PUBLICATION OF REPORT
The draft Local Transport Bill and the Transport Innovation Fund
The Government must not deny local people a chance to air their views on local road pricing schemes before they are introduced. There must be a proper legal framework to ensure potential road pricing schemes do not intrude into personal privacy.
The Transport Select Committee's report into the draft Local Transport Bill and Transport Innovation Fund, published today, examines the draft Bill. This sets out the Government's legislative proposals on buses, traffic commissioners, local transport governance and local road pricing schemes. The Bill would include powers for Passenger Transport Authorities to arrange joint charging schemes with local or metropolitan traffic authorities.
In future the Secretary of State would not be responsible for the approval of local charging schemes in England or for ordering public consultations. The Committee finds this unacceptable since proper public consultation is fundamental in advance of the imposition of charging schemes.
Commenting on the report, the Chairman of the Committee, Hon Gwyneth Dunwoody MP said: "Local communities have a right to know what is happening in relation to their own traffic schemes. They need to be reassured that schemes are well designed, meet local needs and road users understand why they are being introduced. The Government must not give local authorities the power to ignore the legitimate concerns of local residents."
"The Committee is not convinced that the current statutory framework is sufficiently robust to address concerns about the protection of drivers' privacy. We need to know what information may be acquired and under what circumstances"
Local authorities will be able to vary the charges they impose on drivers according to the means of payment. However, the Committee feels there should be standardisation of systems so that vehicles can be driven from one charging zone to another without having to register for each scheme individually. To achieve this, the Government must ensure that there is at least one universal method of collecting and paying charges which is transferable between all schemes.
Local authorities must also make sufficient improvements in local transport to provide real alternatives to car use, well in advance of any road pricing scheme coming into force.
The Committee points out a national road-pricing scheme would be a major departure from the local schemes envisaged in this Bill. If the Government were to go ahead with such a scheme it would require a separate Bill. Pilot studies into the effects of pricing on the national road network should be carried out before any proposals for a national road-pricing scheme are introduced.
Other recommendations made by the Committee include:
An independent, publicly-funded complaints body should be set up for bus users.
More resources should be made available to the traffic commissioners to cope with the extra duties contained in this Bill
A new clause is required to give the Vehicle Operators Services Agency the power to impound unsafe buses.
The Bill should be amended to guarantee that the frequencies and times of bus services can be set by agreement between the authority and bus operators.
The law must be strengthened to ensure that any legal challenge to a quality contract scheme would fail. Otherwise a lengthy court battle could lead to an operator ceasing to run services.
Passenger Transport Authorities should have to take account of a full range of national transport policies. Reducing the effects of climate change is only one of a number of vital policy objectives that should be observed in PTA decision making and one such objective should not be singled out in the Bill.
The Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) can only be seen as one part of a much wider approach to tackling congestion. In particular it must be tied to improved local public transport, better co-ordination with neighbouring authorities and increased strategic control over transport services.
If the Congestion TIF is to encourage genuine innovation it should be open to all authorities, including those for whom road pricing does not represent the best solution to their congestion problems.
Large scale road building has the potential to run entirely counter to the objectives of the fund. The Government must clarify the extent to which road building can for part of a TIF bid and the way in which it will be assessed.
Media representatives who would like to receive an advance PDF copy of the report on Thursday in preparation for Friday publication should contact Laura Kibby, Media Adviser, on 020 7219 0718 or 07917 488557.
Hard copies will be available in the Press Gallery on the day of publication. Copies will be posted to all witnesses and other contributors to the original report unless alternative arrangements for collection on the day from 7 Millbank Reception have been agreed with this office (020 7219 6263).
Copies of the report may be purchased from The Stationery Office Ltd (tel: 08457 023474). Please allow a short interval after the publication hour has passed for the upload on TSO's website to copy across to the Committee's website (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmtran.htm).
Note for Editors:
Members of the Committee: Gwyneth Dunwoody (Chairman) (Crewe and Nantwich), David Clelland (Tyne Bridge), Clive Efford (Eltham), Louise Ellman (Liverpool Riverside), Philip Hollobone (Kettering), John Leech (Manchester Withington), Eric Martlew (Carlisle), Lee Scott (Ilford North), David Simpson (Upper Bann), Graham Stringer (Manchester Blackley), David Wilshire (Spelthorne).
Press Notice 50/2006-07
2 August 2007