Wednesday 2 March 2011

Transport and the economy

The transport select committee has published its report in to transport and the economy.

The report pushes the idea that transport needs to be integrated in to a "fully integrated economic development strategy" and that stronger focus needs to be placed on how schemes will achieve regeneration and rebalancing. I am not fully convinced. Good transport policy needs government to state clear and credible objectives and assess schemes against their ability to meet these objectives. If that is what is meant by strategy, then the government does need more of it. But I suspect that many people pushing this agenda want more detailed economic development plans that specify how the government sees the economy developing and how transport fits in with their vision. Unfortunately, such "planning" is quite capable of pushing government to do some pretty silly things in the hope of transforming local economies.

With the strategy in place, we can step back and ask how policy will achieve the objectives. The funny thing about the transport select committee report is that they have already decided transport will help meet these objectives, but they insist that the government must explain how it will do so: "We welcome the Secretary of State’s focus on using transport to support and stimulate the UK economy and to reduce the economic disparities between different parts of the country and we call on him to explain how his policy will achieve that end." I would usually expect the logic to flow in the opposite direction (i.e. from explanation to conclusion). But that's academics for you ...