A FAIR DEAL FOR THE MOTORIST

 

 

 

 

 

PEPOS004.WMF

REPRESENTING BRITAIN’S,

DRIVERS TO THE GOVERNMENT?

(OR THE OTHER WAY ROUND?)

GOVERNMENT FORUM IS A TROJAN

HORSE FOR LOBBYIST INTERESTS?

 

BACKGROUND

 

Another article reviewed the Government’s response to Alan Cook’s ‘independent’ report  on investment in major roads in England (‘the Cook report’ that came out in Nov 2011).

 

In particular, the response identified follow-up actions, like:  

  • Adopting a more strategic role as champion of the road user
  • Defining the interests of users in the performance specification for major roads (“the Strategic Road Network”, run by the Highways Agency, ‘HA’, an agency of the Department for Transport (DFT)).

 

The little-known ‘Motorists Forum’ was identified as the government’s preferred liaison point over these tasks.

 

It is interesting that in the past, the HA has consulted a National Road Users’ Committee. However it is difficult to trace any minutes of its meetings or anything about its composition or method of working on the HA website.

 

 

REPRESENTING INTERESTS – BUT ARE THEY MOTORISTS?

 

The Motorists’ Forum was originally a tame body set up by John Prescott, the former Labour Transport Secretary who was ideologically committed to driving people out of their cars. Hardly surprising that he set up a forum representing mainly political and commercial interests, although a minority interest (disabled drivers) was represented.

 

Let’s look at the current representation – co-ordinated by the DFT.

 

 

Campaigners for Bigger Transport subsidies?

Stephen Joseph is the representative of the amazingly named Campaign for Better Transport (CfBT) – a facelift of the old ‘Transport 2000’ that was funded by public transport companies and trade unions.

 

CfBT lobbies for public transport and has explicitly campaigned for drivers’ interests to be relegated, It has backed removing road space from drivers; and opposed parking provision, new roads, motorway widening and a fuel duty stabiliser (on the grounds that drivers might pay less tax!).

 

CfBT’s 2010 Annual Report noted that “In Nottingham we helped campaigners lobby the Government to get approval for a workplace parking Ievy”, and were for ‘reclaiming public space from traffic’.

 

Incredibly their 2011 Annual Report claimed that “There is no detriment or harm associated with our activities...”. Clearly private motorists don’t count.

 

Joseph has also been a supporter of road pricing (to curb travel, rather than as a means of providing new road capacity).

 

CfBT reported difficulty in raising funds – they did however get grants of over £10,000 from public bodies like Transport for London and Network Rail.

 

CfBT London Group Newsletter, No 18, May 2013, rejoiced that after some mothers in Bristol broke the law to arbitrarily close a residential street to traffic, ‘play streets’ were being set up in London.

 

Sian Berry, coordinator of CfBT’s Roads to Nowhere campaign, welcomed the  Highways Agency’s backsliding on plans to open up the congested M60’s hard shoulder on environmental grounds. She felt it should set a precedent on opening up major routes to more traffic.

 

The RAC Foundation – ‘Raising Additional Cash’?

There are several RAC Foundation (RACF) connections. RACF is not exactly a ‘grass roots’ organisation that stands up for the motorist – it is classed as a charitable foundation, but has promoted unpopular measures like speed cameras, which drivers see as hyped and about making money.

 

Its Director, Prof. Stephen Glaister is a road pricing addict and a road pricing evangelist. His background is mainly in rail, and he was seen as politically correct enough for Ken Livingstone to appoint to the Board of Transport for London.  By pure coincidence, he has also been a special adviser to rail body, the Office of Rail Regulation, which DFT has considered for representing the interests of drivers on major roads issues!

 

Glaister recently called for a major expansion of the congestion charge in London and then immediately across the core cities of the UK.

 

RACF criticised the Government decision to dissuade the Cook review from explicitly considering any form of pay-as-you-go driving.

 

Roads Minister Mike Penning appointed another Livingstone appointee to chair the Motorists’ Forum - RACF Chairman David Quarmby, with a public sector (Ministry of Transport), public transport (mainly rail) and academia credentials.

 

An internet search was carried out for identifiable appointees to RACF’s Public Policy Committee. Reviewing their backgrounds, and those of a number of RACF’s leading officials, hardly gave much confidence in credentials that represent the majority of motorists.

 

Their interests have often been in public transport, rail, aviation, etc; government, consultancy or selling services (like insurance) that make money out of motorists.

 

Quarmby defended the current speed regime after the new Norfolk Police and Crime Commissioner, Stephen Bett, called for more driver-friendly speed limits and a common sense approach to regulations and limits. (Quarmby has since retired as Chairman and recently been replaced by Joe Greenwell)..

 

 

The RAC

RACF is distinct from RAC Group, which supplies two of its directors. The Group provides services such as vehicle examinations, breakdown cover and wider insurance. Formerly part of insurance giant Aviva, the group is now part of US-based asset sweaters, the Carlyle Group, whose interests include road pricing, and who also bid for a speed camera manufacturer, Redflex.

 

RAC Group is now represented on the Forum by RAC Motoring Services’ Technical Director, David Bizley who confirms that “RAC is not opposed to the principle of road pricing and other reasonable measures...”... and seems blandly dismissive of driver resentment.

 

“UK motorists feel they are being treated as a cash cow by government and it’s vital that their opinions are not ignored in this process. Any attempt to introduce road pricing will need to be explained carefully so that people understand the benefits such as incentivising driving at times and in places where roads are least utilised” road pricing’... ...we believe a ‘pay as you drive’ based solution is probably the least unattractive option”.

 

Drivers currently are aware of timing their journeys to avoid delays and congestion and do not need to be charged for the privilege of driving in it!

 

 

(Other Carlyle overseas road pricing links: http://cowles.econ.yale.edu/~engel/pubs/efg_revamp.pdf http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/1815

http://infolution.wordpress.com/category/toll-roads/)

 

 

The AA

The AA (now part of insurance group Acromas Holdings) is represented by former RACF Director, Edmund King, who has in the past talked up ‘drive time road pricing’... the only way ahead is a voluntary system that shows motorists they can benefit’. At the height of the national debate on road pricing in early 2007, when nearly 2 million signed the petition against it, the AA was equivocal and sat on the fence – “it's still too early to support or oppose”.

 

King, however, was still with RACF, who argued for a new approach to road pricing which should include re-branding the concept, and building it into a wider package to make it appeal more to motorists (e.g. with stolen vehicle tracking, pay-as-you-go insurance, e-call).

 

The AA group benefits from government patronage – e.g. it has in the past won contracts for privatised services, and today provides ‘speed awareness courses’ through its ‘AA Drivetech’ arm. The AA and PACTS jointly lobbied for speed cameras to escape recent spending cuts.

 

 

The Centre for Automotive Management

The Centre for Automotive Management is represented by Christopher Macgowan, formerly of manufacturers and traders’ group SMMT, and Vice Chairman of the Motorists’ Forum. He is also listed as Chairman of DFT’s Interoperability Forum which will “help steer the delivery of interoperability between different road pricing schemes”, and ‘Chairman, RAC Foundation Network’.

 

 

Other interests – commercial, government, lobbyist....

Other interests represented are commercial (e.g. ABI, BVRLA, FTA, SMMT) or government (e.g. DFT, TFL); the controversial private company run by chief police officers (ACPO) and lobbyist forum PACTS.

 

FTA and BVRLA seem to both welcome the government’s lorry road user charging (LRUC) plans and at the same time moan about the possible harm to their members!

 

Paul Everitt, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), seemed a level headed person, but he left the industry and the Forum in 2013. 

 

Garrett Emmerson, a Director of Transport for London (TFL), comes across as a public figure who listens, but he is tasked to represent English local authorities (LAs).

 

Under Cook’s vision, the LAs might end up with a wider roads remit and, like SMMT, be seen as ‘supplier’ to drivers rather than ‘customer’.

 

TheCook Report(p66, p75) regards ‘route based strategies’ being discussed from 2012 as an opportunity for local and national government to ‘build a consensus’ on tolling routes that are currently free. Cook envisages discussion between highways authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships (which seem to be substantially-seconded from local councils).

 

The voice of insurers

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) is represented on the Motorists’ Forum. The Competition Commission recently launched a full-scale investigation into the car insurance industry after it was found that drivers were being ripped off by at least £225 million a year.

 

An Office of Fair Trading report uncovered evidence that premiums were being inflated by excessive costs in repairs and providing replacement cars.

 

Journalist Mike Rutherford criticised the ABI for not putting its house in order before. The ABI defines its role to be “the voice of the UK insurance industry, leading debate and speaking up for insurers". As opposed to ‘drivers’....

 

The ABI is hardly a disinterested party in any commercialisation of England’s roads – the Government announced in its 2011 Autumn statement that they were working together to set up an Insurers’ Infrastructure Investment Forum. The Government has targeted up to £20 billion of investment from this initiative and UK pension funds.

 

 

The voice of lobbyists

On the Forum Chief Constable Phil Gormley has represented ACPO – a private company for whom ‘road policing’ is a ‘business area’. Its associated company, Road Safety Support Ltd, assists speed camera partnerships in prosecuting drivers. Although he favours the police moving away from targets, he wants more drivers sent on offender courses. ACPO and RACF have collaborated over the courses.

 

His roads policing predecessor, CC Mick Giannasi felt: "There is not a war on the motorist and there never has been”.

 

ACPO recently supported Brake in calling for a ban on hands-free phones. This met with public disbelief, as using hands free responsibly is no worse than listening to the traffic programme, Would they ban car radios too?

 

 

Private company PACTS is a diverse forum attended by representatives of the ‘road safety industry’ and others interested in transport safety. Its Executive Director and first representative on the Motorists’ Forum, Robert Gifford, is hardly ‘independent’ of DFT – he was also listed as an external research adviser to the DFT on road safety, a special adviser to the Transport Select Committee and a member of the Ministerial Road Safety Advisory Panel.

 

He recently maligned drivers as being 'carcooned’ – sitting in increasingly safer cars with less concern for the pedestrians and cyclists.  PACTS and the AA have jointly lobbied for speed cameras to escape recent spending cuts. (David Davies has recently replaced him as PACTS’ rep).

 

 

The ‘DFT’ side of appointees to the Forum includes Graham Dalton, chief executive of the Highways Agency, hardly a disinterested party when the government supports Cook’s view that it should sweat maximum economic return from the road network.

 

Why should DFT have to seek clear evidence of ‘what drivers want’ when it already has it? As part of the DFT programme Making Better Use of the Road Network (MBURN), the MVA consultancy engaged with drivers to identify transport measures that would enjoy general support. In 2011, it presented its findings that ‘road charging options’ were ‘distinctly unpopular’.

 

 

Consultation alert

In 2013, DFT launched a consultation which quietly hinted at the little-known Motorists’ Forum being a possible ‘champion of the driver’. Several of its members – and certain anti-motorist groups - are being consulted to provide direction for the Transport Focus ‘motorists’ watchdog’. Watch this space!

 

ANNEX – SOME MORE INTERESTING CONNECTIONS

 

Watch this space as more information comes to light.

Remember that the whole business of road pricing and infrastructure sweating is not just a DFT initiative – DFT is working closely with the Treasury, who have a major financial interest in national infrastructure. Under new guidelines, measures for ‘demand management’ (which may include ‘access rationing’) are to be considered in infrastructure planning.

 

By pure coincidence, the Treasury ‘Infrastructure UK’ Advisory Board has included a representative of Arup, a consultancy that collaborates with RACF over promoting road pricing.

 

Again, by pure coincidence, a report advocating road pricing was produced by the ‘connectivity commission’ of the lobbying group, London First, the Chairman of whose Board is from Arup. One of their ‘commissioners’ is from a consulting firm linked to asset sell-offs, and another from a specialist company in ‘Intelligent Transport Systems’ – a term that covers tracking and charging technology. Then there’s an executive of Australian bank Macquarie, who own the currently loss-making M6T toll road!

 

This London First report also gives a plug for the ‘Cook report’.

 

Senior Treasury Minister and Chancellor George Osborne actually believes that “This Government has done more to support motorists than any other”.

 

 

 

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