MRS GWYNETH DUNWOODY MP
TRANSPORT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN SAYS 'JURY OUT ON EDDINGTON STUDY'
On 2 November, Sir Rod Eddington, the Government's specialist transport advisor was questioned by the Commons Transport Committee about his study of UK transport and economic development from 2015.
Mrs Gwyneth Dunwoody, Chairman of the Committee, said:
"Sir Rod appears to be raising many of the right issues: funding, the role of PFIs, planning, the function of the Government, amongst others. This is welcome, but it is the easy part of his job. Much more tricky will be to provide sensible and acceptable proposals for Britain's transport future within the very few months set aside for this complex review. Sir Rod is confident that the Government will act on what he proposes, but the Government's track record of acting on such reports in many sectors is patchy. We certainly hope that this will prove to have been a worthwhile exercise. But right now, the jury remains firmly out."
"Sir Rod is at the start of his daunting task, but a number of issues arose during our hearing:
The connection between a healthy national economy and a sound infrastructure system is nothing new. What this exercise must not be about is ways of starving the transport sector of the funds required for it to contribute to future economic growth. For example, Sir Rod's work will need to address the effect of the large number of Private Finance Initiatives in the transport sector on the future availability of funds.
The planning system does not fall within the remit of this committee but is connected with the development of transport infrastructure. We understand that it has been to the forefront of comments to Sir Rod as he takes evidence. While properly cautious about coming to conclusions at this stage, Sir Rod views the UK's planning system as 'overly complicated, too long and too expensive'. He did not however seem to envisage a reduction in the current consultation required. We shall be interested to see his conclusions in this area.
We were pleased that he has taken note of our recent work on road pricing where we concluded that, with careful qualifications, this represented an effective way to manage demand on Britain's congested roads. Sir Rod told us that he has had a clear view from many he has talked to that demand management of UK transport resources is required. Such measures need very careful consideration if they are to be effective. Such a process must certainly not be a fig leaf for starving the sector of further essential investment and trying to breath new life into time expired infrastructure.
We understand that Sir Rod's remit is confined to transport and the economy. We accept that this relationship is an important one. But wider social and environmental considerations also need to be weighed. We are concerned that Sir Rod may not be able to do these aspects justice within the remit he has been given. If they are omitted, his work risks being unbalanced. We hope that he will find a way to take full account of all relevant factors.
It is vital that the work that Sir Rod is doing for the period from 2015 is 'joined up' to present policies for transport which are rolled out over the next ten years. If this does not happen, then his work risks being irrelevant. It is the Government's job to ensure this connection is made. When Sir Rod reports next year we shall expect the Government to make crystal clear how his work connects to the Government's present policies for transport."
Mrs Dunwoody concluded:
"We look forward to Sir Rod's return in 2006 on the completion of his report to be questioned in detail."
Notes for Editors
Today the committee published the evidence of its examination of Sir Rod Eddington, the Government's specialist transport advisor, whose report on transport and the economy post-2015, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Transport, is expected in mid 2006.