Transport strategy – majority v minority

My speech on the 2 proposals is below.


Sir, Speaking from a personal point of view I must say that I consider the minority report better written, better thought through and better considered than the main report. The presentation was certainly more professional and I commend Deputy Burford in particular for the hard work she has put in since the beginning of this term in developing a strategy and what has become the minority report.

There are some great ideas in both reports. In particular I support all the  ideas to make the environment better for those wanting to get from A to B on 2 wheels or 2 legs. For too long, cyclists on this Island have been considered irritants who just get in the way of the motorist. Government should positively support those who choose the alternative forms of transport. This is essential if societal attitudes are to change.

Yesterday, Deputy Laurie Queripel talked about a cycle tax, but he completely misses the point that the taxes, charges, whatever you want to call them are designed to influence behaviour. The last thing we should therefore be doing is taxing a mode of transport we want to encourage.

So, Yes we need more cycle lanes, one-way systems, cycle networks. We’ve needed them for years.


At the same time I also agree with the need to promote responsible driving.  I find it amazing how people’s personalities completely change when they get behind the wheel. The Canadian Philosopher Marshall mcluhan once remarked, and I quote, ‘The car has become the carapace, the protective and aggressive shell, of urban and suburban man.

And, believe me the best place to witness this, or should that be worst place,  is on a bike. Being cut up by a driver who tries to pass you with just inches to spare or getting as close to your rear wheel and revving the engine, these are selfish and thoughtless actions that should be addressed. And of course some cyclists aren’t immune from criticism either.  But Cyclists are vulnerable road users. I was once knocked off my bike at the top of the Grange. Fortunately for me I got hit by a Hyundai Amica and not a Range Rover or other 4WD. Indeed I do wonder who came off better,  the car which had a broken wing mirror and windscreen which I hit head on, or me with my broken ribs, bruises and headache.  Whatever, having had rather a closer encounter with an automobile than is good for you,  I did end up having to be stretchered off in an ambulance to the PEH and whilst I was being transported one of the paramedics on board told me their term for a cyclist here is ‘future customer’.


We can’t let that continue. So I welcome all initiatives to make our roads a less stressful and dangerous place to be.


But then, I couldn’t see anyone here really objecting to either of the above elements of the report.  It all seems obvious and long overdue. To me this should be the first part of any strategy to develop and implement.


BUT,  if only it was as easy as that. These reports also contain other, more far reaching proposals to  consider and I’d just like to focus on 3 of the most contentious – First Registration Duty, Buses and Paid Parking.


Now, both reports do adopt a First Registration Duty. I’m not convinced that a vehicle’s width should be used as a basis of taxation, because it does not reflect the overall impact of a vehicle on the road  And I do have issues regarding the effect of this element of the Duty for certain businesses which is why I have laid an amendment.

However, that aspect side I do believe it is about time we dealt with the polluting effects of motor vehicles – the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions on this Island. We are far behind other more enlightened jurisdictions in seeking to reduce CO2 emissions and it would be incomprehensible for this not to be part of any transport strategy

The question is whether such a Duty is significant enough to achieve its stated aim of behavioural change.


From the analysis I have done I believe there is little in the Main report to incentivise people to move to a smaller, less polluting vehicle. I took the annualised cost provided of the vehicles listed on page 621 and divided that by the car’s ex-VAT price. What I found was that the annualised cost of buying a Ford KA as a proportion of its retail price would be just 0.6%, in fact the same as for a larger, more expensive BMW520i. So how will that influence the buying decision?

The Minority report is better structured such that a larger, more polluting car will attract a proportionately higher annualised cost. For instance in this case there would be no charge for a  Ford Ka but, for a Landrover  Freelander the annualised cost as a proportion of its retail price would be 1.3%.

It also make sense to offer a subsidy for electric vehicles to offset the higher purchase price to some extent.  Just taxing is not enough.  This is something other jurisdictions such as France have realised they need to bring in. So, for me the version of First Registration Duty is better developed in the Minority Report.

However, saying all that, I am unsure whether a first registration duty will be as effective in influencing behaviour as an annual tax. It will take longer to have an effect and may have unintended consequences in terms of buying choices.


Turning to the buses. Current usage is pitiful. I did a rough calculation as to bus occupancy using the annual passenger figures and number of routes operated throughout the year and worked out that the average bus occupancy is approximately 9 people. This is for buses with a maximum occupancy of around 50. We find out from the transport consultation that just 3% of respondents used the bus 5 days a week but 66% think that there are sufficient bus routes around them. So why don’t we all use buses? The answer is given further on where 77% say car usage is essential , with 91% saying it is more convenient than public transport.

So, will making the buses free make any difference? I really don’t think it will. And, apart from the noise over charging visitors more than locals, the evidence is that people think the fares are very reasonable now anyway.

The problem is not the cost it is the service provided and on that basis I welcome the initiatives in both reports to incentivise people to hop on a bus. BUT I  see no reason to make the bus service free, especially when we consider all the other expenditure demands at the moment and there is no guarantee bus usage will increase, or have any effect on vehicle congestion. Indeed I seem to recall when the bus drivers went on strike last year how many people commented on how the traffic flowed better. Even what was known as the Soviet Socialist Republic of Sheffield charged 20p a ride in the 1980s. About 80-90p now.  It was really popular, but then it was also a really well run service.

So, yes, let’s get the smaller shuttle buses, let’s have the bus tracker apps, let’s have more suitable bus shelters. Get a proper fit for purpose bus service and it may get more people out of their cars. At the end of the day, we do not have the density of population ever to have a public transport service that meets the needs of every person wherever they live to enable them to go wherever they want whenever they want on this Island.


So finally and inexorably I come to paid parking.  I know there are some here with very strong feelings about whether or not we should introduce paid parking.  But I have always had an open mind about the merits or otherwise. I have spent the last couple of months listening to the arguments on both sides and they both sound fair and reasonable in theory, from using paid parking to change behaviour on the one hand to the fact that it is inequitable, on the other.  I have listened and questioned. I’ve also read numerous research papers, one in French, though it did involve heavy use of Google Translate and so I may not have got the full picture. I have come into this with an open mind.

BUT, I am still concerned about the principle of paid parking in the manner envisaged in the minority report. And I’ll give a couple of reasons why.

The first arose from watching a BBC series being broadcast at the moment called Parking Mad. This documentary follows the battle between wardens, bailiffs and drivers primarily over parking fines but also sheds a light on how parking charges influence behaviour. In the first episode we saw a pay and display car park right next to a train station completely empty, but motorists were driving around the neighbourhood to find free kerbside spaces, making life a misery for the residents. I believe, if paid parking were introduced here, especially if only in town car parks, exactly the same thing will happen here. It would just move the parking problem further away. It will be just another way in which Guernsey will turn into Little England and we won’t be the better for it.

Another reason for concern relates to the counter argument to the point that paid parking is inequitable. The proponents of paid parking say that it is expensive to run a car anyway and so the poorest in our society will be better off without one.  However, the authors of the report have explicitly stated that they do not want to get rid of the motor car, only to cut down unnecessary journeys by car and that there are times when we all need one. So, this strategy will have little effect other than to make life less convenient for those who I would argue are not only cash poor, but time poor as well.

So, in summary, I believe the minority report is, in many ways superior to that of the Main report and I’m therefore inclined to support it at this stage. Indeed, as with Deputy Duquemin, I was so underwhelmed by the Department’s presentation of its report that I feel like there is little belief in what they are proposing anyway. I may not have agreed with all Deputy Burford said, I don’t, but at least she believed in what she was saying.

However, I am still concerned about the effects of paid parking in practice, especially before we know we have an adequate bus service and before those in the public and private sector who get a car parking space are similarly charged.

The application of the user pays principle in this situation is also a big issue that has only just been touched on in debate. Polluter pays principle yes, something which I have studied in depth and have the degree to prove it, but the user pays principle takes things to another level which could have significant consequences if adopted across the States and which I will cover off in the main debate.


So, whilst I will support the Minority over the Main report now, I have to say I will not be able to support all aspects of the report as it stands.

Frankly I think both strategies are a sledgehammer to crack a nut and if ever the phrase ‘keep it simple’ was appropriate it is in relation to a transport strategy for Guernsey.

Comments are closed.