Report on Department for Transport’s performance released

04 March 2010

In their report published today, the Transport Select Committee 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.

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