§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Baroness Thomas of Walliswood rose to call attention to the case for transport policies for the United Kingdom and Europe which will be sustainable in the long term, as set out in the Eighteenth Report entitled Transport and the Environment of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (Cm. 2674); and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. The Motion is broadly phrased and time is short. Your Lordships will not expect me to cover the whole range of the issues that can be raised. There will be another debate next week in which some of them may be aired in greater detail. I am aware that many of your Lordships will also 1398 speak and no doubt give added emphasis to one aspect or another of the topic. In this context, I welcome the decision of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, to intervene in this debate with his maiden speech. He brings to the debate great experience and knowledge of the transport industry.
§ In preparing for the debate, I have been inundated with material from a wide range of different interests, much of it very useful. I wish to concentrate on the report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution and the six speeches made in the spring by the Secretary of State, Dr. Mawhinney. For many of us, the RCEP report has come as a most welcome confirmation, from an authoritative source, of much of what we have been thinking, saying and trying to do for some years. For example, the desirability of equal assessment of road and rail infrastructure projects and the need for an integrated transport policy that should be sustainable has been a "given" of my party's policy for many years.
§ I take one of many examples that can be chosen to indicate how far local government is ahead of central government in these matters. Some years ago Surrey County Council, then under Conservative leadership, wrote a transport plan. It is now being revised with a Liberal-Democrat as chair. By comparison, Dr. Mawhinney's speeches dealt with issues of sustainable transport almost as though they were totally fresh to his listeners and readers. He asked many questions and provided relatively little indication of his own attitude, or that of the Government, beyond referring to such things as the Government's statement on sustainable development, PPG13 and steadily rising petrol taxes. All of these are useful but they do not constitute a comprehensive policy that, for example, can be used by businesses and local authorities to assist in the determination of their approach.
§ Dr. Mawhinney seemed to suggest on more than one occasion that business should take transport decisions in the light of their impact upon the environment and possibly modify and change such policies as the just-in-time method of supply or long-distance sourcing of goods. But it is the relatively low cost and ease of road transport—a situation that has developed, at least in part, as a result of actions by various governments over the years—that has made these policies financially and commercially attractive.
§ My last point about Dr. Mawhinney's speeches concerns his constant reference to the conflict between economic and business needs on the one hand and the need for environmental protection on the other. I believe that this conflict is to some extent artificial. Not only will failure to improve and preserve air quality cost us huge amounts in healthcare—for example, a recent Liberal-Democrat publication has highlighted the rapidly rising cost of the treatment of asthma—but a degraded atmosphere and general environment can never be a desirable background for a successful economy.
§ We welcome the RCEP report and, in particular, its approach in defining what its authors believe should be the main objectives of a sustainable transport policy; the key targets that that policy should aim to achieve, such as percentage modal transfers between one method of 1399 transport and another; and the main policy options/changes in practice and research projects that they think are necessary to achieve those objectives.
§ I take one example. Compared with the somewhat chaotic way in which infrastructure projects are currently assessed—this methodology has been criticised for its inaccuracy and lack of proper financial targeting by the Audit Commission and other authorities in that it fails to assess equally between road and rail, or to compare projects on trunk roads or other roads, or even to establish an overt order of priority amongst trunk road proposals themselves—the suggestions of the RCEP on such matters seem a model of clarity and good sense that may greatly improve the quality of decision taking and the accurate targeting of funds. I believe that that is an objective that we all wish to take on board.
§ Another useful attribute of the report is that it firmly establishes the need to ensure that the real costs of different modes of transport, including environmental costs, are borne by the particular mode or those who operate within it and use it. So often attempts by local government to encourage people to use public transport ale thwarted by the apparently high cost at point of use by comparison with the motor car that waits outside the house.
§ I also welcome the attempt, albeit not wholly complete, to quantify these costs so that they may be correctly assessed and assigned during project planning. I do not agree with every suggestion for that allocation. For example, the report proposes not only that tax on petrol should rise sharply—a matter with which we are broadly in agreement—but that there should be a variable excise duty to reflect fuel consumption. That is a good idea, but only if it can be set at a low level for the smallest and most efficient cars; otherwise, the combination of increased vehicle excise duty and sharply increased fuel prices will be too punitive for those who live in the countryside.
§ I also welcome the suggestions for joint research with other countries in the European Union and beyond, and indeed with companies—for example, oil companies and motor manufacturers—with the objective of ensuring equal levels of duty on heavy goods vehicles across the European Union that reflect the polluter pays principle. Another example is a worldwide tax on air fuel. Not only does atmospheric pollution not respect national boundaries, so it is extremely important for nations within the European Union to act together to protect the environment, but it is undesirable to impose higher levels of taxation on the United Kingdom than on other EU hauliers.
§ So how should we take the principles of the report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution forward? I hope that the Government will at least commit themselves to the general approach adopted by the Royal Commission even if some of the individual recommendations prove to be unacceptable. A co-ordinated approach to sustainable transport planning is long overdue and this Government—any government—have a key role in achieving it. No other party to transport policy: employer, commuter, shopper, road haulier, traveller by air or sea or on foot or bicycle, has the same duty as the Government to think in the long term, 1400 although many can no doubt be persuaded, in transport as in recycling, to think globally and act locally. And no other party has the financial clout.
§ At this point I must pause to say what a disaster in terms of sustainable transport policy I believe the sell-off of Railtrack to be. If we are to achieve a transfer of trips from the motor car to rail and from the HGV to rail, it is of the highest importance that the Government can continue to exert at least some influence on, in particular, the investment decisions of Railtrack. There are a number of projects sitting about in people's back pockets requiring relatively little financial investment which would, for example, enormously improve rail access to Heathrow. It would in my view be a tragedy if the Government were left unable to exert any influence in that direction.
§ We have already expressed our intention, should we get the chance, to buy back at least a share in Railtrack, should it be sold before the next general election. I look forward to hearing comment from the Labour Party on this matter during the debate. Our objective would be to enable government to influence rather than manage—I stress that comparison—a semi-public company which was also able to borrow in the market. If that requires a change in Treasury rules, all I can say is that that change sounds to me as if it is long overdue. We cannot allow rules which were made by men to become an enormous limitation on the actions of subsequent men and—I should add—women.
§ The Government must make their transport policy intentions clear and explicit. It will be desirable, if the long-term approach recommended by the Royal Commission is to be effective, for there to be a certain level of consensus between political parties so that that approach can be carried out over time. We also need co-ordination and clear understanding between local and national levels of government, and government must make their direction and purpose clear to local government. At present, for example, criteria for funding road schemes through transport supplementary grant and the TPP process can change more than once during the process of project design, causing waste of time and resources.
§ Even the package approach, welcome though it is, has been established with no indication of the future level of funding it might receive or even its relative importance in terms of financial support in the eyes of the department. As very few schemes can now be taken forward without being part of a package, this means that the new approach could actually be used as a new means of rationing funds for transport projects even more strictly than in the past.
§ Within the overall guidance of national government local authorities should be left to deal with the small scale projects—which the report assesses as often more capable of yielding a good environmental rate of return—without too much interference. I am sure I do not need to add that from our side we would prefer to see those local authorities capable of raising their own finances for such projects. We also support the emphasis given in the report to the regional level of activity, both in assessing projects and also in encouraging public 1401 transport, although we would of course prefer regional authorities to be directly elected rather than based on the existing groups such as SERPLAN.
§ Finally, there needs to be a partnership between government at all levels, industry and individual citizens. We—many other transport authorities are doing the same—are already exploring how we can encourage employers to alter the commuting habits of their employees so that they cause the least possible impact on traffic and congestion in the surrounding area. A good deal of interest is being shown by employers in this. To take something on a much bigger scale, if, for example, the Government could negotiate with the British Airports Authority, which operates the largest generator of traffic in the whole of the United Kingdom at Heathrow Airport, to ensure that it put together a plan for enabling its employees to get to work without getting into their motor cars, much of the congestion at peak hours on the M.25 would be considerably alleviated. There are 50,000 employees at Heathrow Airport and most of their journeys occur at peak hours. That is another partnership that we should seek to establish.
§ As for the partnership between government and individual citizens, it seems to me to be of the greatest importance that we should carry forward a traffic awareness campaign similar to—and with the same long term and steady intentions—that which has been done for drink/driving. When I was a young woman it was common for people leaving a party to be pressed to take "one for the road". Not only does one never see that any more, at least not in the circles in which I move, but one also notices that, if partners arrive at a party together, one will drink but the other will not. That campaign has had an enormous effect and the Government could stimulate a similar campaign both as regards the environmental consequences of individual traffic decisions and—perhaps this is even more important as a first step—to discourage excessive speeding. Nothing in my view is more destructive of peace and quiet in local areas than a combination of congestion and speeding—congestion in one area leading to speeding in another. I read your Lordships' spirited debate on an earlier occasion on the commission paper on sustainable mobility to which I gave evidence as part of the ACC group. I look forward to the next few hours with keen anticipation of other people's contributions. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ The Earl of Selborne
My Lords, I wish to begin by saying how grateful we all are to the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, for introducing this debate. It is an opportunity that we all greatly welcome. It will be a pleasure for me to listen in a moment to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, not just because I have known him for over 40 years but also because I know what an expert he is on transport matters. I suspect that he will tell us something about the Channel Tunnel in which he has been closely involved.
I must make it quite clear that I am a member of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. Noble Lords will not be surprised therefore to hear that I think 1402 it has produced rather a good report. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, in replying to the previous debate suggested that some Members on these Benches had spoken with defensive sensitivity. I hope that I can be acquitted of that if I refer to one or two of the criticisms which have been made of the Royal Commission's report and try to address them. With a report of this length—it is a long report—I am bound to be repetitious if I try to summarise, which clearly should not be my role in this debate anyway.
The first criticism is the length of the report itself. The second criticism I wish to address is the assessment, or rather lack of assessment, of benefits for the economy and the fact that the report appears to be heavily biased towards environmental impacts. I also wish to discuss whether targets are appropriate in the first place and, secondly, if one can accept targets, whether the targets which have been chosen are appropriate.
As regards the criticism about length, I am sure the Royal Commission would plead guilty. It is a long report, but then this is a large subject. The terms of the Motion, which refers to,transport policies … sustainable in the long term",demonstrate just how important it is to take an all-embracing holistic approach to this extremely complicated subject. Transport impinges on all our lives in any number of ways.
In paragraph 1.12, Chapter 1, the report refers to the sustainable development strategy of the Government. The Royal Commission points out that:Transport provides a crucial test of the commitment to sustainable development which the UK and other countries made at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992.The thrust of the report is to make in advance what can really only be termed a preliminary attempt to define what is meant by "a sustainable development strategy". That phrase was used in the document that came out in 1994, the Government's own strategy for sustainable development, which has a chapter on sustainable transport. From that document there are quoted in paragraph 1.13 four parts of the framework which the Government themselves have suggested it would be sensible to have in mind when framing a sustainable transport policy. I will quote just the last sentence from that paragraph, and it comes itself as a quotation from the government document:To ensure that users pay the full social and environmental cost of their transport decisions, so improving the overall efficiency of those decisions for the economy as a whole and bringing environmental benefits".As the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, reminded us, the Royal Commission report seeks to put figures on the decisions that we make every time we choose a mode of transport and tries to assess not just how that might improve our competitive position within the economy but who is picking up the bill at the end of the day. That is a very important consideration, and it is one which has been sadly lacking in the past. The Department of Transport has until recently been accused, I think with some justification, of a policy of "predict and provide". You predict what the traffic movements will be and you provide for the requirements. It is as simple as that. Also, local authorities tended to agree or even to 1403 encourage out of town developments without measuring the impact of people's transport options. Clearly, the further out of the cities you go the greater the dependence on the car; and so there has been a failure in the past to quantify both the benefits and the environmental impacts, or indeed other disadvantages.
This Royal Commission report is not a blueprint, whatever it may be, on how to produce a transport policy. The Royal Commission, by its nature, has a requirement to try to give advice on environmental pollution, and transport is a major source of pollution. Therefore it is clearly a report which is biased towards trying to assess these impacts and to make some recommendations. Because it is not a blueprint, it is perfectly correct that others will have a different slant to contribute, and in the debate in which we are engaged it is important that all these views be given due consideration.
Moving on to some of the objectives and targets, the objectives which are listed seem on the whole to be pretty uncontroversial in the sense that objectives seek, for example—I will not quote them all—to improve the quality of life, reduce noise nuisance from traffic and the like. That we all accept is, on the whole, a desirable objective of any transport policy. Where it gets much more contentious, as I said before, is in the use of targets and, once you have determined to use them, deciding what they should be. For example, take the target on carbon dioxide emissions from transport. It is a highly controversial one because if you accept, as I think we all do, that personal mobility makes an essential contribution to the quality of life and we would not wish o be without it, it is then asking an awful lot to say "But, by the way, we wish to see the carbon dioxide emissions reduced by 80 per cent. by the year 2020"—and that is from 1990 levels, not today's.
Nevertheless it is inevitable, if you think about it. As a consequence of the climate change convention, we have agreed already to try to reduce our emission levels by 2010, and the Berlin conference recently sought to do the same for future years. Carbon dioxide from transport is about one-fifth of the emissions, so either we say that transport is exempt and is too important so we will make the rest of industry and other sectors contribute more to these reductions, or transport simply has to make its contribution.
There are in fact practical alternatives. It does not mean the end of the car. It certainly means that some other fuels become much more attractive and we deal with the alternative fuels, and it also gives a great incentive for the motor manufacturers to go for ever more efficient engines. That of course helps the consumer. It does not mean that you put safety at risk and it does not mean that these targets are unobtainable. If you think of some of the difficulties, as some motor manufacturers have said, you have only to recollect that some of these cars are already in existence: there are cars being made which would achieve these average objectives.
In a strange way, we still reward those who behave in an anti-social way. Take, for example, the company car. That is still the most astonishing facet of our renumeration and reward system. The report again 1404 says—there is a box that I should like to draw your attention to—that were the Chancellor to be able to tax the cash equivalent for these company cars, the tax yield would be about £2 billion. If you could only revise the company car fiscal opportunities, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be better off by £2 billion and the individual in the company, who very often does not use the company car (6 per cent. of company cars use no mileage at all) would be better off and the company itself would be better off because it would have more flexibility.
My time is almost up. I simply want to make the point that this document repays careful study, long though it is, and it is certainly a contribution to a debate which needs to be taken very much wider than our debate today. I am sure this debate will have made a very useful contribution in bringing this whole very important issue to public knowledge.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Lord Berkeley
My Lords, I rise with some diffidence to make a small contribution to what I believe is a subject of absolutely vital importance to the sustainability of our environment. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, on initiating this debate on the contribution that transport can make. I should also like to thank her for her kind words of welcome.
In researching the maiden speech of my aunt, Lady Berkeley, in 1970 I found that she also spoke on transport—on rural bus services—and said that the unsatisfactory nature of those services was causing great concern to country dwellers. How true then; and it gives me no pleasure to suggest that it is very much worse today, 25 years on.
I first declare my interest in that I am employed by Eurotunnel, the Channel Tunnel operators. I have had the privilege of working with many of your Lordships over the years and I should like to record my thanks for the support that many of you have given to the project. To see this very great engineering achievement and transport link completed—I hope that some of your Lordships have used it—makes one realise that it is after all a connection by means of which some 60 per cent. of our exports can go to the Continent. I think it is also appropriate to record congratulations to the Department of Trade and Industry, which over the years has probably achieved a unique success in getting 90 per cent. of production orders, after competitive tendering within the European Union, going to British firms. That compares very well with the other side of the Channel.
The tunnel is now open. Eurostar recently took its first millionth passenger, if that is the right word. Every week 100 freight trains pass through the tunnel, and traffic on the lorry and car shuttle is building up. There it is: it is a transport link, and I would not like to say more at this stage. It connects the transport networks of Britain and the Continent and therefore makes its contribution to a sustainable transport policy, which we are talking about today.
I am also chairman of the Piggyback Consortium, the objective of which is to create a system of putting lorry semi-trailers on trains within the British Rail loading 1405 gauge width, and there is a target of getting half a million lorries a year off the roads. They do not have to go through the Tunnel; they can go anywhere where road bridges are slightly raised; but it is an objective which I think is useful.
However, today I would like to explore some matters of wider interest in the debate on implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission's excellent report. I want to concentrate on carbon dioxide emissions and to discuss means of reducing them in respect of the road-rail interface within the European framework. I should like to give a few examples of how that might be achieved.
As we have already heard, the target in the report is to limit carbon dioxide emissions in the year 2000 to the 1990 level, and to reduce it to 80 per cent. of that value by the year 2020. That is quite a challenge, given the national road traffic forecast of a growth in demand of between 83 per cent. and 142 per cent.—maybe 100 per cent—between 1988 and 2025.
For passenger travel the report states that in 1992 12 per cent. of passenger-kilometres were by public transport. To meet those targets the Royal Commission recommends that the figure should be increased to 30 per cent. by 2020, 2.5 times the present figure for passenger travel by public transport. The report also compares Britain's current 12 per cent. with 18 per cent. in France and 21 per cent. in Germany. One could argue that those countries are halfway to that target. Why is there the difference? Can we learn something from those countries?
I believe that we need both the carrot and the stick approach. The sticks are easy to describe. The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, referred to some of them. They are not too difficult to implement, given sufficient political will. The Government are already looking at tolling motorways and charging for driving in city centres, and are already committed to increasing fuel duty by 5 per cent. above inflation each year. Perhaps they should also consider imposing more rigorous speed restrictions on other roads to discourage diversion from tolled motorways. That would also contribute to road safety and reduced pollution. The report states that pollution would be dramatically reduced if speeds were reduced. Such sticks may look unpopular on their own, but, linked to a carrot, they become more acceptable.
The carrot in the short term is a coherent, integrated public transport service, safe, secure and accessible to those with small children or who have mobility difficulties, or whatever, and with well designed interchanges between buses, trains and taxis. Those facilities must be cheap enough for people to want to use them. We have been saying that for a long time; it deserves repeating again and again. That may seem an impossible goal, but the report states that in the Netherlands the share of passenger-kilometres by public transport increased by 22 per cent. in 10 years, largely due to a government policy of developing and encouraging an integrated and accessible system. You can even order a taxi to be at your destination when you buy a ticket. Some noble Lords may have been to Amsterdam. The trams and cycles, and the absence of the combustion engine in the 1406 centre, make one wonder why we do not have the courage to try that concept in London. The quality of life outside this place on a smoggy, polluted day leaves much to be desired.
For longer journeys, there is the French TGV. Some noble Lords have travelled with me on the TGV. I do not say that it is better because it is French, but the TGV is a good example of how passengers have been attracted off road and air on to rail. In the first 10 years of its life, the TGV from Paris to Lyon—it is roughly the same distance as from London to Manchester—caused rail traffic on that route to increase by 80 per cent. Air traffic on that same route was halved, and the adjacent autoroute, or motorway, experienced a smaller growth in traffic compared with motorways without comparable TGV lines. It also helps that fares per kilometre in France, and I believe elsewhere, are considerably less than those in the UK. I calculate the figure to be about half.
To achieve those objectives, we must recreate our integrated network of bus and train services. Those services are, after all, really competing with the private car, not with each other. It is ironic that buses are specifically forbidden to discuss through-ticketing for fear of reference to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. In contrast, the rail regulator, after considerable nudging from this House and another place, is committed to retaining some network benefits and through-ticketing. Why is there the difference between bus and rail through-ticketing? Should not they be working together?
I believe that the regulator of the future should be the regulator of the public transport network with the specific objectives of making it more accessible and user-friendly—in short, of attracting (I emphasise the word "attracting") more passenger traffic to the overall network. The debate must continue, but we must beware of all stick and no carrot. I believe that we may be seeing that situation already. We must ensure that the additional revenue from those extra penalties, or sticks, on the private car, and so on, is not gain for the Treasury which is not transferred to public transport.
I turn to freight. The Royal Commission estimated that freight by rail would have almost to treble in 25 years. I cannot cover the issue in detail now. But I believe that with an attractive freight facilities grant—it is certainly not that at present—competitive track access charges, and aggressive new management in the rail freight industry (which I believe that we are beginning to see), there is real possibility that the rail freight targets can be achieved.
The Royal Commission has warned us of the severe consequences of doing nothing. We must heed them. I should like to see the Government propose clear new policies within transport, the environment, health, and trade and industry to achieve the targets. The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, called for an integrated transport policy. Transport, as with pollution, knows no boundaries. Those policies must be developed and implemented with other member states and the European Commission. If we do not do so, we shall have technical incompatibility. That is becoming evident already. We 1407 start from behind. We have much to learn from other member states; and we have something to contribute. Let us for once take the lead in that process.
§ 6.35 p.m.
The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Baroness for instituting the debate. It was not so long ago that we debated the issue. We have debated it quite regularly in the past and there is no harm that we debate the subject again today. The great advantage about today's debate is that we hear the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. We welcome him and have listened attentively to what he said because, as the noble Baroness said, the noble Lord is very experienced in the transport sector. There is, I think, a clique of transport enthusiasts in this House. We welcome the noble Lord to that clique and are grateful for the added expertise that he brings to our debates. We hope that he will come to the House often.
I thank the commission and in particular my noble friend for all his hard work. It must have been an enjoyable and stimulating commission. Pollution covers a number of areas—local, national, European and worldwide. Naturally the committee considered all those areas. For example, the report refers to local 20 mph zones; nationally, it refers to annual excise duty European-wide, and road pricing technology; and worldwide it refers to aircraft emissions.
However, I then become somewhat worried. The first sentence of paragraph 107 of chapter 14 states that,Our recommendations complement and reinforce each other, and must"—I stress the word "must"—be viewed as a whole".Therein lies the great difficulty regarding the excellent work of the commission. Some of its recommendations are peaks of ambition rather than realistic medium-term targets. It is difficult for a country of the size and shape of ours, with the Channel Tunnel its only link to another country, to influence much that goes on in Europe, let alone worldwide. Therefore to have the maximum effect, I should have liked the commission to have subdivided its report into the recommendations that could have coherently hung together and which we in this country could have implemented by ourselves.
We must also be careful that we do not take action that will be detrimental to ourselves and from which others can benefit, as the noble Baroness pointed out. If we tackle pollution it must be for the most part on a European-wide basis, and a worldwide basis.
I wish to touch on two important factors. First, the Government must be involved in the discussion, as must all of us. There is no doubt that our way of life will change. The commission pointed out ways in which it is likely to change. If we do not take part in that debate and come forward with our own ideas we cannot blame anyone else for taking action in the future.
I am slightly worried as to what some of the commission's recommendations mean in the way of an increase in government interference in our lives. I object to that, and hope that there might be other ways of achieving the same ends.
1408 The second point that concerns me is the massive cost of the recommendations. As I have said many times before, protecting the environment is a very expensive exercise. We must not do anything that is detrimental to our industries and economies, which are needed to generate wealth to enable us to protect the environment. The two go hand in hand. There was a suggestion in the committee's recommendations that an increase in fuel duty should double the price of fuel for cars within a period of 10 years. That would have an enormous effect in the countryside and would change the way of life there. The cost of fuel might increase dramatically under the Government's proposals, but under the commission's recommendations the change would be quicker and more severe. There are not the public sector utilities in the way of trains or buses to compensate for that dramatic increase in cost in the areas where a lot of low-income people already live. These are the kinds of knock-on effects that need to be thought through and debated as a result of the committee's hard work.
I should like to touch briefly on two other points. The committee quite rightly raised the question of noise. People's perception and their interest in noise has been growing for many years. I blame some local authorities for aggravating that position. There are cases, for instance, where the Government have put in a road scheme, and then the local authority has allowed development right up to that road. It may have been a bypass, or a new road, that has increased traffic in a particular area and the local authority has allowed development up to that point.
Similar cases have occurred with some of our airports. They are vital communication links for this country. The airports were there long before some of the present development grew up. Quite naturally, as people become more concerned about noise, so they complain from the very houses that are part of the development that took place when the airport was already there. That does not stop the problem, but it could perhaps have been alleviated by better decisions on the part of some local authorities in the first place.
I touch briefly on airports, which are a matter of concern to me. It is vital that Britain maintains its link as the hub of the European air system. We are very fortunate to have the network of airports that we do have, with Heathrow, Stansted, Gatwick and Luton around London. It is vital for our prosperity that these airports are kept and maintained, and that every opportunity is given to develop them, bearing in mind the constraints that the commission recommends.
For that reason I was disappointed by the recent decision of the Government on Redhill airport as a feeder relief airport for Gatwick. With the congestion that already exists at Heathrow and Gatwick, it seems logical that we should use existing sites such as Redhill and Northolt to enable our main airports to flourish. The sadness in regard to Northolt, which is very much under-utilised, is that it could be of enormous benefit to Heathrow and to the regions by taking some of the traffic out of Heathrow to allow bigger planes in and thereby maintaining the important position that UK Limited has in the world aviation market.
1409 I am grateful for all the commission's hard work. As my noble friend said earlier, the report is lengthy. It is impossible to do it justice in the short time that we have. I urge the Government and all who are concerned about this matter to take this debate forward. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for this short step on its route.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Baroness Hamwee
My Lords, I join with other noble Lords in welcoming this debate, and particularly in welcoming the report and the opportunity that I now have to support it. Reading the report, one realises that it is not dogmatically anti-car. It is the more authoritative, compelling and convincing for its balance and calm tone. The question of balance is vital, because one must win the hearts and minds of the public in the debate on dealing with pollution and their choices of transport mode.
The issue seems to be moving up the public agenda very fast. One has only to read of the action taken by families in Greenwich during the recent incidence of high pollution to realise that. But there is still a wide debate to be realised. We must not overlook that—the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, made this point—or the need for easily understood and easily accessible information. Some measures may appear to bring disadvantages to individuals. Unless they are understood in the short term and are seen to be for good reason, they will not succeed. We need to help the public to link the issues, and to link the causes and effects. That was a point to which the New Scientist drew attention in a very blunt editorial on 13th May. Referring to summer arriving in Britain and bringing with it the worst air pollution of the year—at a time, I have to say, when I was lucky enough to be breathing clear mountain air and was able to stop coughing for the first time in two months—the editorial went on to say:Coincidentally, last week also marked the utter humiliation of the Conservative government at local council elections … These two events are presumably not linked directly for there is no evidence that voters who walked to the polls decided that the Conservative government should pay the price for the foul taste of the air. But the government's lack of success in dealing with air pollution says much about its current political weaknesses".I am not one who calls for a rigid blueprint in these matters. But I believe that the Government have failed in not helping to provide an appropriate framework to deal with transport and pollution. We know that the Government favour a light touch. But it must be the right touch. We need the right government structures at every level; and we need especially the recognition that transport cannot be isolated from land use planning matters. We need to recognise the environmental impact of policies. For instance, if bus deregulation proceeds in London, how are the Government easily to encourage the greater use of public transport? My noble friend Lady Thomas referred to rail privatisation and the disposal of Railtrack. Already, it is difficult even to get information as to how to make any but the most straightforward journey by rail. And that is at the very start of the process of privatisation. It is difficult for the Government to say that they are promoting public transport hand-in-hand with some of their other policies.
1410 If the Government will not accept the need for an integrated transport policy—and we have seen no evidence that they do—perhaps they will accept that each individual traveller is an integrated person. Instead of regarding, for instance, car drivers as distinct from rail passengers, as distinct from cyclists, we should encourage each individual to choose the appropriate mode for each particular journey. In particular, car owners need not only be car drivers. We have not reached the point of having a culture in which leaving the car at home is one obvious option.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, mentioned sticks and carrots. We may have to accept that some of the carrots will need to precede some of the sticks. The accessibility of less environmentally damaging forms of travel needs to be available before tougher policies are applied; otherwise, the public will resent and resist what is being done. That means investing in what we have. London Underground is an obvious example. Its use is an increasingly unpleasant experience. I am told by users of branches of the District Line, other than the Wimbledon branch, that, most unhappily, delays, cancellations and overcrowding on those branches are increasing noticeably. It has to be said that the Wimbledon branch seems to have improved. That may or may not be because the new head of London Underground uses the Wimbledon branch.
Let us take the separate, and quite different, example of regional airports. There are environmentally sound reasons for expanding regional airports. I may not agree with the whole of what the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, may say about airport policy, but on the matter of regional airports, I do agree with him. There are very good reasons for expanding them instead of directing the great majority of flights to the South East and requiring passengers from, say, the North-West to travel to Heathrow to connect with international flights. It also means ensuring that what we have is as acceptable as possible. Let me mention here the new A.14 in Cambridgeshire. The road surface noise from that trunk road has proved more intrusive than the worst fears of local people had envisaged. We need to invest in research and development, which is vital to make sure that, where there has to be development, we understand the impact on the environment and on local people.
Finally, to ensure public information and public understanding there has to be openness. For instance, monitoring of pollution must be open and understandable. That is especially important in a very complex scientific and technical area. The London Air Quality Network, which has been commended by the Royal Commission, recently called for an easily understood format for reporting air quality and pollution levels to the public. One must welcome openness. After all, it is at the heart of an accountable democracy. One must encourage all agencies to be free with information and to use plain language in its presentation. Among those agencies, I include the Cabinet Sub-committee for London. The argument that transport is a major issue for London and that strategic land use planning and transport in London need to be linked was won years ago. It seems that only the Government are not convinced and deal with these matters out of the public eye in a private Cabinet committee.
1411 The issues of transport and pollution are not isolated. There are many good reasons to take them seriously. I shall end by mentioning only two of them. The quality of life is an important criterion for overseas companies considering where to locate. In other words, air quality is important in attracting investment. Secondly, the environment is vital to health. My noble friend Lady Thomas, mentioned the work undertaken by our colleague the honourable Member for Montgomery in drawing attention to the costs of treating asthma which have risen by over 20 per cent. in the past two years. There are those who say that we must do more, we must get bigger and we cannot afford environmental measures. It may be trite but it is true to say that we cannot afford not to implement them.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth
My Lords, this 18th report of the Royal Commission is significant not only for its length but also, perhaps more importantly, for drawing together so many of the issues which dominate the debate on transport and the environment. As my noble friend Lord Caithness said, we have discussed many of the issues on many occasions over recent months. Certainly those issues have often been discussed in my time in your Lordships' House and as long ago as 15 or 20 years. We do not seem to get on very much faster. That is not to deny that the Royal Commission is not right in reminding us of those self-same issues.
But I do not believe that the report has taken on board nor paid sufficient regard to those measures that have already been taken and are already in prospect to lessen the impact of land based transport. Unlike the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, I am more inclined to congratulate my right honourable friend the Minister for Transport for having taken measures quite recently on fuel consumption, carbon dioxide emissions and other matters. One problem with emissions is that only a few years ago we were urged internationally to move from petrol (gasoline) to diesel fuel. The motor manufacturers rejigged their plant and produced motor engines, particularly small diesel engines, to meet that need. Within a matter of a few years, we have heard that diesel particulates are in fact more dangerous than petrol emissions. What chance does the motor manufacturing industry have when we keep moving the goalposts. In this regard, what we need is a more consistent approach to some of the problems.
The problems are not only a matter for the Department of Transport. The report talks about planning and that involves the Department of the Environment and indeed other departments also. I believe that it was the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, who said—I hope that he will forgive me if I do not quote him exactly—that gains for the Treasury should not be kept there but should be spread around. Too much of what is happening in the motor and transport industry is Treasury dominated. A lot more could be done if some of those funds could be released. I shall return to that matter in a moment.
I return to the commission's report. Notwithstanding the preface to the report, which states that:An effective transport system is vital for economic well-being and the quality of life",1412 many of the report's 102 recommendations run quite contrary to the economic growth of the United Kingdom, the international competitiveness of industry and indeed the natural aspirations of the people of this country. Of the 102 recommendations, 31—one third—say that the Government "should". That will all cost money. From where will that money come? I shall return to that issue in my concluding remarks.
Having started in that fashion, the report concludes with the suggestion that:unrelenting growth of transport has become possibly the greatest threat facing the UK".I do not believe that that suggestion can be maintained.
My noble friend Lord Caithness spoke about the international pollution. Chernobyl is just one example which he did not mention, although he gave other instances. The growth of transport is not the greatest threat facing us. Let me say—I mean it quite critically—that by far the weakest aspect of the report is the total and absolute failure to address the economic and social impact of its recommendations. Some can be accommodated in the natural consequence and natural advancement of things. But I have not read any response to the report which does not draw that conclusion.
Let me pick just one example—not quite out of the air, because I happen to know a little about freight. To suggest increasing road costs to make "rail more attractive" is a nonsense. It will merely increase costs to industry without effecting a significant shift in the mode of travel. Anybody who runs a heavy goods vehicle at £35 per hour does not run it for fun. It is there to meet the proper and legitimate demands of its customers, without whom we should not have the quality of life that we enjoy. It is perhaps of interest to your Lordships to note that there are today fewer heavy goods vehicles—commercial vehicles over, for example, a Transit van weight—on the roads than have been recorded since records began.
The commission talked about compulsory transhipment depots to serve communities. In my view, that is a practical nonsense. One will simply substitute one heavy goods vehicle for six or eight light vehicles. They will add to the congestion; they will add to the pollution. If heavy goods vehicles were denied access to the urban areas it would add another £1.5 billion to industries' costs. That would be reflected, for example, in the cost of a packet of cornflakes and other things.
Road transport contributed £24 billion to the Exchequer in 1994–95. Road users paid 12 per cent. of all tax revenues and less than one-third of that was spent on roads, whether on the environmental impact, road building or improvements. That is a point that I wanted to pick up from the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, about the Treasury. That money must be spread around better. It is no good adding more to the Treasury coffers.
Levering up fuel costs as the report suggests would seriously damage the rural community and fall disproportionately upon the lower income groups. Having said that—a fairly condemnatory statement—I have no doubt that most people will accept some use restriction and possibly some cost increase in relation to cars (an individual pays around £815 a year in direct motor taxes). We must influence the car culture and take the balanced 1413 view, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, remarked, to reduce the impact of transport. Actions in that regard must be practical, cost-effective, widely supported and, above all, offer freedom of choice within the framework of people's lives.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Viscount Sidmouth
My Lords, I join in congratulating my noble friend Lord Berkeley on his maiden speech, not only for its content, but also bearing in mind his great contribution to Eurotunnel over the years and his excellent liaison with the inter-parliamentary Channel Tunnel group over that same period.
The report pursues this subject in massive depth, but I shall confine myself to a few short remarks on the railway aspect of it. That fits in rather well with a long-term view of the recent history of transport. As we approach this new century that seems to be a legitimate way to measure the time. If we think of the 19th century, that was obviously the age of steam traction fuelled by its old ally, coal. The 20th century has undoubtedly been the age of the internal combustion engine with its energy source coming from oil. The question is: what will the future be in the 21st century?
I suggest that the key element will be electricity. If that occurs it will have profound repercussions on the subject dealt with by the report. Although at present we are ultimately dependent upon fossil fuels, electricity is suitable for generation by alternative sources such as wind, tide and so forth. In my belief—a very fond one—it may ultimately be generated by cleaned-up nuclear fission, or in the 21st century, by fusion.
In transport terms this source of traction is not very suitable for road transport—notoriously so—and perhaps never will be; but it is ideal for railways. I draw your Lordships' attention to what the report says on that subject. It said that there is a compelling need to transfer to rail as much traffic, both passenger and freight, as possible if the world is to meet the reduced pollution targets for the next century. There are signs that railways are already moving to meet that need.
If we consider the question of urban passenger transport, it is notable that there has been a worldwide move towards rail. Many cities are building tramways, light railways or main-line extensions to meet the pressing need to reduce urban air pollution. In this country we have seen recent examples in Manchester and Sheffield. Generally speaking, since the low point of Beeching, British Rail has opened no less than 250 new stations, which shows that at last it is moving in the right direction. As the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said, the Eurostar train puts a new dimension on rail transport and I urge anyone who has not yet experienced it to do so. It provides extremely strong competition for air travel to Paris.
The way the freight situation has developed is also interesting, again perhaps in the European context. As the noble Lord said, there has been a rapid build-up. At present around 100 trains a week run at night through the tunnel. That is an interesting development because it demonstrates that it is possible to concentrate sufficient traffic at collecting points to run daily scheduled freight 1414 trains to a number of destinations. I believe that three trains a day leave Glasgow and Mosside, some of them taking traffic to Northern Italy and points beyond. That may be extended to more key routes on British Rail, provided they were modified to accept nine-feet containers or trailers by piggyback. There is urgent need for that to be done.
The next time the Government are urged by the ministry for road transport to spend a few billion pounds on new roads, I urge them to put a few hundred million into upgrading rail instead. I am certain that the environmental and social gains will justify the expenditure.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Lord Marlesford
My Lords, this is a provocative and stimulating report and I wait with bated breath for my noble friend's reply to see whether the Government have been mainly provoked or stimulated. I should like to put forward four points from the report. They are not money-spending points; in fact they are money-saving points.
First, in relation to the road programme, we all recognise that there is no way in which we can build all the roads which would be filled if we were to build them. That means a lot of roads must be cut out of the programme, but not all roads. In rural areas, in which I have a specific interest, it is clear that people's quality of life in many rural villages such as mine in Suffolk have been made intolerable by the build-up of traffic on trunk roads, and bypasses are needed there. On the other hand, in rural areas it is not desirable to make improvements to very minor roads in order to stimulate or speed traffic on its way. I would prefer traffic calming measures such as speed limits and traffic humps to slow down the traffic. It is also a great deal cheaper to do that.
We have to make better use of the roads that we have. One obvious way referred to in the report is by the use of tolls. I should like to make a modest, practical suggestion as to how we could introduce tolls straightaway on the M.25 in an inexpensive manner. We should bear in mind that for quite a lot of most days the M.25 is choked full. I suggest that we introduce a single-price toll of £5 for entering the M.25. You would pay with a smart card, and without one you would not get on the road. After all, if you try to start your car in the morning without petrol you cannot drive, so there need be no sympathy for people who try to join the motorway without a card.
You would pay to get on the road, and you would pay £5 whether you went so far as one junction or the lot. But—and this is important—it would be free to enter the M.25 between midnight and 6 a.m. I suggest that would make much better use of the M.25, and that would not be expensive to introduce. Sophisticated road pricing is a great idea, but it is still years ahead.
We need to make much better use of the cars we already have. I believe that the Government's policy over the decades has probably been wrong regarding vehicle excise duty. I believe that the current vehicle excise duty is £135 a year. In 1968 it was £25 a year, and if one multiplies that for inflation, today that figure would be £225. In 1975 the road tax had already started to fall in 1415 real terms. It was £40 a year, which is equivalent to £176 today. I would settle for £200 a year, and by my calculation, that would give the Chancellor an extra £1.3 billion, which is well worth having. It would make people think twice about having too many cars. To reinforce that, I suggest that we consider that individuals having second cars should pay double the road tax, which will be £400. If one has better use of cars, then one needs to build fewer roads. Noble Lords may think that is radical, but it is a perfectly sensible approach to dealing with a real and urgent problem.
Finally, I come to a subject which I am very keen about; namely, bicycles. I am delighted to see that the report gives them extensive cover. As I am sure all your Lordships know, National Bicycle Week starts on Saturday. On Tuesday of next week there is what is called, the "Great Parliamentary Bicycle Ride", which is from Covent Garden to the Palace of Westminster. I hope that many Members of both Houses will attend. Indeed, it would be quite fun to have a competition to see which of the two main parties can produce most Members on bicycles. The Liberal Democrat participation can be measured on the basis of proportional representation!
What is quite serious is that bicycling is jolly dangerous, particularly in London. It is 10 times more dangerous to be a cyclist than it is to be a passenger or driver in a motor car. One of the points proposed by the Royal Commission Report is to ask the Government to produce specific proposals for making bicycling safer. That is most important.
Perhaps I may give noble Lords a few figures which really show why bicycling is such a good thing. I believe that it is Paragraph 6.39 of the report which gives complicated sums about the mega joule per kilometre of the cost of moving people around in different ways. I have reduced those sums to a rather simple form and I believe that the arithmetic is right. My noble friend Lord Selborne will correct me if I am wrong. If it costs one unit for a person on a bicycle, four times as much energy is used to walk; 50 times as much energy is used to move someone in a car on an ordinary urban road and 80 times more energy to move someone in a car in the commuter rush hour. That strikes me as a good argument in favour of the bicycle. It is also a great deal healthier.
It is stated somewhere in the report that a large proportion of people of our age—I am referring to the average age of noble Lords—are not fit enough to walk even at three miles per hour. I do not think that applies to most noble Lords; but it is a pretty awful condemnation of the state of health of the British nation. It may be that we are not representative. I am told by actuaries that Members of this House live a decade longer than the rest of the community.
Quite seriously, London is an ideal place for bicycling. The total number of journeys in Britain by bicycle is about two per cent. In Germany it is about 10 per cent; in Holland about 30 per cent.; and in the city of Delft it is between 40 per cent. and 50 per cent. We should have targets greatly to increase the number of bicycle trips made in this country.
The first requirement is proper bicycle lanes, particularly in cities and in London. There is a very simple way of doing it. If one considers one-way streets—I am 1416 not about to suggest going down them the wrong way, because I said that once before and got into trouble—where there is parking on both sides, if one of those lanes was taken away and turned into a cycling lane, then at no extra cost—hey presto!—one has a perfectly good bicycle lane!
I hope that the Government, if they are really taking this subject seriously, will draw up a plan and not just leave it to local authorities because they will not do it. Some will and some will not. There is no point in having a chain if some links are missing. I end there. I believe that there is a great deal that can be done and I should like to hear the Government's response to some of my ideas.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Lord Rea
My Lords, like other noble Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, in my particular case for drawing my attention to the material which is in the Royal Commission's report on environmental pollution and transport. It is a fascinating document.
I follow the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, in tandem, almost, in that I shall be devoting most of my remarks to cycling. I have to declare an interest: I am a fair weather cyclist. I quite often travel to your Lordships' House by bike. I also admit to using my car rather too often for longer journeys rather than using my bike or public transport, despite the fact that I am entitled to a rail card. We use cars because of their comfort, convenience and ability to carry luggage, shopping and other paraphernalia, so easily in the boot. A hatchback or an estate car enables us to carry furniture and sometimes a bicycle—or even such other items as sacks of manure—around town or country with ease.
I admit that cycling can never be the major mode of transport in the country or the solution to all the environmental impacts which methods of transport have. But for short journeys, as the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, pointed out, especially in urban areas, the bicycle is extremely efficient and often the most rapid form of transport. I can reliably reach your Lordships' House from home in 25 to 30 minutes on a bicycle. By Tube it takes 35 to 40 minutes; by bus it takes about 45 minutes. Car journeys are very unpredictable, taking anything from 20 minutes to 40 minutes depending on the traffic. However, as the noble Lord pointed out, the fuel efficiency of riding a bicycle is enormously superior to that of a motor vehicle. The car burns up 40 to 80 times as many calories per person/kilometre travelled, depending on the traffic, as a cyclist. Also, the car produces 40 to 80 times as much CO2 as a cyclist. The cyclist uses no fossil fuel and emits no nitrogen oxides or particulate matter in exhaled breath.
Although the precise mechanism is not fully understood, there is little doubt that vehicle fumes play a part, perhaps a major part, in the recent worrying increase in asthma. That was referred to by the noble Baroness. Diesel fumes which contain more minute particulate matter are a suspect with regard to asthma, because it appears that the hydrocarbon particle acts as a nucleus or nidus to which allergens or other irritants can stick.
1417 Cyclists, as compared to motorists, do not just contribute to a healthy atmosphere, they improve their own health. I spelt that out, possibly in some boring detail, in a contribution I made to the Unstarred Question on cycling tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, almost two years ago. To sum up, the beneficial effects on health of cycling occur mainly in the cardiovascular system (the heart and the arteries). The likelihood of a heart attack (a myocardial infarction) or angina, high blood pressure or a stroke is measurably decreased by exercise. Osteoporosis, also a major cause of problems in middle to late life, especially among women, is greatly reduced by exercise.
There is now no scientific doubt about those findings, which are recognised in the recent report of the physical activity taskforce set up under the Health of the Nation initiative entitled, More People, More Active, More Often.
As the Royal Commission report points out, although cycle ownership has risen from 25 per cent. to 36 per cent. in the past 20 years, the percentage of the population which uses bicycles regularly has decreased by a third over the same period. Cycle mileage per person per year has fallen from 51 miles to 41 miles. The Royal Commission report, as the noble Lord pointed out, takes cycling seriously and devotes 21 paragraphs in six different sections to cycling. It makes four recommendations and puts forward one major objective in relation to cycling, (target C2 in paragraph 14.96) which states that the target should be:To increase cycling use to 10 per cent. of all urban journeys by 2005, compared to 2.5 per cent. now, and seek further increases thereafter on the basis of targets to be set by the government".The decrease in cycling use is due partly to the increased convenience of cars, as I said, and the vast increase in the percentage of the population which owns a car, and partly to the perceived danger of cycling in present traffic conditions. There are about 250 deaths and 25,000 injuries among cyclists per annum, as the report points out. The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, mentioned that the death rate per 100 kilometres travelled is nearly 10 times higher on a bicycle than it is in a car. In Britain the death rate from cycling is two or three times higher than it is in the Netherlands, Sweden or Denmark.
As an important step towards increased cycling safety the report recommends that,comprehensive networks of safe cycle routes which do not involve the use of heavily trafficked roads should be built up in all urban areas.Further,the government should make available to all local authorities the relatively modest resources required to support a 10-year programme to create high-quality cycling facilities; the new appraisal method of cycling schemes be reviewed in the light of the 1995/96 TPP round".In statements over the past year or two, the Government have accepted that an increase in cycling is desirable. In June last year the Department of Transport issued a cycling friendly statement entitled A Blueprint for Cycling Policy, advocating some of the cycling measures put forward by the Royal Commission, but it put the onus of operating those on local government, the private sector and individuals themselves. Of course local authorities are the proper people to construct safe cycle ways and provide other measures recommended in the report, but they need the "relatively modest"—as the Royal 1418 Commission puts it—resources required to carry out those schemes. Local authorities have had their duties increased and their budgets decreased regularly during this Government's lifetime. Exhortation from central government is not enough. Action in the form of resources is essential.
I should like to ask the Minister a question which I put to him two years ago. Deaths and serious injuries to cyclists are due usually to head injuries. Although the cost of cycle helmets has come down over the past few years, they are still much too expensive for some, especially children and adults from poor families. They represent about 25 per cent. of the cost of the bicycle itself. That is partly because they are VAT liable, as are the bicycles themselves and bicycle spare parts, although motorcycle helmets are exempt. We cannot exempt pedal cyclists' helmets, pedal cycles or pedal cycle parts without a cross-European agreement to do so. That would seem a desirable aim right across Europe. I see that I have overrun my time. I believe there may be another tandem coming along after me and so I shall now finish.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Lord McNair
My Lords, I am not sure whether the noble Lord was referring to me as a third tandem—no, we have another cyclist here. I am grateful to my noble friend for introducing the debate. Your Lordships will not be surprised to learn that I shall concentrate upon our inland waterways, but I should like to start with two quotations from the report. The first is:We do not regard this cycle of continual road building facilitating continue growth of road transport as environmentally sustainable".The second quotation is:Unrelenting growth of transport has become possibly the greatest environmental threat facing the UK and one of the greatest obstacles to achieving sustainable development".I am grateful to Dr. David Hilling of the Department of Geography at the University of London for providing me with most of my information. On an island such as Britain, it is brought home to us that land itself is a finite resource. That is one of the reasons not to open up more and more large aggregate pits even if the land will ultimately be available for a limited number of alternative uses. Connected to that is the fact that road building removes from other possible uses both the land from which the aggregate is taken and the land to which it is taken to make the roads.
In taking the best practicable environmental option as the basis for decision-making, the Royal Commission suggests that not only industrial pollution—the original target—but now also transport policy should be based upon that principle. In that context, I should like to see more use made of water transport. The objection often raised to water transport that it is so slow. If you look at the life history of many industrial products you see that they spend a long period in a warehouse, a short period moving quickly in a lorry, and another period doing nothing in a warehouse. It should not take a great deal of forward planning to provide for the goods to spend a certain amount of time that they would otherwise spend doing nothing in the warehouse travelling more slowly by 1419 water. In that way a huge tonnage of different products would pollute far less in their journeys to their eventual customers.
The stated objective of the Royal Commission is to increase the proportion of freight carried by less environmentally damaging modes and to make the best use of the existing infrastructure, which of course includes the man-made and the natural inland waterways.
I return to the slowness of water transport. Perhaps the Royal Commission overestimates the deterrent effect of this disadvantage. Certainly the amazing growth of container traffic on the Rhine from Rotterdam to Antwerp suggests that an extra few days is of no great significance as regards goods that have already travelled a long way from the Far East and other distant places.
In Germany there is a weekend lorry ban on motorways. That is undoubtedly helpful to the waterways. We could see more of that type of restriction in the future. Tweddle and Nash recommended—I am not sure of the name of the report—that British waterways should be included in the European masterplan for inland waterways. This would ensure that Britain gets a share of any infrastructure grants that may be available. As recently as 1994, and in the face of all evidence to the contrary, the British Government were arguing that countries' waterways were not a part of the mainland—that is the European—waterways system. Yet before railways were even invented ships provided direct connection between inland ports in Britain and those in the mainland of Europe.
To illustrate the possibilities for increasing the tonnage of freight carried on water, I should like also to draw on two other reports which refer specifically to the Thames. The Financial Times, in a report dated 6th January 1989, described the Thames as the:most under-utilised stretch of natural infrastructure in Europe".Any policy based on the BPEO must make more use of London's river.
In 1992 the Government set up a River Thames Working Group to examine the present use of the river, the factors which inhibit the growth of traffic and the potential for developing freight and passenger transport on the river. Its report highlighted the huge quantity and wide variety of products which are carried on the river.
The Royal Commission report examines the now well-known benefits to the environment of a greater use of water transport. Barge transport in connection with the Jubilee Line extension is reducing lorry transport in the city by 300 journeys a day and waterfront industries create local employment and economic benefit.
Waterside industry in general must be in the context of proper landscaping, attention to design and the reduction of environmental conflict. Please remember that for those who use the waterways for pleasure in particular the view from the water needs to be considered. Too often planners are steamrollered into developments which exploit cheaper waterside land and result in nothing but slabs of wall facing the waterway. It will never have the charm and the interest even of the older industrial areas through which many canals pass.
1420 I wish to conclude by passing on a comment which friends of mine made when they flew back from France in early May during some very hot weather. They told me that as they flew over the Channel and inland the colour of the air became a dirty yellow-grey and looked very sick. Certainly during those days, and for the first time ever in my life, I found the air in London difficult and distasteful to breathe.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Lord Colwyn
My Lords, I too welcome the Royal Commission report. I welcome its analysis of present travel patterns and transport trends; its review of policy options; recommended objectives; targets; and, finally, the importance that it gives to cycling. I realise that there are many issues to be discussed tonight and I hesitate to overplay the cycling aspect of our debate. However, many of your Lordships will know that in the week I cycle in London in all weathers. It is my intention to confine my remarks to that subject tonight. The economic health and environmental benefits of cycling were fully discussed in your Lordships' House on 21st April 1993 and are now increasingly widely recognised. I believe that that debate was initiated by my noble friend Lord Marlesford.
Since then there have been a number of changes. The bicycle is no longer viewed as just the vehicle of the poor—or, perhaps in our case, that of the eccentric—but increasingly as a symbol of modern and healthy living. Bicycle ownership continues to increase. Sales are running at more than 2 million per year and the industry calculates that ownership is now close to 20 million.
However, this cycling revival is not reflected in national or regional use statistics. In London, usage is said to have dropped by 30 per cent. between 1981 and 1991, although local commuter counts indicate an increase since 1991. Certainly during the 15 or 20 years that I have been cycling I have seen a marked increase. The decline may well be attributable to a decline in the levels of child cycling where escort trips account for roughly one-quarter of all peak hour traffic in West London. While motor traffic growth has increased the gap both in perceived and real danger between those who travel inside a motor car and anyone outside, now nearly 30 per cent. of London schoolchildren are taken to school by car and less than 1 per cent. cycle.
Cycling is more important for commuting. On some inner London arterial roads cyclists can account for 17 per cent. of all vehicles during peak hours. Generally there is a shortage of reliable information about cycling and travel patterns, although cycling has now been included in the Department of Transport comparative study journey times. In central and inner London—even under present conditions—cycling is quicker than going by car, even for journeys up to six miles, and in outer London only slightly slower. The London Cycling Campaign's commuter challenge from Camden Lock to St. Paul's will be illustrating this tomorrow as part of Hovis National Bike Week.
I cycle each day from home to work. It takes about 20 minutes. Then at the end of the day I cycle from my surgery to your Lordships' House, which takes between 1421 12 and 15 minutes. My journey would be much more comfortable if there were a recognised safe way to cross Park Lane. Even in roads such as Park Lane, Bond Street, Sloane Street and St. James' Square it is impossible to get away from double-parked traffic, fumes, potholes and refuse—particularly glass—which are so much a feature of central London cycling. Westminster councillors have once again rejected proposals for a Park Lane crossing, fearing that such an improvement would increase congestion and pollution. The parking attendants seem to have little effect on vehicles parking in bus lanes. The refuse collection lorries have an inherent design fault which allows glass to fall onto the road when rubbish containing glass is being compressed.
On my journey to your Lordships' House tonight I counted 24 cars illegally parked on my side of Bond Street. In several of them drivers were sitting in the driving seat so that they could drive away if a warden appeared. Two of those cars contained chauffeurs who were keeping the engines idling, I imagine to keep the air conditioning in good order for their owners when they arrived back from shopping.
Old habits die hard. Until very recently the message from the Department of Transport to transport planners and the general public alike was that cycling was too dangerous to encourage and it was not its role to promote any particular mode of transport. The Government, to their credit, have begun to take cycling seriously and encourage it as a valuable and flexible means of transport.
Safety remains the chief deterrent. A recent television programme about new London cyclists found that inner London was not as bad as they had expected, although the potholes were much worse. In their submission for the London Cycle Network, London boroughs identified a number of factors which contribute to cycle accidents. I would hope that adoption of the Royal Commission's cyclist fatality reduction target—I say to my noble friend Lord Selborne that that is a good target—would help to focus road safety effort on addressing these issues and reducing the dangers at source.
In Planning Policy Guidance 13—PPG 13—which has been taken further in the subsequent strategic Guidance for London, the Government recognise that policy decisions rather than immutable trends shape individual travel patterns and recommend that walking, cycling and public transport are given advantage over travel by car. The package approach, introduced in 1994, offers a more sustainable framework for local authority funding. Previously cycling featured only as a minority interest among safety schemes. The Cyclists Public Affairs Group reviewed the 1994–95 bids and allocations in its report, Trust Pedal Power. Provisional results of a similar study for 1995–96 show an increase in bids which include cycling schemes and some significant higher awards—most notably £3 million towards development of the London Cycle Network. However, 75 per cent. of UK local transport funding last year was committed to major schemes.
I believe that the Royal Commission's proposed objectives and targets provide a much better basis for sustainable transport and land-use planning, and would help to release funds for local transport networks and 1422 improving the relative attractiveness of walking, cycling and public transport. However policy develops, government must ensure that there is adequate finance to build coherent local cycle networks. I am told that the cost of implementing on-road measures is not high but, for complex and congested locations, often involves as much time and expertise as much more costly junction schemes. Adjustment or restriction of traffic flows and re-allocation of road space may well be necessary, but it is a small price to pay for making cycling easier and safer and much more widespread in urban areas.
There is an enormous potential for an increase in cycling; in particular, substituting for the shortest and most environmentally damaging car journeys. According to the National Travel Survey 1989–91, 73 per cent. of all UK trips are shorter than five miles. The Cyclists Touring Club, in its report Bikes Not Fumes, showed that 40 per cent. to 50 per cent. of all non-walking journeys could be undertaken by bicycle without greatly increasing the average length of bike trips. That would displace up to one-sixth of all car mileage, up to half of all car trips, saving up to three-quarters of a million tonnes of carbon monoxide each year, 100,000 tonnes of nitrogen oxide and 16 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere each year.
National levels in European countries—Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands—are far superior to ours. Many towns not traditionally associated with cycling have increased use by more than 10 per cent. of all trips over a 10 year period—notably Munich, Stuttgart, Hanover, Basle and Munster. In a total reversal of cycling's negative image, those tend to be the most prosperous and progressive cities.
The Dutch have made serious efforts to combine cycling with public transport—35 per cent. of all rail passengers arrive at the station by bicycle. The Cyclists Public Affairs Group has produced useful guidance for rail operators on improving the connections between bicycles and trains. I am therefore pleased that the Royal Commission has made specific recommendations on this. Increased cycle carriage on trains and convenient cycle hire facilities can also encourage tourism in rural areas and reduce the impact of motor traffic on rural roads and environmentally sensitive areas.
The Government forecast that car ownership in London will increase by about one-third between 1991 and 2011, with congestion and motor traffic also increasing alarmingly, though at differing rates, throughout London. Recent draft strategic planning guidance recommends that boroughs should review their policies to avoid congestion and air pollution reaching unacceptable levels.
Measures which reduce the worst pollution are of course useful. But I believe catalytic converters are not effective over short distances and do not reduce global warming gases. I read in the Evening Standard on Monday that, according to reliable estimates, most of the pollution is caused by 12 per cent. of the vehicles—the major factor being poor vehicle maintenance. Many drivers do not know the problem their car is causing. I am aware that Westminster council has been targeting these "gross polluters" with its roadside emission tests, but I should be interested to hear from my noble friend whether the testing is having any effect. I should also like to ask 1423 him whether it is possible for a cyclist or pedestrian to report a vehicle that is obviously emitting dangerous fumes.
In conclusion, I am delighted that the Government are at last beginning to take cycling seriously. There is no doubt that the conditions in which we cycle are affected by government policy. Much can be done immediately and without significant cost. An individual's decision to travel by bicycle will be affected by perceptions about the volume and mix of traffic, the amount of road space available, the local availability of goods and services and the relative convenience and security of parking. The Royal Commission's report shows how these issues interrelate and makes a great many useful recommendations. I hope that the Government will give it the highest priority.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Viscount Mersey
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, on introducing the debate. I believe that there is real hope that we can adopt most of the recommendations of this report because the human race is so adaptable. It was pointed out to me the other day that, for example, no one would have forecast 20 years ago that generally we should have given up cigarettes, but we have done so as a nation. That is a colossal social and medical change. If that sort of change can be made, we can do anything.
But to highlight our dilemma, I should like to give your Lordships three quotes from the Royal Commission and from the earlier report on sustainable mobility of Sub-Committee B, on which I had the privilege to serve. The first quote is:It is not the Government's job to tell people when and how to travel".The second quote is:No politician hoping for election could ever mount a platform and say, 'I plan to ban you from driving from London to Birmingham'".The third quote is:To avoid gridlock on that section of the M.1 between Luton and the M.25 we will need a motorway 20 lanes wide in as many years".Thus, not surprisingly, the dilemma which existed when we debated your Lordships' report last October is still with us today and is, if anything, greater.
I doubt whether many noble Lords heard the speech I made last October. In it I produced a solution; namely, prohibitively expensive parking in our city centres. As proof that that works, I gave as an example the island of Manhattan where not even the chairman of the Chase Manhattan Bank could afford to park. Therefore, he was spearheading the swing back to rail. Alas, my hopes have proved premature. Only last Sunday I learnt from a Morgan Stanley banker that those very expensive car parks are full again and that traffic density in New York is as bad as ever.
I am also a little dismayed to learn that at our latest development at Canary Wharf, public transport is quite inadequate and will remain so even after the completion of the Jubilee Line. Moreover, there are no main line stations. Thus, the employees of the Daily Telegraph and the merchant banks already there generally drive. What a pity that is; and whatever happened to the river bus?
1424 The swing back to rail becomes ever more urgent. The Royal Commission points out the scale of the problem. In this country we have 16,500 kilometres of rail but we have 360,000 kilometres of road. It points out too the frequency of the chained journey; that is, a trip to work, dropping one's child off at school and then on the way, popping into the Asda superstore to buy the groceries. Nowadays, we take that sort of journey for granted. We could never make such a journey by public transport. Increasingly we rely on our cars. One generation back, only 1 per cent. of children went to school by car; now, 30 per cent. do. In 1980, only 5 per cent. of us shopped in out-of-town megastores whereas now 37 per cent. do. Some drive a surprising 40 minutes each way to reach them.
Perhaps the reason that I appear rather pessimistic is that I produced solutions in my October speech and some of them seem already to have come a cropper. The Royal Commission has tackled that unsustainable descent into chaos with great imagination and makes no fewer than 110 recommendations which are eminently sensible but potentially unpopular—to increase fuel duty, to increase road tax, to decrease speed limits and to reduce the number of bypasses. For example, recommendation 58 states:Planned expenditure on motorways and other trunk roads should be reduced to about half its present level".But irrespective of popularity, the Government must take the bit between their teeth and implement those recommendations. We cannot continue to pollute our land with asphalt and our air with greenhouse gases.
In addition I have singled out two rays of sunshine from the report. The first is the internet and the second is walking. With regard to internet, it must be true that as electronic communication becomes faster and more comprehensive, there will be less need to travel to work. The numbers of people working from home will increase. Another interesting factor is that an average car journey is under five miles, which is an easy distance for most of us to walk. I say "most of us", because, as my noble friend Lord Marlesford pointed out, and as I have learned to my horror, one-third of men and half of the women between the ages of 55 and 64 are not fit enough to walk at 3 miles per hour on level ground. Fortunately, I do not belong to that group. During the week I live in Notting Hill Gate. To ensure that I arrive here in time for a meeting, using public or private transport, I must allow an hour. Alternatively, to walk the four miles here through the parks takes an hour and it puts me in a good mood.
I recommend that means of propulsion, as does the noble Earl, Lord Longford. Three bicyclists have spoken in the debate, the noble Lords, Lord Marlesford, Lord Rea and Lord Colwyn. I still regard the bicycle as pretty dangerous and not much faster. I am a little worried that one of the three bicyclists is my dentist.
The most important question raised by the Commission has been touched on by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee: do we need to travel so much? It emerges from the statistics in the report that train passenger miles have not decreased; rather, they only represent 6 per cent. of the total miles travelled. Are we travelling hopefully rather than arriving? Are we confusing activity with achievement? Many of us may yearn for the rustic days of 1425 Hardy's Wessex when most people never even travelled to Dorchester, but is that mere romantic nostalgia or is there a grain of truth in it?
Last week I went to Liverpool. A verger showed us the baptistry in the Anglican Cathedral. I asked him about the Roman Catholic Cathedral which is nicknamed Paddy's Wigwam. "Oh, Paddy's Wigwam", he chuckled, 'To tell the truth, I never journeyed that far". That verger was a happy man. Perhaps the Church has something to teach us about sustainable mobility.
I agree with the concluding paragraph of the Commission's report where Burke's dictum is quoted:Society is not only a partnership between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead and those who are to be born.We must think of the unborn. We must provide for them a green and pleasant land. If we implement the Royal Commission's recommendations we will do so.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Viscount Craigavon
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Rea, correctly warned the House that a tandem was following him on the subject of bicycling. It is because the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, made such a formidable speech that I regard him as being in the engine room of the tandem, which I think is the back. I shall delicately steer the front.
We have all been encouraged by the mention of National Bike Week that starts on Saturday.
I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Berkeley on an articulate and formidable speech. Some of us who have been involved with bicycles for some time are still waiting with interest to see how his company will implement a very small requirement in the Channel Tunnel Bill. I tried to enlarge that requirement in this House but failed, and it was put in in another place by Sir George Young. That requirement was that the shuttle should be able to carry bicycles from shore to shore.
I hope that in the Government's response to the report they will confirm their whole-hearted commitment to two wheels. Can the Minister say whether the Government are going to make a proper response to the report and give an indication as to when that might be? He has been asked very specific questions on cycling which I do not expect him to be able to answer in the context of this very abstract report, but I hope that he will be able to regard the diversion we have caused on cycles as a case study to bring an abstract report down to earth.
Having stated that I should like to speak also about motor cycles, I was surprised that I could find no reference to motor cycles in the index; it is as though they were deemed to have a similar environmental impact to any other combustion-engined vehicle.
As someone who invariably cycles or motorcycles through traffic, I am regularly astonished that more people do not spontaneously take to two wheels to beat the congestion and the ever-decreasing traffic speeds. I get the impression that in this complex report bicycling features as only an afterthought. I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, who talked about extensive coverage in the report. The relevant cycling conclusions 1426 are summed up in two objectives and four recommendations. Recommendations 100 and 101 relate to facilities that could be provided by British Rail and Railtrack. There is an apparent obvious conflict between the immediate short-term aims and problems of those organisations and the longer-term perspective of the Royal Commission report.
There is a medium-term economic case to be made that it makes sense, as other countries find, to encourage extra rail passengers by providing secure station parking and uncomplicated carrying of cycles by train. However desirable and likely that seems at present, it is useful to note that the report keeps those ideas in play for the future.
Recommendations 98 and 99 advocate safe cycle routes and schemes, claiming that only relatively modest resources are required to support a 10-year programme to create high quality cycling facilities. Those recommendations tie up with the stated objectives to increase cycle use in the next 10 years for all urban journeys from 2.5 per cent. to 10 per cent. That is ambitious but possible, in my opinion. It is partly based on usage levels in similar countries. I hope that those recommendations can form the beginning of a national cycling strategy.
As a long-standing member and officer of the all-party cycling group in this building, I feel that we have in a sense been here before. I am also encouraged by the recent significant shift of attitude at government and sometimes local government level.
In the recent paper that was produced by the former cycling Minister, Mr. Robert Key, changing perceptions of cycling was highlighted as being a most important feature. I was pleased to hear the Minister, Mr. Steven Norris, say in an adjournment debate in another place today that in this country we have hugely undervalued cycling. He stated that targets have their place as long as local variations can be recognised.
The apparent changes of attitude, while valuable, should also be reflected in actions.
I should like to quote a paragraph from the press release given by Mr. Steven Norris today, which I find encouraging:There is a need to take drastic action if we are to move to a position where cycling is seen as an integral part of a sustainable transport policy. Our intention is to ensure that cycling is placed more centrally in planning local transport strategies. One such action is the creation of a National Cycling Strategy.Those are good intentions and I hope that they will be followed up energetically.
I understand that progress is slowly being made in London, sometimes using funds that are ring fenced for the purpose. In the area that I know well, Kensington and Chelsea, new cycle lane signs and dedicated parking stands are in evidence. There is a very welcome profusion of "Sheffield" stands in the borough. At first they appeared to be unused, but as they became noticed, over a period, they were more regularly used. A valuable incidental effect of positively providing parking stands for cycles is to welcome officially and approve the cyclist who would normally not take any great pleasure in having to padlock his machine to someone's railings or a lamppost. It is in such small ways that the improved status and perception of the bicycle is reinforced.
1427 It is encouraging that motoring organisations now take cycles seriously. In particular, the AA has done so in its response to the report of the Royal Commission in which it signifies its support for all the recommendations relating to bicycling. In that response, the AA also refers to its admirable booklet called, Cycling Motorists. How to Encourage Them.
In the cycling field, we should be grateful for the continuing enthusiasm of the three organisations making up the Cyclists' Public Affairs Group. I know that the group is ready to play its part in the massive public education about, and encouragement of, cycling. It certainly agrees with the principle of targets and objectives and the scope for a substantial long-term increase in bicycle use.
Finally, on the subject of motorcycles, I hope that the Minister (who is well known for his interest in the field) will not allow his department to forget the contribution of motorcycles in framing its response to the report. In just about every measure relating to environmental pollution, motorcycles are substantially better than cars: on fuel efficiency, on resources consumed and on road space, for example.
I believe that motorcycles have a much larger role to play in the future which the report addresses. They need to be encouraged, sometimes, as an acceptable substitute for the car, perhaps even for those who find a change to the bicycle too drastic. As well as their national cycling strategy, I hope that one day soon the Government might also try to develop a national motorcycling strategy.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Lord Mountevans
My Lords, while travelling here today from the New Forest in my electric train, I thought how marvellously clean such a train is, both to those of us who use it and to those who live nearby. However, I also thought how very foul it is for those who live downstream at the power stations in Yorkshire and get the acid rain. When I arrived here I looked at our palace. As many noble Lords will remember, the external fabric was severely damaged by effluence from coal combustion, be it household fires, industry or the steam engine that was the mainspring of the Industrial Revolution. Over the past decade, much work has gone into refurbishing or restoring the exterior, but now it is the car that is doing the damage; indeed, it is the exhaust from the internal combustion engine. That leads me to think, as many speakers have said today, that our needs for transport and the environment are uneasy bedfellows.
Nonetheless, it is a pleasure to be the last Back Bench speaker in tonight's debate and to share the compliments paid to the Royal Commission for a provocative report. When I say that, I mean one that provokes thought and reaction, and not one that incites violence. It is also a pleasure to join in with the compliments that have been paid to the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, for giving us the opportunity to discuss the report. It is of course a great pleasure to welcome the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, to our debates.
1428 As ever, I declare a railway interest. Therefore, I should like briefly to explore the passenger dimensions of some of the conclusions of the commission. It is also nice, when you are speaking last, to realise that you have actually chosen a topic that no one else explored.
If we are to make greater use of our public transport services we need to make them, and information about them, as accessible as possible. Hence I strongly support the commission's recommendation—I believe it is number 43—that additional PTAs and PTEs should be established outside the former provincial metropolitan county areas; and, indeed, in London. It may not sit easily with local government reorganisation, but I believe that there is a strong case for a shire county PTA-PTE structure—not one massively buying transport through the mechanism of subsidy, but one spreading information and seeking to co-ordinate the various disciplines and modes.
I believe that such a structure can in fact still be established under the railways legislation of 1968. I do not think that that spoke specifically and exclusively about the metropolitan areas. The structure has served us well, in the metropolitan areas in respect of its support for rail— and I believe that that support will become more locally focused as the passenger train operating units gather strength—but especially as regards inter-modal (the bus, the train, the tram or even the boat) transfer tickets and information provision.
Perhaps I may take information first. Timetable and fare information must, I believe, be readily and easily accessible if the car is to be left at home. It was most interesting for me to listen earlier this week to a solicitor who lives in Portsmouth but who works in Southampton. He had been persuaded to take up the Government's option—namely, "Leave the car at home for a day. Don't choke Britain". That solicitor was amazed to discover, first, that there was a very convenient bus and train which would take him to work; secondly, that it was actually cheaper, if one took seriously the annualised costs of one's car, than motoring was; and, thirdly, that he did not, as he put it, waste time because time on the bus and in the train could be spent working whereas time in the car must, for safety reasons, be spent concentrating on the job in hand. The solicitor was not aware how cheap the train would be. As I said, he was not aware of how simply and easily the two modes connected.
What that solicitor needed was timetable and fare information which was readily and easily available. In London, we have London Regional Transport's excellent telephone inquiry bureau. I believe that it fulfils an essential role for anyone, motorist or non-motorist, who is thinking of using public transport. "Yes, inquiring customer, there are trains. There are tubes and there are buses, or whatever. These are their times, their fares and their routes". That is the information that a potential user needs before deciding to use public transport. I believe that is an essential plank regarding anything that we set out to do to make more use of our public transport.
The second stage in which PTAs have excelled is through ticketing across the different transport modes— not, as in London, with just a travelcard for the frequent traveller, but also in respect of single journeys where one changes routes or discipline modes. In fact, that is a 1429 particular weakness in London in terms of the traveller who is making a single, perhaps discretionary, journey. "Is your journey really necessary?" Surely we do not make journeys that are not necessary.
In the old days, I could go to the Treasury Building of an evening and get a through bus from there to Regent's Park on one single ticket. Now my route has been divided and I have to purchase two single tickets. Therefore, my fares have increased and so, indeed, has the hassle. I have to wait for two buses instead of one. If I had a car I would be inclined to use it and, given some of the persuasiveness used this evening, I might even consider buying a bicycle if I was really brave.
I strongly endorse Recommendation 85 of the commission on multi-modal ticketing and Recommendation 86 on information provision. However, I would go further and ask the Government to look at best practice abroad. As the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, mentioned, Holland has a publicly-owned railway and a mix of public and private road transportation, publicly-owned trams and a mix of public and private shipping companies to serve the off islands and to cross some of the water gaps.
If I go to a station in Holland, I can buy not only a train ticket, but I can also buy a strip ticket that enables me to ride on any bus, tram or boat anywhere in the country. If the Dutch can do that, surely we should not renounce it. We should consider whether we can do it so that a Londoner could buy a strip ticket here and then use it on the Tyne & Wear Metro or wherever. Not only that, as was mentioned, I can also book a taxi at my destination; I can even hire a bike.
I believe that I should stress the word "connecting". In Norway, all public transport is listed in a national timetable called Rutebok for Norge. Not only does it list all the schedules, and so on, but every railway timetable shows where bus services inter-connect with the trains. If one looks at Stockholm, a suburban or underground train crosses from one side to the other—let us say the south to the north. On the south, on its way in, it is fed by buses. In the centre it does its business. On the north, it feeds into buses. One arrives at the terminal station and five minutes later eight or 10 buses cascade over a wide area of the county of Stockholm. I believe that that is also best practice that we should look at. In addition, at the point where one boards one can buy a ticket that takes one right the way through to one's destination, whatever other transport modes one may use.
I believe that we can learn from the Dutch, the Norwegians, Swedes and the Germans. When we have learnt I believe that the PTA/PTE mechanism spread nationwide will prove to be an apt operating vehicle, not to buy service through subsidy, but by way of information provision and through user-friendliness. As we all know, outside the absolute peaks rail and bus have vast amounts of spare capacity. PTAs have the knowhow. Put them together and one will make a modest contribution towards reconciling transport needs and those of the environment.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ Lord Beaumont of Whitley
My Lords, I am delighted that we have had an extremely good debate, particularly as I was the Peer who put down this subject on the Order 1430 Paper. I believe that we have injected a great deal of wisdom into the subject. As the Secretary of State for Transport is widely known as a thinking Minister—why it should be necessary to pick out a thinking Minister from the rest of Ministers is not entirely clear—it is to be hoped that what has been said in the debate will be taken up. The quality of the speeches has been extremely high. Having become slightly deaf in my old age, I am not quite certain whether the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, said that we all had an extra decade or that we were all extra-decayed. Whichever it is, I believe that we have taken advantage of the first and denied the second.
We have discussed a large number of subjects. We have taken the recommendations of the commission and subjected them to considerable examination. It has been said that the cost of putting them into operation will be enormous. One of the interesting points to emerge from the debate is that a number of the speeches have included recommendations for how that money is to be raised. A number of Peers referred to large savings that could be made by following the recommendations of the Royal Commission, not least taxation of company cars, which was mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Selborne. Of course, we very much welcome the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. In particular, I welcome his call for a regulator for the whole public transport system. I believe that that is something we most have, together with the information required for the whole public transport system. That is one of the reasons why we on these Benches deplore the privatisation of the rail system.
I very much welcome Eurotunnel, if that is the noble Lord's achievement. I travelled on it recently. However, I was slightly disappointed to find that when travelling from London to Brussels the only part of the journey which was conducted at speed was that which took place in France. In both England and Belgium it was very slow, though pleasant. I speak as someone who in his youth cycled from London to Paris and used the Dartford Tunnel, which was an appalling experience. I do not recommend that to anyone. I welcome the fact that we have Eurotunnel. I do not know why this should apply to the French. I suppose that we have got into the habit of thinking of the French as somehow a fast nation and it is not, very seemly for us or the Belgians to proceed at the same kind of speed.
The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, said that the report hung together and rather wished that one could separate out the British parts. If I may say so, that is typical of the attitude of his Government and party at this time. They appear to be dissociating themselves from Europe as fast as possible. We cannot and should not do it. The more we can integrate our systems the better.
The noble Earl raised the important topic of the country motorist. There are answers to this problem. One of them in which we on these Benches are particularly interested is the taxation of cars according to size and speed capability. On the whole, one does not need a very large car in the countryside, although a large number of Members of this House appear to drive enormous four-wheel-drive vehicles. However, the people who need transport and about whom we are speaking do not need to do that. They do not cover great mileages in most of the 1431 countryside of Britain, although that may not be true of the county of Caithness or one or two of the more distant areas.
We have dealt with the whole range of transport. We have touched on air and airports. My noble friend Lady Hamwee said that the person who used the train was also the person who drove a car and was a cyclist. She did not mention that he was also a pedestrian. Other people have spoken about pedestrians. We have dealt with internal waterways. My noble friend Lord McNair dealt with that very well. I do not believe that we have spoken about coastal transport in connection with goods, but that is a very small omission from coverage of a very large area.
The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said that the costs of all this had been underrated. He said that the cost of a packet of cornflakes would go up if all of the recommendations of the commission were put into operation. That is true. If we are to come to terms with a sustainable environment and economy in future, it is essential that we take into account the costs which at present are spread about in different places. Over the weekend I attended an all-day conference of Friends of the Earth. Mention was made of a win, win, win solution. That is a solution where economically, environmentally and socially one wins. It is very good to have a solution where one wins on all three, but one must win on at least two of them in order to have worthwhile transport. If one wins socially and environmentally one may have to put up with rather more cost. That is something that all of us have to face.
There are all sorts of ways of dealing with the various immediate transport problems. The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, suggested that we have a £5 fee for entering the M.25. I think that may be a good idea but I was not quite certain whether he wished to introduce it to raise money or to deter people from going on to the motorway, certainly at certain hours of the day. I do not think it would have much effect in the second instance because if the extent to which the M.25 is being dug up now does not deter your Lordships and the rest of the general public from using it, I do not know what will, certainly not £5!
We have dealt with cycling at great length. I wish to add one small point. I think that cycling is tremendously worthwhile and that it is worth encouraging. I usually come to your Lordships' House by public transport, but when I drive I travel through a part of Lambeth where there are quite a few signs, one of which states,Kill your speed not a child".Another states,Mind cyclists when you turn".We have already heard about the death toll of cyclists. Some of your Lordships will know that I have lost a child who died in a cycle accident in London. The question of cycle safety is tremendously important. Of course we must pay attention when we turn left to ensure that there is not a cyclist coming up on the inside at 20 miles an hour. But there ought to be rather more education of cyclists so that not many cyclists come up on the inside at 20 miles an hour. We need to pay attention to that matter.
I am a vice-president of the Pedestrians Association and I am not given much to cycling myself. I very much welcomed the comments of those who have talked about the virtues of walking. It is important that we take all these methods of transport into consideration.
1432 In conclusion, I wish to sum up what I, and I think we on these Benches, believe. The most important thing that we need to take to heart as we move into the era of a sustainable economy is that transport is neutral on the balance sheet. If it enables one to have access to desired goals without undue expenditure of resources, especially non-renewable ones, and without pollution, it is a good thing. If not, it is not. The object of transport and planning policy should be to provide as much access as possible at minimum real cost. Transport, like trade, is a means not an end and if we are to have a sustainable future we must realise that.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
My Lords, like so many noble Lords I commend the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, for introducing this debate, although I have to say that I believe that it should have taken place in Government time. It is an issue which has been ventilated with great care in this report and it deserves more than a debate on a Wednesday evening.
A number of your Lordships have spoken from great experience, notably of course the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, who sat on the commission and who spoke with great authority about the matters that were raised. We all welcomed the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. It was, I think, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, who said that he was delighted to welcome him to the clique. I want to assure him that it is not so much a clique as a sect. We have some pleasant times together, and that includes the Minister. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, also speaks from great practical experience and he will certainly give us more grounds for enlightenment in the future.
The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, encouraged us all to participate in a cycling event. I think he was a little unwise to do that as boldly as he did in the environment of this House. The noble Lord then explained how perilous that activity was. I suppose that is one way of abolishing the House of Lords. The noble Lord then said that on average Members of your Lordships' House live 10 years longer than the rest of the population. I suppose that depends from where one starts. All that, of course, the noble Lord intends to end with a great degree of suddenness. He was reinforced in those views, a little more moderately in some ways, by my noble friend Lord Rea and others who are interested in cycling issues. I believe that the whole House was interested to hear those views.
The noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, had some interesting things to say about the railways, as he always does. He also made a plea to enable the PTAs and the PTEs to remain. I hope that the Minister will give firm consideration to that matter. This debate is based on the report but it has been wrong not to draw attention to the Green Paper issued by the commission in 1992 entitled The Impact of Transport on the Environment—a Community Strategy to Sustainable Mobility. It is not surprising that there are a number of important common denominators which emerge in relation to both documents. I give praise to those who were involved in enabling those documents to see the light of day.
1433 It is not surprising that because both documents have been radical they have given rise to a good deal of criticism, which has been to some degree articulated in this House this evening. Somehow or other the task before society is to secure the right balance between economic and transport activities which sustain our people in work and also enable improvements to enhance our standard of living. On the other hand, how do we protect the environment which is essential for the quality of life of this and future generations? It is an enormously difficult problem. Too often the debate affecting transport and indeed industry as a whole and the environment is seen in a wholly adversarial light whereas I believe that the two should be viewed in terms of their advance in complementary terms. That is what the notion of sustainable mobility is all about. That is why modal shifts will be required on an increasing scale and why we need to encourage combined transport, or "piggyback" transport—which was of such great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley—and the greater use of coastal shipping which has just been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont.
This debate also has the singular advantage of enabling the House to try—I think unavailingly—to tease out from the Government what is their transport policy and how the Government see transport and the environment developing together. Of course they have done something of a U-turn on road building but they remain on the horns of an ideological dilemma over the role of public transport and are finding some obvious difficulties with regard to their absurd rail privatisation proposals.
Unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, especially in industrialised countries, undoubtedly lie at the root of so many of our environmental problems. Back in May of 1990 the Bergen ministerial declaration on sustainable development in the ECE region stated:The attainment of sustainable development … requires fundamental changes in human values towards the environment and in patterns of behaviour and consumption".The document then highlighted the need,to reduce the harmful effects of the transport sector on the environment by promoting fast, safe and convenient urban and regional transport services and reducing urban car traffic".Five years later, that remains the problem: hardly tackled.
No one can doubt that transport is a major contributor to energy and environmental problems. It is, after all, one of the main consumers of fossil fuels and has much responsibility for nuisance and damage to the environment. Transport can never be environmentally neutral, and I cross swords with the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, in that regard. The fourth and fifth environmental action programmes of the European Community began to identify transport in this light, focusing on the interaction between transport and the environment.
There is a growing consensus, though the issue was hotly disputed not so long ago, that the high atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases is having a deleterious, and perhaps irreversible, effect on the earth's climate, causing a warming of the globe and an ensuing rise in average sea levels. Transport is seen as one of the main sources of carbon dioxide, which is the main man-made 1434 greenhouse gas. So it is with regard to the emission of CFCs and halons; acid deposition owes much to the problems posed by transport. Urban degradation, too, with noise emissions, atmospheric pollution, congestion and inconvenience, again owes much to a failure to deal with these particularly difficult transport and environmental problems.
We cannot fail to address these problems in the years ahead. On the other hand—one has to maintain a balance about these matters—transport in all its modes, including those which carry responsibility for so many of the problems I have underlined, is vital to our economic and social well-being, to the production and distribution of goods and services, as well as to trade and regional development, which are so vital to our economic activities. Transport has given us a wide range of choice, and that applies to the producer and consumer alike. So, directly or indirectly, it affects the quality of life of all our people, not least in peripheral areas.
The question is: how do we go about seeking solutions? I agree with so much of what has been said in a brief issued by the CBI today. It says:The Commission is also right to argue that ways must be found to make the longer-term development of transport environmentally sustainable".That goes without saying; but it also went on to say this in commenting upon Missing Links, which was a document the CBI produced earlier in the year:this difference has arisen from other countries' ability more successfully to integrate strategic economic and environmental objectives for transport, supported by broad consensus about those objectives and long-term investment".Until very recently we have not even tried to obtain that consensus. I remember that Mr. Brian Gould, who was then shadowing this portfolio some years ago in the other place, called for that. The call was repeated by John Prescott, but the calls fell on deaf ears. It is sad that that should be the case because consensus is the only way that we can tackle radical problems requiring radical solutions.
It is true that the Secretary of State has now called for a national debate. I think it is a little overdue—by something like 15 years, which is the period during which this Government have been in office. It requires the abandonment of some of the ideological shibboleths which are currently invading the whole question of transport policy.
I also read the observations of the Freight Transport Association. It is right to stress the importance of the job that its members do. It is right to stress how they have contributed towards resolving a number of environmental problems by intensifying their research and development and by ensuring that older lorries leave the roads. The FTA calls repeatedly for an integrated transport policy because it is concerned with all modes of transport. I know that the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and his successor probably do not like the words "integrated transport policy", but it is amazing how many people use the phrase: people who know, people who are in the trade, and among them members of the Freight Transport Association. It is not only the Labour Party.
I believe that this report from the Royal Commission has concentrated on vital problems. I do not think that anybody, including the Royal Commission, would claim 1435 that it has managed to produce what might be called a blueprint: not at all. It has produced a number of recommendations which demand intensive study, and I praise it for the intensity of its work in that regard. I very much agree also with the CPRE in its view that strategic environmental assessment at all stages of decision making is vital. It is vital for Britain and vital in terms of planning trans-European road and rail networks, and in ensuring as best we can the best practical environmental options, as recommended by the Royal Commission.
We shall have to consider all these matters in greater depth at some time in the future. I have run out of time, although not quite to the same extent as the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont. I propose to resume my seat on this note. Some of your Lordships have concentrated on the cost of the proposals. Not too many of those who have been critical of the report have concentrated on the cost of not approaching environmental issues which society may well have to bear in the future.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Viscount Goschen
My Lords, first, may I, like other noble Lords, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, for giving us the opportunity this evening to discuss the important issues that are raised by the Royal Commission report. If I may say so, this has been a debate in the best traditions of the House of Lords in that, apart from a very small amount of ritual posturing on such issues as rail privatisation, I believe there has been a consensus to a considerable degree in the House on the problems to be faced on the environmental issues that are associated with transport. There has also been a similar recognition that the methods proposed carry considerable costs, be they economic or in terms of the possible restriction of choice.
I was particularly interested to hear the speech of my noble friend Lord Selborne. I welcome the experience that he has brought to the debate as a member of the commission. I also particularly enjoyed the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, who brought his own considerable experience in the field of transport to the debate, particularly in connection with the magnificent achievement of the Channel Tunnel.
Good transport links are vital to the country's industrial competitiveness. Transport holds the economic machine together and keeps it running. Changing patterns of transport have shaped today's social and recreational lifestyles. People want ever-wider access to job opportunities; to shops; to leisure activities; to schools; and to other people. Yet this demand for transport services has a profound impact on the environment. Our aim is to continue to improve the quality and range of transport provision in the country. However, we must recognise that there is a balance to be struck between the environmental, economic and social consequences of transport. With that, we realise there are some extremely difficult decisions to be made.
The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, referred to "Win, win, win" situations and solutions, but I suggest that they are rare indeed. Whatever measures we have to take to counter the problems posed by the environmental effects of transport are going to give rise to costs of one sort or another. The issues were brought sharply into focus by the 1436 Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution's report on Transport and the Environment. The commission did a thorough job in assessing the scale and nature of the environmental problems posed by today's transport and by the forecasts of traffic growth. Their report set us a number of challenging targets which they believe should assist us to deal with those threats. However, we cannot deal with those targets without giving consideration to the measures needed to implement them, for it is clear that some unpleasant measures would be necessary if we were to strive to meet them.
I welcome the statement of my noble friend Lord Selborne that this report should not be taken as a blueprint but rather as an indication of very important issues to help us to provide choices and to illustrate what can be done in order to combat the problems that we face. An example of the difficulties I have described—for instance, to achieve reductions in road use and an increase in public transport share which the commission recommended—may lead to measures to restrain car use. The implications of such measures would need to be thought through very carefully indeed. The evidence is not available which suggests that people are yet ready or willing to change their lifestyles in ways which would be required. No detailed assessment has been made of the costs although it is clear that they would be substantial.
We have had a considerable debate on the issues of cycling. I was pleased to hear the contributions of my noble friend Lord Marlesford, the noble Lord, Lord Rea, my noble friend Lord Colwyn and the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, who described the perils of cycling in London and the advantages they felt that it brings. I believe that there has been a recognition of the Government's positive attitude towards cycling. We do not forget the contribution that cycling can make. It often offers an economic, environmentally friendly and realistic means of transport for a great number of people in particular for the short journeys that we have heard described. We are keen to encourage more people to adopt that mode. In 1995–96 we are providing some £3 million for the London cycle network. Local authorities are encouraged to consider the potential for cycling in planning and traffic management strategy and through the package approach.
However, I believe that we are referring here to local decisions involving local circumstances. One often faces criticisms that local authorities should be given more power to do this, that or the other. But I believe that we are talking about a situation where local decisions are best taken at the local level.
The noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, also referred to the issue of motor cycling. He realised that I have a certain sympathy with the issues involved. As with the cycling issue, there are real concerns about safety. Those have to be taken fully into account. I endorse the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, regarding the discipline of cyclists themselves, be they of the motorised or leg-propelled version.
My noble friend Lord Colwyn asked how one reports smoky diesel goods vehicles. I can forward to him a pamphlet produced by the Department of the Environment and the Department of Transport entitled How to Report Smoky Diesels. It involves communication 1437 with the vehicle inspectorate which then takes up action on the complainant's behalf. Some 12,000 reports have been made to the smoky vehicle hotline to date.
There is still a belief that all the problems we face could be solved simply by switching investment from road to public transport. Public transport can play a valuable role in safeguarding the environment and our spending plans for the next few years focus on public transport and making more efficient use of the existing road network. Investing in rail, bus, trams and light rail can have a tremendous impact on certain areas. That is why we have invested some £15 billion in national railways since 1979 and £7 billion in London Transport.
However, research and practical experience has demonstrated that improved public transport in itself is not enough to solve the problems of traffic growth. In his maiden speech, the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, was quite right to say that if one wishes to take cars off the roads, the clear conclusion of what can only be described as common sense, as well as various pieces of research on the subject, is that sticks and carrots are required. That is the theme which ran through the debate in your Lordships' House today.
Some way of making car use more difficult or expensive would be necessary, as well as ensuring that alternatives are available. The issue for debate is how far such measures are justified or acceptable.
As I mentioned earlier, these are not easy issues to face. They are complex, emotive and fundamental to our way of life. That is why my right honourable friend the Secretary of State initiated recently a national debate on transport policy. As a start, he has made a series of six speeches aimed at focusing attention on the key issues and has invited comments from a wide range of interested parties.
We have been heartened by the response to the debate so far. A number of organisations have taken it upon themselves to organise events to follow up the questions raised by the Secretary of State in his speeches. For example, Transport 2000 has hosted a series of seminars. The Ashden Trust has organised a two-day event to discuss transport and the environment. Oxford University has a conference planned for next week.
In debating the way forward, we should not lose sight of the significant achievements that have already been made in reducing environmental damage. A good example is the efforts made to improve air quality in our cities. We have already made considerable progress in reducing the contribution that transport makes to air pollution through the introduction of improved vehicle emission standards. The first round of improvements introduced in 1993 has effectively required all new petrol engined cars to be fitted with catalytic converters which reduce harmful emissions by over 75 per cent. Already some 5 million cars and vans are fitted with catalytic converters.
The effect of these and other standards is already evident. National emissions of pollutions have stabilised or are falling. Even if no further measures were taken, emissions would continue to fall well into the next decade as a result of older vehicles being replaced by newer, cleaner models.
1438 However, further measures will be taken. A second round of the reductions of limits for 1996–97 was announced as part of the air quality statement, Air Quality: Meeting the Challenge launched by the Secretaries of State for Transport and the Environment in January of this year. We have taken firm steps to address the problems of carbon dioxide emissions from road vehicles in the context of our international obligations arising from the 1992 Rio Summit, a subject which has been discussed in the debate today.
The duty on road fuel has been referred to by a number of noble Lords. We have made clear our strategy of increasing road fuel duties by an average of at least 5 per cent. above inflation each year. That will encourage motorists to conserve fuel and will give long-term signals to manufacturers to produce more efficient vehicles.
Another important issue involves noise. Again, considerable improvements have been made as a result of new technology. It is said that three modern cars will make less noise than one 1978 model, while 10 of today's trucks will make the same amount of noise as one single 1978 equivalent.
That has also been the case with air travel. One should not just consider the issues of surface transport. Modern jets are considerably more efficient in reducing the amount of noise that they produce, producing fuel economy, and reducing the amount of harmful emissions that they put out.
We are also paying increasing attention to the interaction between transport and land use planning, another of the major themes which noble Lords addressed this evening. That develops around the issue of reducing the need to travel. We have heard some descriptions of teleworking, and the use of new technology and Internet, and how that could affect the issue. Nonetheless the question of the journey to the supermarket, the provision of car parks and out of town stores have all had a significant impact on the desire of people to travel. Local authorities have a very important role to play in that area as different measures will be appropriate in different areas. Our aim is principally to ensure that they are given the right guidance and necessary powers.
Again I believe that good progress has been made. Last year my department and the Department of the Environment jointly published a new planning policy guidance note on transport (PPG 13) which has as its key aims to reduce the growth in the length and number of motorised journeys, to encourage alternative means of travel which have less environmental impact, and hence to reduce the reliance on the private car. I believe that that guidance has been widely welcomed; and that welcome has been reflected by the contributions of your Lordships this evening. Added to this we have introduced a new approach to funding local transport investment. The so-called "package approach" allows local authorities to take a broader view of local transport problems and to come up with solutions not based solely on road-building.
We are investing significant amounts to improve public transport and we already have grants available to encourage the transfer of freight from road to rail: some 150 freight facilities grants have been awarded since 1979. The new track access grant was introduced in 1439 April last year, and we have also been looking at measures which might stimulate the transfer of freight from road to water. That is an issue upon which the noble Lord, Lord McNair, concentrated. It comes within my particular portfolio as Minister with responsibilities for shipping and internal water transport. I have been looking at the matter extremely carefully. I have talked to ship owners and those who have cargoes that would be suitable for movement by inland waterways or coastal shipping, to try to determine measures that would increase the attractiveness of water-borne transport.
However, it is not easy. There are no easy buttons to push which would suddenly make the issue of water-borne transport more attractive. We have had some success with the freight facilities grant; but again, that has been on a limited basis. Where companies need help to create infrastructure on the quayside that is more acceptable to the type of business that they run, we have been able to help. We have had considerable success with a chemical company in Manchester, for example, which now saves a significant number of road journeys that would otherwise be causing a great many problems.
In addition, the Government are prepared to consider funding for different types of public transport where it makes sense to do so. We made significant contributions to funding for the Manchester Metrolink and the South Yorkshire Supertram, and we have set aside resources for the Croydon Tramlink and the Midland Metro schemes.
Last year we undertook a wide-ranging and in-depth review of the roads programme. The newly prioritised programme that resulted seeks a sensible balance between the different economic and environmental considerations. We are now concentrating resources on making the best use of the existing road network by focusing on the removal of accident, congestion and pollution blackspots. But it is important to note that the days of making large-scale additions to the network are gone.
We have heard a few contributions, notably from my noble friend Lord Caithness and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, on the issue of air transport, and particularly on the question of regional airports. We fully support the valuable role that regional airports can play in providing transport links for people nearer to their point of departure; in environmental issues; in relieving congestion at the major airports in the South-East, and so on.
However, a crucial consideration must be that commercial realities are fulfilled, that airlines actually want to operate services to regional airports. The other consideration is that they are able to operate services to regional airports within the scope of air service agreements. That is why my right honourable friend the Secretary of State announced last year the unilateral liberalisation of access in terms of transatlantic traffic to our regional airports. I was very pleased to see, for instance, that a service started recently between Binningham and Chicago. That is a fruit of that particular policy. But I do not believe that it is possible to direct people to fly to a particular destination. That 1440 was what lay behind the traffic distribution rules. They have been shown not to be an economically efficient way of distributing traffic.
I hope that I have shown that the Government take very seriously the need to strike a balance in transport policy. We do not pretend that the balance is easy to find. Apparently simple solutions tend to fall apart on closer examination. We had an interesting discussion on the question of integrated transport policies and the emotions that are created by the use of the term. Those who believe that the greater integration of transport policies is a sufficient answer must be required to say exactly what they mean and what an integrated transport policy entails. That is the difficulty that the Government have had with those who on occasion have used the term by way of a throw-away explanation on the basis that "everything will be all right". What we have sought to say is that a centralised planning strategy whereby people are directed when and where to travel and things are done on a grand scale, is not the solution to the problems that we face. We believe that a better combination of transport and land use planning, for instance, with our planning guidance, smoother links between different modes and easier availability of information are all worthwhile, and they are aims that this Government are pursuing.
The toughest questions we face are all about attitudes. The research I referred to earlier illustrated how current attitudes make it very difficult to achieve significant changes in behaviour, even after spending large amounts of money. So how can we change attitudes? What mechanisms do we need to use to encourage people to change their transport decisions? If we seek to introduce painful measures to encourage change, how much pain is our society prepared to bear?
What is very clear is that there are no magic wands, no quick fixes and no easy answers. The "Win, win, win" options are very few and far between. We are all agreed that we are faced with a rising demand for travel, and that transport is of key importance to our economic well-being. But with it, come major economic problems. The RCEP report, and today's debate in this House, will play a major part in furthering the wider debate about transport and the environment that affects us all.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Baroness Thomas of Walliswood
My Lords, it is now nearly 9 o'clock, and I shall be brief. First, I thank all noble Lords who took part in this debate. Many of them told me things that I had not thought of or heard before. That is always a pleasure for somebody like myself who has spent 10 years thinking and doing things about transport policy. They were very welcome news to me. I thank particularly my noble friends who supported me with their speeches. Perhaps I may single out one other speech, that of the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, who, in his extremely cheerful and amusing remarks offered me some reassurances that the kind of measures for which I was looking might be on their way.
I cannot say that I was satisfied with the response given by the Minister. But then I do not suppose that he expected me to be. As to some of the other interventions, particularly those from the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, 1441 and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, I rather hope that perhaps we can discuss some of the points that they raised over a tea cake or some iced coffee in the Members' Dining Room. But the mention of dining reminds us once again that it is nearly 9 o'clock and we have not had any. I therefore beg your Lordships' leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.