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Paper 12 - 26 March 1999 Meeting


26 March 1999


18 FEBRUARY 1999

Paper by Councillor Bill Greer, New Forest District Council 

1. The committee agreed the minutes as circulated for the meeting on the 19th November 1998.

2. Further developments on the White Paper. Members emphasised that the condition of non core-routes must be in good state before any de-trunking transfer. The Highways Agency is seeking to assist with de-trunking but there was a thought that the DETR was not being as helpful as it could be. The Agency is unable to show figures for the amounts spent on particular routes, so how is it proposed to determine a sound basis for grant aid before local authorities assume responsibility? There is a lack of consistent and reliable data but it is estimated the maintenance backlog runs into billions and Lord Whitty admitted in the House that past underfunding was a recognised fact. The LGA welcomes the reinstatement of Minor Works allocations but notes the greater prescription on where funds may be utilised. In areas of high use by MoD heavy vehicles will the government pay for damage and maintenance?

3. On congestion charging, mention was made of Employers' incentive schemes for staff to use public transport/car sharing and, in the case of Boots' experience in Nottingham - 500,000 was the figure mentioned as paid in tax and income tax - hardly likely to encourage the introduction of innovative schemes. It was claimed that at Heathrow Airport there were 46,000 car parking spaces, not including those in hotels, but because of poor public transport services during unsocial hours, staff had no alternative but to use the car. Standards for "development-control-set parking" need to be consistent across the local authorities.

4. It was suggested that charging at out-of-town shopping centres would bring more shoppers back into town centres but this was countered by others who thought that the supermarkets would absorb costs and the traditional centres would gain nothing.

5. Properly financed support for rural transport systems will have a knock-on effect on towns and cities in that congestion will be reduced and could lead to less need for Park and Ride. It was felt that the LGA should be involved in the Countryside Commission's Countryside Traffic Measures Group. However, members from rural areas were horrified at the thought of legislation increasing the length of buses from 12 to 15 metres and suggested such vehicles should be confined to motorways and dual-carriageways.

6. Concern was expressed that although there is a Five-Year plan for Local Transport Plans, funding was for three years. While it is unlikely to satisfy the needs everywhere it was thought that the government should not ignore Light Railway Systems. Nor should it ignore the need for safe and convenient walking routes to pick-up points for public transport. More joint working with other providers, Health Authorities etc., could produce benefits.

7. The proposal to recover from insurance companies costs to the NHS of treating casualties from road traffic accidents was viewed by some members as just another tax on the motorist and other road users, while the cost arising from dealing with smokers and others knowingly indulging in bad behaviour are not on the Secretary of State's list.

8. Talks were continuing on finding a new form of multi-modal transport investment appraisal framework. Should there be charging for car parking at railway stations if the intention is to attract passengers as well as freight? It is suggested that guidance is weak on the rail freight issue. Local authorities need to look at possibilities for rail-served development and deal with traffic management arising from movements to and from freight terminals. Too often it is found that access to existing rail terminals is difficult and costly to overcome, yet the problems must be addressed given the need for Channel Tunnel links.

9. The Trans-European Network is an ongoing priority and member states are being urged to speed up progress. In the main the Essen-identified guidelines point to central and eastern Europe with the UK concentrating on the links to the tunnel and the hitherto neglected West Coast Main Line.

10. The 1999 European Strategy report carries on from the 1998 report which set out the then state of play of the LGA's consultation on formulating a European Strategy. The work programme from the European Commission has defined its main priorities as the completion of the single market, safety issues, environmental protection, fair and efficient pricing and economic and social cohesion. It is claimed that considerable progress has been made in the framework of the common transport policy and initiatives are set out to ensure sustainable mobility within the EU.

11. Railways and ports are recognised as the two main priorities with short-sea shipping part of the integrated network. The Commission is looking at the feasibility of a European transport data system and will examine public transport systems with a view to possible reforms. Priority projects were defined in Essen in 1994.

12. The Trans-European Rail Freight Freeway (TER) was the subject of discussion when members considered the intention of the Deputy Prime Minister to hold a Rail Summit on the 25th February. John Prescott has in mind to kick-start a long term improvement of standards across the railway network with the aim of achieving by 2001-2 a 15% increase in the number of rail passenger miles - a target the LGA had included in its own Public Service Agreement.

13. There were some heated comments that this was all very well but there appeared to be no effort being made to remove level crossings from main railway routes. The already acknowledged increase in the number of passengers carried and the proposals for freight, required immediate attention being given to these outdated, hazardous, congestion-making and environmentally unfriendly crossings. If integration is to mean anything, level crossings must be a priority to be included in a programme along with bridges, track and modern signalling. It was claimed that there is European funding available and in the UK authorities are not as active as they should be in Brussels.

New Forest District Council

Last update: 10/10/2000
Author: Nick Goulder, Policy Manager

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