CILT Chief Executive, Steve Agg FCILT, chaired the Institute’s fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference 2014 in Birmingham earlier this week. Panellists included Cllr Deborah Croney, LGA Environment, Economy, Housing and Transport Board and leader of North Dorset District Council; Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive, Campaign to Protect Rural England; Martin Richards OBE FCILT, author of CILT’s latest policy report ‘A Vision for Transport Planning’ and Nick Gazzard FCILT, CEO Incept.
CILT’s Steve Agg FCILT introduced the speakers and informed audience members of the Vision 2035 policy work the Institute has been producing, with particular reference to the latest report in the series: A Vision for Transport Planning.
Cllr Deborah Croney began with a discussion of her local area; North Dorset. She noted that the area is fast expanding, with the Port of Poole being one of the main freight entries into the country and a successful housing development, North Dorset is experiencing a significant increase to the stress and strains of a ‘local and inadequate network’. She warned the audience of the severe economic impact a lack of investment in infrastructure will cause for the South West.
Deborah welcomed the announcement that infrastructure will be a key priority for the next government by Secretary of State for Transport Patrick Mcloughlin MP and Chancellor George Osborne MP earlier at the Conservative Party Conference. She argued that the existing fuel duty should be used to reinvest in our roads and that the national survey has demonstrated this opinion resonates with the general public, stating: ‘people recognise that roads are a fundamental issue, they experience difficulties during their day-to-day journeys.’
Deborah concluded with the issue of financial settlements for local government. She stated that at local government level ‘we don’t know from one year to the next how much money we are going to get’ making it extremely difficult to plan strategically. Deborah argued for the same financial settlement as central government allow local government to plan efficiently and accurately.
Shaun Spiers from the Campaign to Protect Rural England spoke with concern and caution about the planned developments and investment in the UK’s roads. He described what the government calls ‘the biggest roads programme for 50 years’ as a huge concern. Shaun argued that the planned investment in roads will not necessarily deliver the economic growth, remove congestion or be as popular as government currently believes it to be.
Shaun noted that there are clearly growth elements to an increase in road investment but that we must weigh these up against the undoubted environmental costs. Shaun argued that there is a difficulty of assessing the impact of the new roads on growth when there is no wider transport policy. ‘The government has a clear roads policy, but not a clear transport policy’ Shaun claimed.
Shaun told audience members of the projected 46% increase for traffic on trunk roads by 2040 and acknowledged that there is no way we can cater for that growth simply by building new roads.
Shaun continued, stating that the UK has the lowest level of bus and cycle usage in Europe and recommended more investment be put into bus and cycle use. He also spoke of a commitment to responsible growth, noting that 3 million people are exposed to excessively high noise levels as a result of roads as well as light pollution causing a problem for those close to major roads. Shaun encouraged the audience to approach the current road development plans with caution and to recognise that there are alternative options to deal with the inevitable increased congestion.
Nick Gazzard FCILT discussed the current increase in online retail purchases and what this means for the logistics industry. Nick commented that online retail sales will double by 2018 and acknowledged that the current central logistics systems will struggle to cope with this increase in personal delivery. He told audience members that there is a current shift in the logistics industry from moving goods to shops, to moving goods to people. Noting that we must be smart about how we maintain service levels and customer expectations.
Martin Richards OBE FCILT spoke passionately about the launch of CILT’s latest policy report – A Vision for Transport Planning. Martin claimed that for too long cutting highway expenditure has been the easy option. He told the audience that ‘people take less notice of a road that is delayed or road improvement delay than they do if hospital waiting times increase or if school overcrowding increases.’
Martin warned that we are not investing in capacity, particularly in providing the reliability of travel times that today’s economy requires. Martin noted: ‘Delays to goods, driver and to vehicles cost the country. The cost of congestion is very considerable and it hits the efficiency of this country.’
Martin informed the audience that, excluding buses, roads carry over 700 billion passenger kilometres a year, compared with 100 billion by rail. Martin suggested a need to think carefully about how the limited public funds for transport are used and where the projected increased population will live and work as well as how they can be best linked by transport.
He discussed the current call for decentralisation post the Scottish referendum and expressed the view that radical decentralisation from Westminster and Whitehall to city regions and local government were the best option for strategic transport planning.
The CILT fringe event was organised in partnership with the Transport Hub, a group of transport organisations working together to promote the crucial issues affecting the way goods and movements move around the world at the party conferences