Going Dutch Could Improve Transportation in Our Cities; WALESINMOTION WITH PROFESSOR STUART COLE
Byline: STUART COLE
THE New Year has seen the inevitable increases in Severn Bridge tolls and in rail passenger fares.
A recent report for the UK Department for Transport suggests that demand for rail passenger travel is more sensitive to changes in fares, journey time and the cost of car travel than was previously forecast in the rail industry forecasting "bible" - the Passenger Demand Forecasting Handbook.
Performance in terms of timekeeping and reliability (i.e. the train turning up at all) is also a key element in what economists call elasticity of demand.
Price elasticity was always seen as a key factor affecting demand, but over the past few years, service quality elasticity has seen people move from car to train as road congestion and petrol prices increase.
That means trains with more passenger capacity; more frequent trains and newer trains will be needed.
But does it also mean road pricing? When the Severn Bridge tolls rose on New Year's day, should they have gone up to PS50 per car? Should congestion charging should have been introduced in Cardiff? Of course not, because the evidence on price elasticity and economic impacts and the investment in alternative means of efficient travel are not available as yet. But as car usage costs increase it is an option we should keep under review for personal travel.
This does vary from one market segment to another. For example, the position is different in London and south-east England from that in Cardiff and South-East Wales. In London there is often little option for the passenger but to use the train, while in Cardiff the car is still an option even in the city centre.
The CBI has suggested that that road improvements in town centres should be prioritised in local transport strategies to relieve congestion and free up growth. This is fine if they are referring to making better use of existing roads rather than building new urban motorways. This year is the 50th anniversary of one of the most revolutionary reports on transport.
Traffic in Towns (often referred to as the Buchanan Report) in 1963 suggested separating vehicles and people in city centres.
It has been a constant theme of this column that reducing road space in town and city centres combined with improved public transport, high quality regenerated, public areas - streets, squares - is the way to revive such areas and increase their attractiveness and prosperity. …