Friday, 30 November 2018

Keeping big builders happy

More chats with builders for Rupert Clubb, of East Sussex County Council and Transport for The South East.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Waiting games

Where are we with RIS2, currently in draft form, the second round of spending on the "Strategic Road Network" ? It's been allocated £23.5bn funding in the Budget, partially secured by ring-fencing Vehicle Excise Duty.

Highways England is required to produce a draft strategic business plan by 31 January 2019, with the Office of Rail and Road carrying out an Efficiency Review by 30 June 2019, ahead of the final RIS in ‘late 2019’.

That's when we might find out more about the plans for an offline dual carriageway between Lewes and Polegate. Lewes MP Maria Caulfield told me she would publish the bid documents once they were all in. No sign.

Saturday, 10 November 2018


Highways UK runs conferences and exhibitions. This year's Highways UK event at the NEC in Birmingham introduced the Highways UK Laureates Award scheme. The first winner was Ginny Clarke, CBE, recently retired from Highways England where she was Board Director of Strategy and Planning.

Among the judges, and enjoying the hospitality at the Laureate Dinner, Rupert Clubb, working with Highways England from his base at East Sussex County Council and Transport for the South East to deliver a new dual carriageway between Lewes and Polegate.

Such fun !

Friday, 9 November 2018

Highways England picks up legal bills

The South Downs National Park Authority has decided to drop its pursuit of a Judicial Review of Highways England plans for the A27 at Arundel - and good old Highways England is picking up the lawyers' bills.

Margaret Paren, Chair of the SDNPA says: “We are pleased that Highways England has now agreed to re-consult on options for the A27 bypass at Arundel. People should have the right to make informed comment based on all the information available and taking into account the National Park, including new evidence that Highways England will be tabling in the spring. Since this answers the reasons why the National Park Authority was pursuing a Judicial Review, this will now be withdrawn and I am pleased that Highways England are paying all of SDNPA’s legal fees incurred in bringing this challenge.”

So far, Highways England show no signs of behaving any better with their plans for the A27 East Of Lewes, despite many invitations to share their calculations. Will it always take threats of Judicial Reviews to get things out in the open ?

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

All for one, etc

How lobbying works:

"Transport for the South East (TfSE) held a reception at the House of Commons on Tuesday (31 October), sponsored by Huw Merriman, MP for Bexhill and Battle and a member of the Transport Select Committee. Rupert Clubb, director of communities, economy and transport at East Sussex County Council and chair of the TfSE Senior Officer Group, told Transport Network there had been a very positive response from the local MPs who attended.

He said: ‘What is important in a sub-national transport body is the ability to speak with one voice and our MPs are fundamental to that.’

There are 11 councillors from across the south east on the board of TfSE. 8 are Conservative (though one of them is non-voting), 3 are Labour.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

In the spotlight

Fans of Rupert Clubb will be delighted to learn that he will, after all, be taking the stage at the Highways UK conference in Birmingham next week, in a session enticingly titled "The road ahead – the rise of  the Sub-national Transport Body". Rupert finds time to be Chief Officer of Transport for The South East, as well as the day job as Director of Communities, Economy and Transport for East Sussex County Council.

Here's the set up for the session, with my annotations:  Transport for the North, Midlands Connect, Transport for the South East and England’s Economic Heartland are each developing long-term strategies that are underpinned by a dedication to improving quality of life across England [and backing, for example, big new roads which have clear red warning signals on environmental impact and bio-diversity]. As economic regions, we share a collaborative, evidence-based approach to transport investment, bringing together an unprecedented coalition led by local authorities and business leaders. [Note: no mention of communities, residents, etc] We complement the work of local and national transport authorities, providing the leadership that enables strategic infrastructure requirements to be developed and delivered faster. Our partnerships achieve much more by working together than would ever be possible in isolation.

The session is part of a Big Thinking series, in the Jacobs Theatre. Jacobs is a global engineering and construction firm headquartered in Dallas, with several current contracts with Hughways England and the Ministry of Defence. The panel is sponsored by CUBIC, a global technology and engineering company headquartered in San Diego, with quite a bundle of defence contracts, and rights to the Oyster Card technology around the world.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Guns for hire ?

Highways England should reply to my latest FOI by Bonfire Night, but I'm not holding my breath. Maria Caulfield, MP for Lewes, has said that there's now a good business case for an new dual carriageway between Lewes and Polegate - but, so far, neither she or Highways UK are prepared to share it with mere voters.

Here's the last publicly-shared Benefit-Cost Ratio analysis, from consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff, issued in February 2015. It simply didn't produced the multiples, at less than 2, that would 'demonstrate' value for money. 

The Trasnport Planning Society says, in evidence to the Department for Transport last month, that "the issue of uncertainty, both in forecasting and the calculation of the costs and benefits,
is not adequately reflected in current methods. To be fair this is an issue the DfT recognises,
particularly in a changing context driven by mobile internet access." Other elements adding uncertainty - electric cars, which might well produce higher numbers of shorter journeys.

The Society is particularly scathing about how BCRs (Benefit-Cost Ratios) are calculated when making the case for a new road. "In terms of the Business Case, the real world production of BCRs is itself seriously flawed. At the September Appraisal Conference practitioners made wry comments about how they had to work very hard to achieve their client’s target BCR. Every practitioner knows that this is the norm and has rightly led to accusations that transport planners are “guns for hire” (or a less polite version!). The practise of competitive bidding and adversarial culture has led to a lack of
transparency and public confidence. "