HC Deb 01 July 1997 vol 297 cc100-1
33. Mr. Ian Bruce

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment his Department has made of the effectiveness of park-and-ride schemes in reducing traffic flows in town centres. [4696]

The Minister of Transport (Dr. Gavin Strang)

Research shows that park and ride increases the attractiveness of town centres, but there is no evidence that schemes by themselves reduce congestion. They are more likely to do so if they are part of package that also includes measures to deter unrestrained use of private vehicles, together with the provision of an improved public transport system.

Mr. Bruce

I am grateful to the Minister for such a comprehensive reply. Local councils often seem to spend public money willy-nilly on such schemes because it is politically correct to do so. Will he ensure that the research that his Department has done is passed to local authorities? We have had great success in Swanage with our park-and-ride scheme, which involves using a steam railway, but that seems to be due to the attractiveness of using the steam railway. In Weymouth, we have tried such schemes and spent a lot of money with no effect.

Dr. Strang

Yes, I broadly agree with the hon. Gentleman's comments. He rightly refers to research and I expect that he has read the Transport Research Laboratory's report, which was published recently. I encourage others to read it. Park and ride can play an important role, but local judgments must be made of local circumstances.

Mr. Stevenson

My right hon. Friend will be aware that the A50 road scheme means that traffic is being pushed through the middle of my constituency and that traffic flows in town centres are set to increase. Is he aware that phase 1(b) of that road scheme is now nine months over contract? Will he investigate the reasons for that significant overrun and the possibility of compensation for businesses that are affected?

Dr. Strang

I am aware of my hon. Friend's great concern about the time that it has taken to implement that contract. Clearly, it is vital that we try to stay on time with those projects and I shall be happy to write to him once I have looked into the details.

Mr. Chidgey

I am pleased to hear the Minister recognise that park-and-ride schemes can be effective parts of local transport packages. Does he agree that, to build quality partnerships with bus operators, local authorities require funding to fulfil their part of the bargain? Is he prepared to provide local authorities with the means to raise those funds by allowing them to retain receipts from penalty notices on motorists who transgress by violating bus lanes and parking requirements? That would give local authorities the cash stream that they need to introduce local transport packages.

Dr. Strang

I think that the hon. Gentleman will understand that we must first make effective use of central Government funds that already go to local authorities. Park-and-ride schemes can make a contribution, but an efficient, speedy and reliable public transport service must connect the park to the town centre. Furthermore, when vehicles are left in the parks, they must be safe and untampered with when people return to them.