Transport Committee: Press Notice

Session 2009-10, 4 March 2010

Publication of Report

Publication of Report

The performance of the Department for Transport (HC 76)

The Transport Select Committee today called on governments, present and future, to provide greater stability at the Department for Transport. The Committee was critical of the number of changes of Secretary of State for Transport, with five in the past five years. It acknowledges the achievements of the Department but criticises its over-optimistic reporting.

Transport Committee Chairman, Mrs Louise Ellman MP, said "Good transport is vital to the economy and to people's daily lives. Frequent changes of minister make it harder to develop a consistent approach to managing and developing our transport systems. Any company that changed its chief executive as frequently as happens with the Department for Transport would be viewed with great suspicion by shareholders."

In its Report, The performance of the Department for Transport, the Committee calls on the Government to implement the vision for transport that has been established under Lord Adonis. The Committee concludes that the Department has made progress in a number of important areas, both recently and over the past decade. It has also established a new sense of direction. However, much remains to be done.

Mrs Ellman said "Compared with ten years ago, many more people are now travelling by rail, bus and bicycle and the number of people killed in road accidents has fallen substantially. These are positive trends and the authorities deserve credit for what they have helped to bring about. As ever, more needs to be done. The cost of using public transport has increased and our Report points to the need for better integration of local transport services, which has been so successful in London. We also call for long-term solutions to traffic congestion to support economic growth."

The Committee is supportive of the Department's vision, including improved traffic flows on motorways, rail electrification and high speed rail. The Department has also committed itself to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport. The Committee calls on the Government to ensure that it continues to properly fund transport infrastructure and on the Department to achieve greater efficiency.

The Committee says the Department generally has a good story to tell, but it is critical of the over-optimistic performance reporting by the Department. Mrs Ellman said "The Department for Transport needs to be more realistic about trends and its achievements. It reports strong progress on reducing carbon dioxide emissions from transport when, in fact, they have increased since 2000 and are unlikely to reduce before 2020. It has reported efficiency savings which cannot be verified and some efficiency measures€”such as the shared services centre€”have cost money instead of saving it." The Committee also calls for the Department to improve the quality of statistics that it collects on bus passengers and road casualties.

The Committee reviews progress against the Government's integrated transport plan, Transport 2010, which was adopted in 2000. Whilst much has been achieved, the ambition to build up to 25 light rail lines has not. It calls on the Government to publish a comprehensive progress report against the targets that it set itself.

It also calls for strong action on local bus services which, outside London, are still not integrated with other local transport services. Bus use outside London continues to decline, apart from a slight increase after the introduction of free bus travel for older and disabled people. The Committee calls for full implementation of the Local Transport Act which gives local authorities powers to introduce bus quality partnerships and quality contracts; and for the Traffic Commissioners to be given adequate resources to carry out punctuality monitoring.

Transport Committee, Fourth Report of Session 2009-10, The performance of the Department for Transport, HC 388, March 2010


  1. Since 2000 the number of rail passenger journeys has increased by 40%, bus and light rail passenger journeys by 20% (mainly in London) and the annual distance cycled has increased from 4 billion kilometres to 5 billion kilometres. Bus use outside London decreased from 2,495 million journeys in 2000-01 to 2,446 million journeys in 2008-09. (DfT: Transport Statistics Great Britain: 2009 Edition.)
  2. Between 1997 and 2008, in real terms, the cost of motoring declined by 13% while bus and coach fares increased by 17%. (Paul Clark MP, House of Commons Debate, 19 March 2009, c1276W)
  3. The Committee took evidence from Lord Adonis, Secretary of State for Transport, and Mr Robert Devereux, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Transport, on 2 December 2009.
  4. The Department for Transport reported its progress in its Annual Report and Resource Accounts 2008-09 (July 2009) and in its Autumn Performance Report 2009 (December 2009)