The Government has rejected calls from a group of influential MPs for more guidance on maximising the regeneration potential of transport schemes in its appraisal process.
Ministers were responding to a transport select committee report that had criticised the Government’s approach to delivering new river crossings in London and long-term infrastructure planning.
The committee called for the latest research to be used to update the Department for Transport’s WebTAG (Transport Analysis Guidance), which helps transport planning professionals incorporate development and regeneration benefits into the assessment of options.
In response ministers said: ‘The best approach to exploit the opportunities for new housing and local regeneration is likely to differ from case to case, and it is not clear that further central guidance could fit the full range of local circumstances.’
The news comes after Transport Network exclusively revealed that transport bosses in the North were working on ways to improve on the guidance after identifying limits to its assessment process.
Government officials did reveal that they were now planning ahead for ‘generations of travellers’ after the committee criticised its ability to future-proof transport infrastructure and model traffic demand properly.
MPs said that river crossings have ‘all too often been planned with a design life that was too short’ and called for ‘an examination of ways to improve traffic-modelling forecasts to ensure that the proposed design life of new crossings accurately reflect their usage by motorists’.
In response, the Government revealed: ‘Consideration of long-term capacity and resilience is (also) at the heart of the Government's six new strategic studies on the future of the strategic road network. Particularly in Manchester's north-west and London's south-west, the idea of how to assess capacity needs to provide solutions that are robust for generations of travellers is now imbedded in the development process. Future strategic crossings would be likely to follow the same process of development, with the same focus on the long-term.’
Ministers also highlighted that they had outlined a 25-year vision for the future of the road network, following the release of the first Roads Investment Strategy (RIS).
Ministers also called on local authorities to help play a key role in mitigating air quality issues from new transport infrastructure connected to the strategic road network.
Referring to a £100m fund set aside in the RIS specifically for mitigating air quality issues, ministers said: ‘Interaction with local authorities will help shape how this fund is used and inform how Highways England addresses this difficult but vitally important issue. It is expected that this fund could tackle a number of locations and Highways England has already been pioneering this approach in Manchester, working with the local transport authority.’
Consultations on new lower Thames crossings at Gallions Reach and Belvedere are expected in late 2015 or early 2016, while a consultation on the new Silvertown Tunnel crossing is scheduled for September.