Planning policy manager David Barraclough says that the RTPI is happy to give its support to the broad thrust of the Growing the Railways manifesto issued by Transport 2000. It welcomed the general principles embodied in the 1998 white paper A New Deal for Transport and has been increasingly discouraged as government policy has moved progressively away from those principles.
"As I see it," says Barraclough, "the manifesto seeks to promote increased capacity on the railway and to restore the position for rail in an integrated transport system envisaged in the white paper."
He also supports the quest for a more efficient network that ensures that the best value is being obtained from public funding. He suggests that the section of the manifesto relating to this could be strengthened by underlining the need for a tighter performance monitoring regime.
While recognising the wish to keep the manifesto manageably short, he feels there are some important omissions:
- There is no mention of the community infrastructure fund that the ODPM has committed to funding transport infrastructure for its sustainable communities plan.
- The Olympics are referred to but there is no reference to the £18 billion that the Department for Transport has committed to improving London's transport services between now and 2012.
- There is no reference to a vital component, the passenger. In particular, the manifesto should be one for the users and potential users of the rail network and should discuss the need for improved standard terms of personal security, overcrowding, punctuality and reliability, cleanliness of trains and fare levels. All these rate highly in the annual rail passenger surveys.
Barraclough says that the RTPI often finds itself in the position of having to remind the government and others that there is quite a large part of England outside London and the South East. "In this instance, it might be argued that insufficient emphasis is given to London, given that 70 per cent of all national rail journeys or 1.8 million per day are to, from or within London.
"There is a case for highlighting the need for investment in London's rail network to a level commensurate with the 20 per cent - more than £160 billion a year - of UK gross domestic product that London's central business area generates. This is very significant because rail travel to London from all UK regions except Scotland has grown strongly in recent years, with an average rise of 33.4 per cent between 1995-96 and 2002-03."
He also suggests that the apparent confusion between financial planning to achieve cost efficiency in the running of the railway and the role of spatial planning in securing land for rail infrastructure needs to be clarified.
- The full response can be viewed via www.rtpi.org.uk/resources/policy-statements.