An essential ingredient of these fairly radical March 2001 revisions was the intention to secure the delivery of more sustainable development in conjunction with the integration of planning and transport at the regional and local levels.
The principal objectives of the revised guidance (PPG13) are to:
- Promote more sustainable transport choices for people and moving freight.
- Promote accessibility to jobs, shopping, leisure facilities and services by public transport, walking and cycling.
- Reduce the need to travel, especially by car.
For genuine progress to be made in achieving these objectives, two of the most critical questions that needed to be raised and, if possible, answered at the conference were:
- Is full investment in the more sustainable transport modes needed to deliver these policy objectives really being provided?
- Is the government's announced investment programme set out within the context of a truly integrated land-use and transport policy framework?
I observed that, in terms of more integrated land-use and transport planning, it is essential that we identify where we are now, where we want to be and how we intend to get there.
The current omens are not good. The RAC Foundation Survey 2003, Commuting: The Facts, shows that the UK has the longest averaging commuting time in Europe (45 minutes), commuting miles are up by six per cent in the past ten years, average distances travelled have increased by 17 per cent and 22 per cent of car driver trips are for commuting. Only ten per cent of commuters walk to work and only five per cent travel by rail. Such statistics suggest that the objectives of PPG13 are in reality becoming more difficult to implement. This view is supported by the annual Lockwood Survey (Planning, 5 September, p14), which shows that most recent moves by planners and policy-makers have done little to persuade car users away from out-town-centres and back to traditional town centres.
One of the key problems, according to the University of the West of England's Glenn Lyons, is that the achievement of genuine integration of land-use and transport planning is a highly complex process. While PPG13's objectives might, if more effectively implemented, facilitate change, they do not guarantee it. He suggests that a more holistic approach is required, with reinterpretation of the interaction between land use and transport also including additional interactions with society and lifestyles.
In terms of the individual modes of travel, UK transport policies place rail in a key position. However, independent transport consultant Reg Harman expressed concern that the Strategic Rail Authority and the regulator are in fact running the network on too tight a rein. Policies are not therefore being put into practice, the train operating companies are not working to long-term horizons and more imaginative long-term strategy and investment is in danger of being stifled.
Head of strategy and business development at Surface Transport and Transport for London Keith Gardner shows how in London, at least, the bus is proving to be a real success story. It is expected that between 2001 and 2011 there will be a 40 per cent increase in both bus passenger numbers and service provision (mayor's transport strategy, 2001). While this is encouraging, two key questions remain:
- Can the recent success story be maintained and enhanced with further investment?
- How can it be exported to other urban areas and incorporated within the rural transport perspective?
Unfortunately, cycling and walking, two highly sustainable transport modes, remain in the shadows, said Alan Baxter Associates' Andrew Cameron and Sustrans' Nick Farthing. Seventy per cent of all journeys are of less than five miles, but private car usage achieves significant penetration of modal share for all but the shortest, most mundane of trips. Good cycling facilities and networks are rare and the pedestrian environment remains far from attractive.
Cameron emphasised how important it is that real quality should be restored to the walking environment and "human movement". Farthing observed that over 90 per cent of drivers can cycle and have access to a bike, but they just do not use them. As with walking, better quality cycling networks and facilities are vital.
The relationship between parking standards, public transport accessibility levels and accessibility was examined by the Symonds Group's Peter Mynors.
The concept of parking restraint as a way to contain car travel is well established, but he noted that it is the movement of cars that causes congestion. A reduction of ten per cent in the length or frequency of the average journey would reduce general traffic levels by the same amount.
He suggested it is clear that a far more logical way to deal with the situation is to charge for road use, an idea supported by many land-use and transport planners that is now beginning to gain at least a little credence with the government.
The overall mood of the conference might have been summed up as "nice policies, shame about the delivery".
So what is to be done? South East England Regional Assembly's Ray Bowers suggested that perhaps there have been too many initiatives, too many grand plans and a clearly inadequate level of commitment to delivery.
Belief in the government's ability to improve things is seriously lacking.
Could now be the time to refocus our attention on the key PPG13 "more integrated land-use and transport planning" objectives, while conceding that delivery is not going to be as easy as was first thought? Should we not also be paying much more attention to related issues of society and lifestyle choices?
He suggested that we should, but better quality land-use and transport planning and advice will not succeed without the need for further substantial and sustained investment in our transport system. This is the real key to successful widespread delivery of the PPG13 objectives.