Road and rail National Policy Statement should back more projects, say MPs

The influential Transport Select Committee has said that the government’s National Policy Statement on national networks, should include more projects, not just freight, and should include other schemes that promote regional growth (such as WLR).

The report also recommends better integration between HS2 and the rest of the rail network, as proposed by WLR. Phase 2 provides this link to HS2, via Heathrow, which would enable millions more people in the south of England to benefit from faster journey times to the north.

According to PlaceMakingResource (£):

The NPS on National Networks, published last December by the Department for Transport (DfT) for consultation, provides policy guidance for ‘nationally significant’ road and rail projects promoted through the fast-track major infrastructure regime introduced by the Planning Act 2008.

The only type of transport scheme the NPS specifically mentions as supported by the government are strategic rail freight interchanges.

In their report examining the draft document, published today, the Parliamentary Transport Committee says it is “not clear” why this is the case.

It states: “We recommend that the NPS specify other types of scheme which the government thinks are needed—such as enhancements to the rail network to promote east-west connectivity and better road and rail connections to ports and airports and to parts of the country which are currently not well served by those networks.

“In particular, schemes to promote regional economic development should be specified.”

The NPS should also “make explicit reference to the desirability of connecting HS2 to the classic rail network, to ensure more people from around the UK can benefit from the new high speed line”.

The report makes further recommendations including calls for the document to:
•provide more guidance about how to determine whether a scheme which interferes with the Green Belt or other sensitive planning or environmental matters should go ahead;
•to integrate planning for passenger and freight transport by route or region, rather than look at each mode individually.

The committee also today published a report on England’s strategic road network, which urges the DfT to “develop a transparent system of road planning as part of a wider national transport strategy”.

The report states: “This system should take into account demographic, economic and land use changes, including changes in the location of homes and parking policy.

“This will allow the DfT to select the most resilient options for reducing congestion or improving connectivity and to promote them across Government Departments and local authorities.”

Launching the two reports, Louise Ellman MP, committee chair, said: “The DfT must plan for new road and rail investment by looking at future passenger and freight demand by route or region, not by looking at road or rail in isolation from each other, as is done at the moment.

“There must also be a more transparent system for road planning as part of a wider national transport strategy.

“If our recommendations are overlooked, the UK won’t develop the kind of transport infrastructure that it needs over the longer term.”

A final version of the NPS is due before Parliament in the autumn, according to the report.

The full report can be found here.