Transport Committee


Publication of Report


Department for Transport failing in its duty to the public

The DfT is failing to meet its Public Service Agreement targets. This is the finding of the Transport Committee's Report into the Department for Transport's Annual Report 2006, published today.

In setting the PSA targets in 2004, the Government announced the targets were a contract between the Government and the public: an indication of what should be expected from the expenditure. Despite spending £13.5 billion in 2005-06, the Department for Transport is on track to meet only two of its seven targets: those for road safety and rail punctuality.

The Department is failing to deliver in all other areas: against its two targets for congestion, targets for public transport patronage, air quality and carbon dioxide emissions.

Committee Chairman Gwyneth Dunwoody MP said: "This is a terrible picture of failure. The Department's only successes are against road safety and rail punctuality targets. And I imagine that most rail users would be surprised to hear their experiences described as the pinnacle of the Department's annual achievements, whilst success against the road casualty targets is subdued by the daily toll of death and injury."

The Report calls on the Department for Transport to recognise its increased political weight among Departments, and calls for high quality administration and strategic planning to match its status. Mrs Dunwoody said: "The Department has not presented any evidence to convince us that the next five years will bring a radical change in performance. The DfT lacks a clear strategy of what it wants to achieve. Without this vision, it also lacks a timetable of policies which are necessary to bring improvements."

The Report welcomes the Department's efforts to move forward the debate on road pricing. But warns against making local authority road pricing schemes an eligibility criterion for receiving central Government investment. Mrs Dunwoody commented: "We recognise the need to trial road pricing on a small-scale ahead of any national scheme, and support the Department's aim of developing common technologies and approaches at this stage to ensure lessons can be shared. But road pricing will not solve all the problems of the road network, and other measures, including better and affordable public transport, must also be taken forward."

The Report draws attention to the problems that have been experienced across the country in funding the concessionary bus fares scheme. Mrs Dunwoody said: "The concessionary bus fares scheme is an important initiative which is already benefiting thousands of people. But its introduction has not been smooth. The Secretary of State acknowledged that there had been disputes between councils and operators over funding. It is essential that the Department puts in place more robust funding mechanisms before the new Concessionary Bus Travel Bill is implemented."

The Report condemned the fact that transport is the only sector of the economy in which greenhouse gas emissions have been rising consistently since 1990 and are projected to carry on rising. Mrs Dunwoody said: "To date, transport has not been pulling its weight in the UK's efforts to avert climate change."

She added: "The Department continues to neglect its responsibility to improve air quality. As a result people die in large numbers each year. It must make air quality a priority." The Report notes that the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants Great Britain estimates that respiratory disorders associated with particulates are responsible for 8,100 additional deaths and 10,500 additional hospital admissions in the UK each year.

The non-compliance with safety standards by heavy goods vehicles, in particular foreign-registered vehicles, is a matter for real concern, says the Report. It notes that 40% of HGVs involved in collisions are foreign-registered, even though foreign-registered HGVs account for just 3% of HGVs on the road. Mrs Dunwoody said: "The total number of un-roadworthy lorries currently on our roads is staggeringly and unacceptably high. The Department cannot divorce itself from this crisis of non-compliance: it must state what action it will take and when."

The Report criticises the proposals of the Department to outsource some of the functions of its Executive Agency, the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA). Mrs Dunwoody said: "VOSA carries out vital roadside enforcement work which helps to ensure heavy goods vehicles are roadworthy and their drivers competent. Safety, not profit, must be the number one priority."

Note for Editors:

Members of the Committee: Gwyneth Dunwoody (Chairman) (Crewe and Nantwich), David Clelland (Tyne Bridge), Jeffrey M Donaldson (Lagan Valley), Clive Efford (Eltham), Louise Ellman (Liverpool Riverside), Philip Hollobone (Kettering), John Leech (Manchester Withington), Eric Martlew (Carlisle), Lee Scott (Ilford North), Graham Stringer (Manchester Blackley), David Wilshire (Spelthorne).

Press Notice 16/2006-07 15 February 2007