'But there is more that can and should be done in the shorter term. We need to do more to tackle social inclusion in transport where we are strong on analysis and short on action and to combat rising public transport fares at a time of falling motoring costs. More public subsidy is needed so that the bus can better complete with the car and to lower the cost of travel for the less well-off.

'A stronger role should be given to transport planning at the regional level while nationally the government needs to think through how it can reconnect transport, land use planning and other policy areas following the break-up of DETR into three departments.

'There needs to be a greater emphasis on reducing CO2 emissions from lorries and buses, supplemented with measures to address traffic growth in the most congested and polluted areas.

'The pace of delivery needs to change too. Local authorities need to be incentivised to deliver change faster - local funding mechanisms need to be reviewed to ensure they allow local authorities to deliver sustainable programmes.

The CfIT chair concluded:

'The need to reduce car dependency and improve public transport is as relevant today as it ever was when the 10 Year Plan was first published.'

Notes

10 Year Transport Plan: Second assessment report(CfIT report)

10 Year Transport Plan: Second assessment report(Research report)

The CfIT report is based on work carried out by Fabermaunsell in association with National Economic Research Associates.

The role of CfIT is defined in the White Paperas 'to provide independent advice to government on the implementation of integrated transport policy, to monitor developments across transport, environment, health and other sectors and to review progress towards meeting our objectives'. In particular, the White Paper identified the following roles for the commission:

* Reviewing and monitoring progress towards objectives and target laid out in the White Paper;

* Continuing and refreshing the transport policy debate;

* Fostering consensus among practical providers;

* Identifying and disseminating examples of best practice from home and abroad;

* Advising on developments in Europe, including relevant EU initiatives;

* Advising on the role of existing and emerging technologies.

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