RDS has spelled out to the Government how rail can play a vital part in the "integrated transport" of the future.
Executive officer Nat Taplin presented How Rail Can Deliver as our response to the Government's green paper Developing an Integrated Transport Policy.
Drawn up with help from Mike Crowhurst and other national executive members, the seven-page document highlighted the imprtance of transport in solving air pollution problems.
"Sustainable transport has a key role to play in stemming climate change and pollution," wrote Nat. "A combination of more electric, public transport and clean energy generation can help deliver cleaner air. The key to solving pollution (as with congestion and safety) is a major shift from road to rail.
He went on: "Rail is already by far the safest mode of transport. Strict enforcement of traffic law is vital to reducing the unacceptable level of road deaths and injuries."
But he also warned that the Government must do what it can to increase public awareness of the issues. Most people are completely unaware of the level of road fatalities and pollution-related deaths. Maybe there is scope for an advertising campaign along the lines of the drink-drive campaign. Passenger transport authorities, local authorities and transport operators could promote the benefits of public transport, walking and cycling.
But ultimately, price is the key both to managing demand and to increasing awareness. Economic instruments will have to be used. They can play a central role in changing the way we travel. It is important that receipts from any new green taxes be ploughed directly back into public transport, walking and cycling facilities.
The Treasury will have to overcome previous objections to 'hypothecation' although this may be most easily achieved at a local level.
National measures should include an increase in petrol tax (of around 8% per annum) and an end to tax relief on company cars. Local schemes could be based on Edinburgh's proposal for a cordon of road tolls around the city or Leicester's road pricing experiment. Local authorities must be given new powers to charge for local road use.
Local authorities and PTAs need to have fast track access to government funding for capital projects such as rail reopenings and transport interchanges. Local authorities also need new powers to charge for parking and road use, provided that the income is spent on developing integrated transport. The emergence of clear integrated transport policies at a local level, may also encourage public transport operators and Railtrack to be more forthcoming with capital funding.
The new Strategic Rail Authority must have a responsibility for developing the network. The authority must be given control of franchising and all state funding for rail. It must also have control over non-operational assets such as Rail Property Ltd, to facilitate future rail development.
At the national level, we support the proposal for Oftrans — a combined regulator for all public transport (rail, buses and some ferries) — with enhanced powers to promote integration. Oftrans powers should also be extended to cover the rolling stock leasing companies.
Transport policy must also be integrated with other policy areas, including land use and health. All future developments must revolve around pedestrian, cycle and public transport access.
The huge increase in road freight is largely due to an increase in distance travelled, not in volume carried - a more integrated approach to land use/transport planning could reverse this.
The pursuit of "environmentally friendly vehicles and fuels" is often a distraction. Technological advances might reduce the pollution impact of road transport, but they would fail to address the problems of congestion, land-take for roads, road accidents or damage to communities and quality of life. Existing technology — such as electrification of railways, light rail in cities and renewable energy — can deliver proven environmental benefits.
Communications developments and home-working may lead to a fall in commuting over time.
Rail freight could be increased by reducing access charges for rail in tandem with increased road use charges. A more level playing field between road and rail freight should be created by:
It is important that steps such as integrated information, timetables and tickets are taken now. Complex developments such as new transport interchanges can follow.
There should be a switch of funding from road building to rail development within the existing transport budget. New income streams could include fuel duty, parking charges, road pricing, congestion charges and traffic fines.
One aim for the Government should be to reduce the need for travel. It should instruct all planning authorities to prioritise the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users. Road space must be re-allocated in favour of pedestrians, cyclists and public transport, through light rail, bus and cycle lanes for example. Road pricing of the remaining space (reflecting the full social costs) should be introduced on an area-wide basis.
Any reduction in personal mobility by car would be offset by improved mobility by all other modes, as well as cleaner air and safer streets. Overall competitiveness will improve through easier commuting, reliable deliveries, reduced health costs and increased quality of life and productivity.
A clear range of environmental objectives must be established, including protection of the countryside and reductions in traffic noise and pollution. Success should be monitored through a new set of sustainable economic indicators.
The aims of the review should also include quantifying the real costs (environmental, health for instance) of each mode of transport, pricing accordingly and meeting the needs of non-car owners.
The Department of Transport has up to now distorted reality by misusing statistics. It has boasted that two thirds of households have access to a car. But the reality is that, at any one time, more than 80% of people do not have access to a car and depend on public transport.
In other words, public transport is a key issue for the vast majority of people and a democratic government has a responsibility to deliver it for a whole host of reasons.
Railways are vital to meeting the transport, environment and economic needs of the next century. We identify ten steps to achieve greater use of the railways:
Copies of the full RDS submission can be obtained for £2.50 post free from RDS Sales, 89 North Wallington, Fareham, Hants PO16 8TJ. Make cheques payable to RDS.
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