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Proposals for a New Approach to Transport in Scotland: Response to Consultation by The Institute of Logistics and Transport

Introduction.
The Institute is the professional body for the full range of people who are engaged in logistics and transport. This includes freight and passenger transport operators, central and local government employees, consultants, supply chain management and academics. Some of these would be directly affected by proposals in the consultation document whilst many others would be subject to varying degrees of impact on their working lives.

In these circumstances it is impractical for the Institute to attempt to reach a view on the desirability of change in the organisation of transport or, if changes do take place the detailed manner in which they might best be undertaken. Rather the Institute has approached the exercise from a professional viewpoint and with regard to the commitments already made in the Partnership Agreement. In particular the Institute has taken as a starting point the commitment to bring forward proposals for "a Strategic Transport Authority, as an agency within the Executive directly accountable to Ministers". It is noted that Ministers have concluded that Scotland needs the immediacy, flexibility, direct control and accountability that an agency could provide, as stated in the Partnership Agreement and that they do not plan to revisit the option of a non-departmental public body (NDPB or "quango").

Background.
The Institute regrets the loss of strategic road and transport and planning bodies when Regional Councils were dispensed with in 1996. Retention of Strathclyde Passenger Transport with its enlarged area was advantageous and the voluntary arrangements between constituent authorities in forming the 4 regional transport partnerships, HITRANS, NESTRANS, SESTRAN and WESTRANS have to a degree overcome the difficulties associated with the loss of the Regional Authorities. Lack of direct funding and the need to satisfy a number of local authorities in each case has however made it difficult for effective decision making and implementation. The disparity in size between local authorities has also led to differences when implementing initiatives which apply throughout Scotland e.g. concessionary travel.

The Institute concurs with much of the Introduction to the consultation document; in particular that "over decades there has been under-investment in transport in Scotland" and "we need a strategic approach, stepping outside our normal financial planning horizons." The further views expressed in this paper are confined to those members of our Policy Group who have contributed.

Q1. Views on the overall aims for a new national transport body (paragraph 26)
To be successful and justify its existence the proposed body and the related organisational arrangements should have a fundamental impact on all transport decisions of significance.

The body should be utilised to assist in overcoming difficulties associated with the wide range of authorities currently having a role in transport. An essential requirement if the new arrangements are to be successful is that the decision making, implementation and operational processes are simplified. It must not be a layer of administration superimposed on existing arrangements as this would exacerbate current problems.

To be effective the new body should have responsibility for both trunk roads and the rail network, as well as those aspects of ferry, air, bus, freight, port and maritime services which are currently the responsibility of the Executive. This should cover development and operational matters with as many as possible of the institutional problems particularly those relating to the rail system overcome.

We agree the new body should provide a national centre of excellence and should attract the best people to facilitate quick high quality delivery. Arrangements should be made to ensure the expertise can be made available as required to local authorities and others. The aspirations for a National Transport Body set out in paras 5-8 are generally supported as are the comments relating to delivery to the user in paras 10-14.

The strategy and focus set out in para 15 is supported; in particular that a quango would not be appropriate. The new body should have an active role in determining overall strategy and care should be taken to ensure that political accountability is limited to meeting strategic objectives and financial constraints. There should not be political involvement on a day to day basis and the new body should be free to determine its own policies and expenditure priorities within the context of the strategic requirements.

The emphasis should be on delivery and we agree that once the necessary core of experts has been secured it should be available to projects across the country and across modes (para 16). To function properly the new body should be an able manager of infrastructure as set out in para 17 and its responsibility should cover all major assets for which the Executive is currently responsible including trunk roads and ferry and air service facilities. This management role should include relevant charges including road pricing, if this is introduced.

To ensure a balanced approach there should also be effective management of the rail network. This should include power over day to day maintenance and action is required to ensure the necessary changes in the present relationship with the Strategic Rail Authority and Network Rail. To be credible the new body should have control of the operational and development decision making processes taking over the current role of the Executive and appropriate powers from the SRA and Network Rail.

We agree the new body should be authoritative as set out in paras 18-20 and that close links with the private sector should be developed, as set out in para 2, including partnerships with major commercial interests in constructing infrastructure. The emphasis given on services to transport users in para 22 is supported as are the commitments to integration, social justice and sustainable development in paras 23-25.

The new body should be efficient in its operation with an emphasis on cost-effective delivery. This requires an holistic view of its activities with road and related activity, air and sea travel, passenger and freight transport all viewed together rather than the departmentalism which has frustrated coherent developments in the past. The holistic approach should extend to partnerships with local authorities, operators and other stakeholders all involved in ensuring action which is consistent with wider community needs.

Q2. Comments on the best way of widening public involvement in the planning of transport services in Scotland (paragraph 27.)
A helpful measure would be for the new body to embrace current consultative bodies such as the Rail Passenger Committee. Local Authorities should be consulted on all matters of significance relating to their areas with relevant community councils or the equivalent also consulted as appropriate. Coupled with a responsibility to respond publicly to major issues and concerns which are raised this would ensure serious thoughtful consideration is given to matters raised.

The Scottish Parliament through its appropriate committees, particularly the Local Government and Transport Committee should have a watching brief over the actions of the national agency. The Agency should prepare for public dissemination of regular reports on its actions perhaps quarterly, policy intentions and expenditure programmes. The reports should monitor progress against policy initiatives and should highlight proposed changes in strategic thinking, the anticipated impact and likely action as well as the effects of legislative changes.

The regular reports should stimulate a public reaction, articulated through the media which would assist the Parliamentary Committee(s) in monitoring and challenge roles. Significant concerns or differences which arise would be in the public arena and the Agency would have a duty to respond. Where issues raised relate to political decisions the Minister for Transport would need to accept responsibility.

For more specific involvement in matters of local significance it is suggested that the new regional partnerships should have a role, acting where appropriate as agents of the national body. This is covered further in answer to question 4.

Q3.
Views on whether changes should be made to the existing balance of powers in particular (paragraph 39)

Transport powers currently with Scottish Minister that might more effectively be exercised by local government, whether at regional partnership or local authority level. The potential for transfer is greatest in areas of activity where action at more local level is inhibited or delayed by the necessity for Ministerial approval. Examples include the tortuous process necessary to introduce congestion charging and delays which can be imposed on planning initiatives. Careful consideration should be given to whether the wide range of ministerial approvals are all necessary and the extent to which they frustrate and impose unnecessary bureaucracy on the development of desirable transport initiatives. Where it is felt that current approval mechanisms are needed to overcome resource restrictions in local authorities there is an opportunity for the new regional bodies to take on the relevant responsibilities.

Will Transport Scotland need to attract powers that are currently with local government - especially in relation to concessionary fares and quality contracts now that these are to be co-ordinated nationally?

With a national concessionary travel scheme there should be a unified approach to matters such as surveys of usage, assessment of passenger generation and payment regimes. This would be assisted by Transport Scotland having the powers which are currently with local government, not least in respect of local journeys which are in more than one local authority area. The transfer of powers would also greatly assist operators in having a single unified approach. Similar comments apply to quality contracts although in both cases there is an opportunity for the required partnerships to undertake the responsibilities on behalf of the national body.

Would it be helpful for Transport Scotland to have powers to promote new railways or tramways at its own hand?

Such powers are required as soon as practicable in respect of new railways, particularly in view of the national body's role in relating to the Strategic Rail Authority and Network Rail throughout Scotland. There would also be significant benefits if the powers also extended to tramways. In both cases there is a need to replace the outdated legislation which relates to new developments with approval processes which are similar to those for trunk road developments. A single body having powers for all such developments throughout Scotland would clearly be beneficial in best utilising scarce resources and expertise and having consistent liaison arrangements and procedural frameworks. In practice the more detailed liaison could be undertaken by the regional partnerships acting on behalf of the national body.

Q4. Views on the management framework options for regional partnerships (paragraph 63)
Existing local authorities working together through voluntary partnerships. Voluntary partnerships are an unsatisfactory way of dealing with transport matters which transcend local authority boundaries. Each authority places its own interests first and even with common aspirations there are disputes over priorities and funding. Such partnerships rarely have the required breadth and depth of expertise at their proposal and perceived local self-interest can prejudice desirable developments.

New Passenger Transport Executives across Scotland, repeating the SPT model in the rest of Scotland; while leaving responsibility for local roads with existing councils. Providing sufficient resources were made available this would be an improvement over present arrangements as PTEs have a greater unity of purpose than voluntary partnerships with more expertise directly at their disposal. There would remain however a lack of unified purpose with road related developments and similar difficulties as for voluntary partnerships.

The creation of new Joint Committees across Scotland, made up from existing local authorities, building on the benefits of the voluntary partnerships, with more formal structure and constitution, but without strong decision.making and budgetary powers. This would overcome some of the problems with voluntary partnerships but the Joint Committees would still suffer from parochialism in decision making and the provision of necessary capital and revenue finance from local authorities. The creation of new Joint Boards, also made up from local authorities, properly maintaining the link with the constituent councils, but with the powers and budget to plan and take difficult decisions on transport matters for their area.

This is the preferred model with a greater likelihood of a unified approach with direct powers and funding. To reduce the possibility of decisions being reached or frustrated by the perceived narrow interests of individual local authorities a minority of members of the joint boards (perhaps one third) could be drawn from national bodies such as CBI. STUC, SCDI, Tourism bodies and consumer associations. Involvement of such bodies would assist in highlighting controversial matters and in obtaining greater public involvement. The joint boards could be based on the 4 areas of the present voluntary partnerships although scope for some sub-division and overlap should be investigated.

To ensure cost-effective arrangements and best use of expertise it is suggested the joint boards should have two basic roles. One would be for local authority based transport activities which are best dealt with at regional level; the other would be to act as the delivery arm of Transport Scotland. The latter role would be similar to the historic role of county councils for trunk roads with the joint board having a watching brief and the main decisions on project implementation and annual funding taken by the national body. The proposed arrangement would involve local democracy in an advocacy role with regard to developments controlled by the national body and would assist in local public accountability. The same specialist officers would be engaged in regional delivery of national transport developments and on the delivery of local authority responsibilities best undertaken at a regional level e.g. trunk roads and non-trunk strategic roads.

Careful consideration would be necessary with regard to funding and decision making and clear lines of responsibility and accountability would need to be established. These aspects and the activities to be embraced will require extensive detailed consideration. Some initial thoughts for further considerations are summarised in the appendix to this response. The active creation of further special purpose bodies to work with local authorities and the voluntary partnerships.This might be beneficial if no other changes were to take place. With the preferred arrangement for joint boards the activities and relevant staff would be assimilated.

Q5. Comments on the future of SPT and the challenge of delivering integrated transport in the west of Scotland, particularly if new regional partnerships are established across Scotland (paragraph 69)The long standing success of SPT should be built on and the expertise should all be retained. SPT should be the core of the proposed West of Scotland joint board with additional relevant staff included for the new responsibilities, particularly those relating to roads.

There would be scope for some existing SPT employees to transfer to the new national body and/or other joint boards or to be available for specialist advice required. The Glasgow Underground with about 550 employees (out of the overall SPT total of about 700) would logically remain under the direct control of the West of Scotland joint board.

Q6. Views on the appropriate number and geographical extent of regional partnerships (paragraph 75)
Four regional partnerships should be the minimum number for the proposed joint boards if a single partnership embracing Aberdeen, Dundee and Perth is felt to have sufficient unity. This should enable a sufficient resource base and expertise to be made available to each. There could be merit in some sub-division i.e. separating Dundee/Perth from Aberdeen because of differences in focus for travel patterns but this would need to be related to the potential loss of economies of scale.

Q7. Views on the options for resourcing effective regional partnerships, recognising that the preferred method will be informed by what model of regional partnerships is chosen (paragraph 81)The majority of funding continuing to be provided to local authorities through GAE, with councils each deciding individually and separately how much to pass on to the partnership (voluntary partnership or joint committee). This would not be satisfactory as the present problems in obtaining finance for SPT demonstrate. Individual Councils are always likely to give greatest emphasis to their direct responsibilities. Reaching agreement between councils on appropriate funding levels will always be difficult and would be a regular source of discontent.

Funds still provided to local authorities through GAE and regional partnerships requisitioning their budget from their constituent councils (Joint Board). This is the preferred approach. There is transparency, which assists local democratic advocacy and public involvement but as well as this there is assured funding for the joint board.

Section 70 paid direct from the strategic transport authority to the regional partnerships replacing some or all of the transport GAE provided to constituent Councils. There could be merit in this for identified areas of activity. Care would be needed to separate direct grant of this nature from funds provided in respect of the proposed agency arrangements on behalf of the national body.

APPENDIX
Proposals for a New Approach to Transport in Scotland by Scottish Region Policy Group Institute of Logistics and Transport.

Commitments.
A new strategic transport body; Effective regional delivery partnerships

Emphasis on
Delivery with close financial control and demonstrable value for money.; Efficient co ordination of matters of common application nationally.; Quick effective decision making with clear accountability and transparency.

National Body
Direct Responsibility for matters currently controlled by Executive e.g.Trunk road investment, operation and maintenance.; Main air and ferry services and terminals.; The Scottish Rail Franchise and Freight Facilities Grants.; Devolved maritime matters.; Interface with DfT UK on reserved matters.; Advocacy regarding EU/UK legislation.

Responsible for other matters of national significance e.g.
Concessionary travel.; Determination of need for Bus Quality Contracts.; Integrated ticketing standards.; Social inclusion parameters and public awareness.; Technology and Information standards.; Appropriate Powers which are now with SRA and Network Rail.

Determination of principles to be applied nationally e.g.
Road design and parking standards and traffic management criteria.; Freight Quality Partnerships.; Bus Quality Partnerships.; National contractual standards for subsidised local services and school transport.; Criteria and targets to meet Cycling and Walking needs.; Travel forecasts and Transport Assessments.; Congestion charging criteria.

Major project investigations, assessment and implementation e.g.
Major new roads.; Major rail developments (new lines, major stations).; Major air and ferry terminals.; Key performance standards, indicators and assessment.; Co ordination of national research and intelligence.; Statistics for roads and transport.; Monitoring and Review including Consumer representation e.g. BUCT, RPC, SSAC.

Decision making
Minister/Executive for policy decisions, general strategy, capital and revenue funding limits and major project/initiative implementation. New body for technical standards, strategic advice and review, capital and revenue programmes, allocation of funds for Regional Delivery under agency arrangements Hypothecated allocation of funds where appropriate.; Staff transfers to New Body.; Vast bulk of current Executive staff engaged on transport.; Limited local authority staff on strategic matters eg Concessionary Fares principles.; Additional staff, where required for high quality expertise, including use of Consultants; Evaluation and Support relating to development of external transport links e.g. air and terry terminals and service developmentRegional Delivery Partnerships.

Need
Local councillor focus and control of non-agency activities; Assured, predictable year by year capital and revenue funding; City/region focus; Across the board competence.

Propose
Joint Board with majority of local councillors, plus other body representatives eg CBI, SCDI, STUC, Tourism etc.; Could be based on current voluntary partnerships but detailed examination required to ensure adequate resource base and expertise and correct city/region focus.

Responsible for
Agency role for national strategic body regarding: medium, minor trunk road investment, operation, maintenance; piers and harbours, airfields (non local authority); local rail and bus stations; concessionary travel-monitoring, payments; bus quality contracts; local ticketing initiatives, monitoring and payment regimes.

Direct responsibility for
strategic non-trunk roads including joint bridge boards; freight quality partnerships; securing subsidised local bus services; bus quality partnerships; road pricing/congestion charging; strategic transport, interface with planning and preparation of regional transport strategies; possible agency roles e.g. school and health transport.

Decision making
National Strategic Body for agency matters; Joint Board for direct responsibilities:

Staff
Transfer from local authorities; Limited transfer from Executive; New expertise as required/shared with National Strategic Body; SPT assimilated into new "WESTRANS" joint board.; TIE assimilated into "SESTRANS" joint board.

Comparable Arrangements.
Local Authority agency arrangements for trunk roads, and direct responsibility for other roads - all reported through council committees.; Regional Council Headquarters for strategic direction and major projects with most implementation by Sub Regional Offices e.g. Strathclyde Region Roads Dept.; Former Road Construction Units in England with emphasis on delivery. RCU HQ determined principles and strategy with Sub Units responsible for implementation.

 

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