Commons Gate

The Department for Transport's Annual Report 2007 (HC 313-i)

Transport Committee 30 Jan 2008

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Evidence given by Department for Transport Rt. Hon Ruth Kelly MP, Secretary of State; Robert Devereux, Permanent Secretary, DfT.

Q113 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): Secretary of State, you have said that you are looking at the situation because of the cost implications. Are you saying really that you will be coming forward with proposals to knock some roads out of the building programme?

Ruth Kelly: I have not said that, Mr Martlew, but what we do need to do is have a rigorous look at figures, be clear about what we can afford and what we cannot afford, and then make decisions on that basis.

Q114 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): The logic is that if the costs have gone up more than you thought, then you are going to build fewer roads unless there is more money?

Ruth Kelly: We are also looking at other innovative ways of making better use of the road network; for instance, using active traffic management, which I think I talked about to this Committee at the last hearing, and trying to use innovative techniques to add to capacity. What we are looking at is one element of the roads programme not across the board at what we will be able to do.


Q154 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): On the condition of the roads, it appears that for some reason this winter has been particularly bad for roads. We have a major problem in Cumbria. I think it is probably caused by the frost and the excessive rain. Is that the sort of report that is coming to you and is there going to be any supplementary money coming to local authorities to help them with this problem?

Mr Devereux: The assets we are talking about have a life of 50 to 60 years. There will be occasional years when there is a bad year.

Q155 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): Is this year one of them?

Mr Devereux: What you would expect is that with a consistent set of investment by the Government which, as the Secretary of State said, has been increasing year on year for road maintenance, local government would plan to tackle a 50-year investment properly. This year may well be a bad year.

Q156 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): I may have put it badly, Mr Devereux, but you are not answering the question. Is there a particular problem this year with road surfaces breaking up?

Mr Devereux: I am not sure.

Q157 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): Could you look into it?

Mr Devereux: I could.


Q174 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): On disused railway lines, bearing in mind that most railway lines that are disused have been out of commission for 30, 40 or 50 years, are you aware, Secretary of State, that especially in urban areas - this is heresy to my railway friends - it actually blights particular areas of cities and stops development? If we are going to take a decision, can we take a quick decision on this and can somebody look at it and say, "Yes, we want to keep that one" or, "No, we are not going to keep that one". Just to keep it in limbo does not help anybody.

Ruth Kelly: I agree that keeping things in limbo is not good for anybody. What we need to do is predict future demand - and we know that over a 30-year period it is very difficult to do that - but then take reasonable decisions on the basis of what you think is likely to happen. If there are particular lines that you want to draw to my attention, I am very happy to look at those.


Q184 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): On that very point [concessionary travel] you have letter on your desk, and I realise it is a very big desk, stating that Stagecoach in my area have decided to put up the single fare - only the single fare - by 7.5% while keeping the day passes and the weekly passes at the present level. The effect of that, of course, is the concessionary fare is based on the single day, the single journey, so it is on your list. My local authority, whom I very often disagree with, find it very difficult to pay this extra money, and if anything is done in my area I suspect Stagecoach will be doing it in other parts of the country. So will you look into it?

Ruth Kelly: I commit to looking into that.

This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.

The full transcript may be read here.

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On behalf of Eric Martlew, 3 Chatsworth Square Carlisle Cumbria CA1 1HB