Something odd is happening with the Department for Transport's WebTAG transport scheme appraisal guidance - the backbone of major funding decisions but a bone of contention for many transport professionals.
Many in the sector have complained about the guidance for years and for years the DfT has been promising to carry out some major reforms to the system.
Former roads minister Andrew Jones opens a road scheme
The Government’s new Transport Investment Strategy states that it has updated its WebTAG guidance to measure economic and housing impacts, but the implementation of proposed changes appears to have stalled.
Published earlier this month, the strategy states that the Government is ‘continuously looking to improve’ the existing Transport Appraisal Guidance (WebTAG) framework and adds: ‘In particular, we have made recent changes to strengthen our ability to measure a scheme’s local economic impacts, assess the benefits of resultant housing growth and capture the structural changes in the economy which result from step-changes in capacity and connectivity.’
This appears to refer to a consultation that ran from September to December 2016, which proposed replacing the current TAG units A2.1, A2.2 and A2.3. with new units A2.1, A2.2, A2.3 and A2.4.
The changes include ‘a stronger focus on additionality and displacement’, with ‘greater clarity about the extent to which impacts are additional at the national level, or redistributed’ between local areas.
‘Getting to the right decisions is made possible by a robust project appraisal process,’ the Government’s investment strategy stresses.
However the outcome of the consultation has not yet been announced and the WebTAG page on the DfT website confirms that the units have not been replaced or updated since.
The DfT operates an 'orderly release process' for WebTAG. Its Forthcoming Changes document for the guidance does not include future changes to the units in question.
When asked specifically about the outcome of the consultation in the context of the Transport Investment Strategy, a DfT spokesperson told Transport Network: ‘Our transport appraisal guidance is considered among the most developed in the world and we are constantly working to improve it, so we can make the right decisions.
‘We consulted on improving our existing guidance on wider economic impacts and housing last September, and plan to issue our response in due course.’
The DfT said that in the meantime it would continue to bring forward new analysis to supplement existing WebTAG analysis.