Cambridge Congestion Charge – FOI Request

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008. 1:29am

To: foi at –

Could you please send me by email or preferably make available on your website, the documents which comprise the output of the circa one million pounds spent on consultants as part of the preparations for making a bid to the central Government’s Transport Innovation Fund in late 2007.

I expect this may include documents detailing options which were considered, but not selected as part of the TIF bid.

The document(s) I am requesting may be known as reports generated as part of: “The TIF Study”.

There must be more detail resulting from the £1.4 million from the Government’s Transport Innovation Fund spent on the TIF study than the couple of hundred words which has been published already on the TIF Study page of the Cambridgeshire County Council Congestion website.

It has been reported that initial stages of the “The TIF Study” had been completed in October 2007, and later references have been made such as: “The TIF Study concluded … ” under .

I am seeking the document which contains the conclusions of “The TIF Study” in particular, as well as the document(s) which make up the output of “The TIF Study”, perhaps interim reports if “The TIF Study” has yet to be completed.

If not included in the above I am also requesting the release of a document which Paul Cook, Cambridgeshire’s Head of Transport Policy and Strategy has told me exists and according to him reveals an opinion that if the people of Cambridgeshire were asked in a referendum if they were for or against a congestion charge they would come out 60:40 against along with a prediction that the level of popular support would improve once the scheme was in place.

If you have published these documents already on your website I would appreciate it if you could send me a link and perhaps consider linking to them more prominently and indexing them better, and ensuring they are exposed to internet search engines, as I have not been able to find them.

I am copying City Councillor Herbert as he asked County Council Officers for the publication of these documents during the East Area Committee meeting on Thursday 28th February, the dismissal of his request has prompted me to make this request via the County council’s Freedom of Information email address.

Many thanks,

Richard Taylor

Update 26 March 2008:I received a reply directing me to:
which provides information on the proposed plans and not the options considered before settling on those plans and the research on which they were based which I had requested.The element of my request relating to the expected 60:40 split against the congestion charge appears to have been considered in a bit more detail. I received a reply containing a MORI report Road Pricing At The Crossroads pdf, 324KB from which the council’s FOI officer correctly pulled out:

In this survey, Mori ask respondents whether they supported a congestion charge and followed this up with a question asking if they would support such a charge if all of the money were to be spent on public transport. The results were:

  • On the congestion charge question, 33% were in favour, with 48% against.
  • On the question of support for a congestion charge if all the money were to be spent on public transport, 60% were in favour and only 22% against

In Cambridge the current proposal is not to spend any revenues specifically within Cambridge but to spend the money raised all over Cambridgeshire.

Paul Cook Clarified:

In my discussion with Mr Taylor I said that opinion polls carried out suggest an average of around 60/40 against congestion charging. A Google search gives some further examples;

These show a range from 70/30 against to 50/50. Note, however, that in many cases the opposition drops on the introduction of a scheme. In the Stockholm example given above, once the scheme was in place a majority voted in favour, or (as in the case of the Mori poll) when the nature of a charging scheme and what the money would be spent on is clarified. So, in fact, as the Mori poll report indicates:

“a good degree of the softer opposition can > ‘> swing> ‘> in favour when the benefits of charging are made clear.”

This leads to the conclusion that a straight referendum on a congestion charging scheme might not be helpful in that it does not explore the complex issues involved adequately – a point I was trying to make in my discussion with Mr Taylor, but may not have done clearly enough.

I agree this is what Mr Cook had said to me though I felt he suggested people in Cambridgeshire had been surveyed. I was interested to find out if there had been any surveys done relating specifically to the situation in Cambridgeshire, and had hoped that if any such surveys had been carried out as part of the huge investment in work done by consultants for the County Council, it appears from this request to my request for the information that they have not.

Update – Friday 11th April

TO: Kim Armitt, (Communications and Engagement Officer at Cambridgeshire County Council – the Officer who responded to my FOI request).

Thank you for your reply to my request for information; your response on the 60:40 against polling was very clear and informative, however I am surprised by your reply with respect to my request for the consultant’s report:

You have asked us to supply documents, which outline all the options considered, in preparation to the bid to government, for TIF funding.
These are on our website, and can be found at the address below, under the publications section:

Am I to assume this means that there are no report(s), and no output of the circa one million pounds spent on consultants as part of the preparations for making a bid to the central Government’s Transport Innovation Fund in late 2007 other than the Outline Proposal for Funding, the six supporting documents and the report that went to the County Council’s Cabinet on 16th October 2007?

Does the consultant’s final report exist?

I am surprised by the lack of depth, for example the expansion of the “core scheme” – ie. closing off more roads with bollards is dealt with in only a single page of the Final Options Assessment Report. I find it incredible that there were not more options considered and that options which were not carried forward to the bid were not given more in-depth consideration, I had hoped my FOI request would be more enlightening.

Richard Taylor.

Update 23rd April – A Further Reply from Mr Kim at the County Council:

You raise some questions regarding the consultants work on TIF, asking why we do not have a formal, signed off document from our consultants. The answer is that, given the very limited time in which we had to put together the bid, it made more sense for the consultants to input directly into the outline proposal for funding than for them to provide a report for us to consider prior to writing the funding proposal itself. The consultants work is, therefore, contained within the outline proposal for funding.

I am sorry that you do not consider this to be very much work but confess to being a bit surprised at this. The funding proposal includes, inter alia, a description of the context in which the work was carried out, detailed descriptions of the congestion charging proposals and of the supporting measures, consideration as to how we would implement the scheme, how much it would cost (both in terms of set-up costs and of ongoing revenue), the effect of the scheme on the transport network using detailed modelling incorporating both transport and planning elements, an assessment of the economic, environmental and safety effects of the scheme as well as the impact it would have on accessibility and how it would be integrated with other areas and an assessment as to how the scheme fits with government criteria. The appendices provide even more information, especially with regard to the congestion charging scheme and as to what alternatives we considered. This is very comprehensive and it is hard to see what else you might expect from consultants in the time they had available to them.

You say that the proposals contain only one page on the alternative measures looking at an extended core scheme. This is not true. The *description* of the expansion to the core scheme takes up one page, because the concept is readily understandable and does not need more than one page in which to describe it. But if you look at all of the ensuing charts and graphs, you will see that many of them show the *effects* of the core scheme compared to a other alternatives. Among other things, the appendix demonstrates that a core scheme proposal is not effective at reducing car use (figure 4.1), vehicle kilometres (4.2) or raising average speeds (4.3). From this and the other information, you can see why we might conclude that a scheme which leads to a drop in average speeds, a rise in congestion, an increase in car use and impacts badly on the A14 might not be as effective as some of the other options which we looked at to tackle congestion.

Clearly, there is still more work to be done in refining the work and incorporating the results of the public consultation and we will look to continue with this is in the coming months, publishing the results as they become available. But as a starting point giving a very clear idea of the scheme, the alternatives and the consequences of each, I’m afraid that I feel that we have done as much as we possibly can at this time.

My summary is they spent a million pounds or so of our money and got very little for it.

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