Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 400 - 412)



  400. How far have commuters suffered in the last three or four weeks? Do you have any measure of how much commuters suffered?
  (Mr Mulligan) The suffering has been quite considerable. Speaking of our own experience today, I think all three of us took about five hours to get from the North down to London.


  401. You are not commuting, I know come down here fairly frequently, what about the people making that two, three or five mile journey within Greater Manchester or in the other areas that you represent?
  (Mr Mulligan) My colleagues must speak for their own areas, in Greater Manchester there has not been a level of disruption which is equivalent to the longer distances, because the problems have been rather less than on the long distance services to London.
  (Mr Preston) Northern Spirit services have suffered greatly in West Yorkshire. There was no service at all for much of last week and the week before on the Airedale and Wharfdale line and there were no directservices between Leeds and York. It was absolute chaos in terms of people simply not being able to turn up and rely upon the train being there. I think the other thing that we have to get right is how we inform passengers about disruptions and how we keep them informed, maybe 24 hours in advance, and the alternatives we offer to them. I do not think we responded as an industry in the way that we should have done.

Mr Bennett

  402. You paid grants for some of those services, are you going to get the grant money back and how are passengers going to be compensated to try and re-establish some loyalty to the service?
  (Mr Preston) What I have asked for in West Yorkshire is for a full analysis of why trains were cancelled over that period. I think a number of operating companies maybe took opportunities to put things right, maybe get trains maintained that otherwise would have missed maintenance schedules. I am not entirely sure all trains cancelled could be put down to weather. There will be force majeure events and the operator will be treated as if those trains operated.


  403. You are asking the right questions.
  (Mr Scales) We had a landslide on the City Line which closed the City Line for a couple of weeks. We did suffer a lot of problems on the electrical system. Because we take revenue risk on both franchises, any fines we levy go to the Treasury ultimately. We do not have a mechanism to re-circulate any monies back. All three of us do have passengers' charters that operate in our counties. If certain criteria are met there are reimbursement mechanisms for the passenger. They have suffered a lot over the last few weeks, particularly with unreliability and punctuality problems.

  404. You have all mentioned the franchises and the fact they were renewed, would this have been an opportunity to change the way the system worked in relation to some of your worries?
  (Mr Mulligan) I think in terms of replacement franchising we welcome the long period of the franchise because it is likely to generate more capital from the private sector into the networks. One of the concerns that all three of us have in the North is with the Trans-Pennine Express. I have already referred to the problems in and around Manchester in capacity terms and the West Coast Mainline arriving there. The sine qua non of getting those services in—although one applauds the idea of express services from the Hull through to Liverpool and Manchester, and so on—where they integrate with local commuter networks is absolutely essential in the investment in Greater Manchester.

  405. The criteria ought to be investment, safety and integration.
  (Mr Mulligan) Investment, safety and integration. The Trans-Pennine Express will not be successful unless there is appropriate investment to expand capacity, because there will be a direct conflict with commuter services and no party will be well served.

  406. You will not mind me saying, these are real fears that you have raised before as a Group and you will remember we incorporated your views into one of our previous Reports. What I ask you to tell me, finally, is what has been the response, firstly, of the shadow Strategic Rail Authority to your fears and, secondly, what has been the Government's response?
  (Mr Mulligan) In terms of the shadow Strategic Rail Authority they now acknowledge, after a little while, there needs to be major investment in and round Greater Manchester which affects all three of us in our own particular area, or five of the six Passenger Transport Executives. The imponderable at the moment is both the timing and the expenditure and the investments which will take place from Railtrack and were that money will come from, whether it will be public or private sources, we do not know that.

  407. You do think that the Strategic Rail Authority have taken your arguments on board?

  (Mr Mulligan) Yes, I think they understood those arguments.

  408. What about the Government?
  (Mr Mulligan) In terms of our argument about the local transport plan, the Government is inclined to put the money through the rail passenger partnership and we find that strange in light of the fact that the local transport plan is the vehicle for delivering integrated public transport in the United Kingdom, and has been formally adopted as such.

  Chairman: Thank you very much. That has been very helpful.

  Mr Donohoe: I was going to say to the Chairman that my question had been asked but I would only be following a trend that started today in the House

  Chairman: That is an in-joke, you will see the point of it in the papers tomorrow.

Mr Donohoe

  409. What is your view of Railtrack's sudden surge of maintenance over the last few weeks? Do you think that was just a panic? Could you also tell me if you as an organisation are given what the projected maintenance of the track within your areas are going to be over the next five years or do you have an idea as to what expenditure there is going to be by Railtrack?

  (Mr Mulligan) I am not in a position to know whether Railtrack have panicked or not. I am in a position to say from a personal capacity that this is the first time, in my experience, in my entire life, the entire railway system has been virtually out of commission for a period of time. You may make of that what you want. In terms of our own areas, I can only speak for Greater Manchester, there are clearly maintenance issues to be addressed. They do not appear to be as severe in Greater Manchester as in other places.

  410. What about future maintenance—you must get taken into the confidence of Railtrack—is that expenditure going to grow at a rate proportionally over the next 10 years?
  (Mr Mulligan) I have not had such specific assurance, but I hope so.

  411. Do you know the programme of maintenance expenditure in your area over the next two or three years?
  (Mr Mulligan) No, I do not.

  412. Do you not think you should?
  (Mr Mulligan) I think there should be more transparency.
  (Mr Scales) In the Northwest zone we have had three zone directors in the last three years. By the time we educate one, so he knows what we are about, they move him somewhere else.

  Chairman: Perhaps you are acting as an extension of the training system, Mr Scales? Thank you very much for coming.

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