Today's entry summarises recent announcements on transport
Transport policy generally
There were originally to be three transport National Policy
Statements (NPSs) - ports, airports and 'national networks'
(i.e. roads, railways and rail freight interchanges) that would
summarise current policy for the purposes of Planning Act
projects. The Ports NPS is in force, but the other two are
yet to appear, even in draft. There is no sign of them yet,
but recent developments are reported below. In summary, roads are
in the slow lane, railway investment is on track, and aviation is
up in the air.
Before the National Networks NPS is published in draft, the
Department for Transport (DfT) is proposing to issue a
'Transport Strategy' in December. This will be a
high-level document applying to all different modes of transport
based on three principles:
securing investment to provide world class national and
harnessing technology to ensure our transport system is smart
and sustainable and ready for the future; and
putting the customer (the travelling public and businesses) at
the heart of transport
The DfT is informally asking certain stakeholders what they
think should be in the strategy by mid September.
Separately, the DfT plans to consult on a strategy for the
future of the strategic road network (i.e. motorways and trunk
roads) by the end of 2012. This is part of the
government's response to the 'Cook report' into the future of
highways (not to be confused with the 1990s current affairs TV
programme of the same name).
At the other end of the scale, as part of the Penfold Review into removing or
simplifying non-planning consents, the DfT issued a
consultation yesterday on making it easier to stop up and
divert highways for the purpose of property development.
Also yesterday, as part of the flurry of end of term ministerial
announcements before the Commons rises for the 'summer'
today, Transport Secretary Justine Greening announced a
£9.4bn investment in railways, although only £4.2bn of
that is new.
Like Soviet agriculture, railway investment is done in a series
of five year plans. Each period of five years is a
'control period', and we are approaching the fifth such
period, so if you see references to 'CP5', you will know
that means the period 2014-19. Yesterday's announcement
was the High Level
Output Specification (HLOS, pronounced aitchloss) for CP5, i.e.
what the government wants to see happen during CP5, together with
another acronym - SoFA, the Statement of Funds Available, i.e. how
much the government is prepared to spend on it.
The HLOS contains four priorities:
electrification of a central spine from South Yorkshire to the
south coast via the Midland Main Line ('the Electric
increases in capacity and decreases in journey times between
large cities, principally on the Great Western, East Coast and
Midland Main Lines ('city capacity projects');
facilitation of rail commuting into major urban areas - the
extension of electrification westwards from Cardiff is part of this
('other electrifiation projects'); and
improvement of access to ports and airports - Felixstowe and
Southampton are mentioned, as is a western link to Heathrow
('airport and port access').
There is also an illustrative list of schemes, but only the ones
in the HLOS itself are fully committed.
Once upon a time there was going to be an Airports NPS, but
after the last election this was postponed in favour of a long
drawn out reformulation of aviation policy. In March 2011
there was a consultation on what a 'policy framework'
should contain, which was then to be published and consulted upon
this March, and finalised next March.
The consultation on the framework was delayed until this month,
and last week a
consultation was indeed launched, but the key issue of airport
capacity in the south east has been left out of it. That will
undergo an extra hurdle when a 'call for evidence' is
issued later this year. On the plus side, the government is
still sticking to the original March 2013 date for finalising its
policy framework. On the minus side, from reading the
consultation document this will not include south east airport
capacity policy at that point.
There is something of a shake-up of transport policy going on
that could be fairly fundamental. Given its fundamental
nature, it is taking a long time and means that there is something
of a policy vacuum at the moment, and that the wait for further
transport NPSs continues.
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