Examination of Witness (Questions 860
WEDNESDAY 6 DECEMBER 2000
MR T WINSOR
860. That marks you out as different from the
rest of the railway industry for a start.
(Mr Winsor) My track quality specialists and performance
advisers come with me and they explain to me what I am shown and
they tell me whether or not we are having the wool pulled over
861. And they do have engineering and railway
(Mr Winsor) Certainly. They have 20 to 30 years, experience
in the railway.
862. That also makes them unique.
(Mr Winsor) I am hoping they will not be offered jobs
863. Were you aware of all the problems which
Railtrack's track had before Hatfield? If you had all that technical
expertise that had been looking at all of this, you knew what
(Mr Winsor) No, the Office of the Rail Regulator was
not sufficiently equipped to have that degree of information from
Railtrack for a number of reasons. My predecessor did not appoint
a track engineer until 1997, so that is four years. I do not know
why he did not do that, but nevertheless the track quality engineers
we have now have been looking at the quality of information which
we get from Railtrack and they find significant deficiencies in
it. They have been improving that information all the time. As
part of the periodic review, we are requiring a level of asset
condition monitoring and asset spending unprecedented in the railway
industry and that requires Railtrack to have good knowledge of
its assets. We as a regulatory authority cannot be out there with
orange jackets inspecting the track ourselves. That is a matter
for Railtrack and on an audit basis the Health and Safety Executive.
We can specify from Railtrack what kind of asset quality, asset
condition measures they should be using and reporting to us. I
can go into that in as much detail as you like, of the new form
of accountability we are establishing for Railtrack.
864. But you have been in office now for over
(Mr Winsor) Correct.
865. In that time you drew up the review which
was to decide in effect the finances of the industry and you drew
it up on inaccurate information, you did not actually know the
state the railways were in when you did that review. Is that right?
(Mr Winsor) There is a considerable amount of information
about the railway and we appointed consultants to assess that
information. This is information coming to us from Railtrack about
the amount of work they needed to do on signalling, on track and
on other forms of activity. I am not saying there was no information:
I am saying the quality and amount of information on which we
based the review had to be achieved at a very considerable effort
which will obviate the necessity for such effort in relation to
future reviews because we are going to establish from April 2001
a way of measuring and establishing the present condition of the
network so we can see very clearly what Railtrack is doing, how
well it is doing and get the information much more easily.
866. What you have just told me in plain words
is that they pulled the wool over your eyes as far as the state
of the railways is concerned at the present moment.
(Mr Winsor) No, the contrary. We had to try extremely
hard, and we have succeeded, in understanding the condition of
the network in order to make the conclusions in the periodic review.
That does not involve a detailed sleeper by sleeper assessment
of the condition of the track.
867. This is not sleeper by sleeper it is the
state of the whole lot, is it not? There are problems almost everywhere
and you just did not know about them.
(Mr Winsor) As far as matters of safety are concerned,
I am not the safety regulator I am the economic regulator. Railtrack's
reaction to the Hatfield accident is seen by many in the industry
as an over-reaction. They asked the question: did Railtrack know
that the track was unsafe and allow trains to run over it or did
Railtrack not know the condition of the track? Those are questions
which are going to be determined by the inquiry into the accident,
not in any other form. Nevertheless, we have been establishing
with Railtrack very significant forms of knowledge and accountability
for the condition of the network which will serve the industry
very well in the future.
868. But you did not know when you did your
review the number of cracks and problems that were in the rail
(Mr Winsor) We knew a great deal about the condition
of the network. Railtrack made submissions to us as to the amount
of work they needed to do on the network. They asked us for £3.25
billion for track renewals. Having assessed the condition of the
network with our consultants, Booz Allen & Hamilton mainly,
an international firm of engineering consultants of considerable
repute, we decided that Railtrack had not asked for enough money.
So we actually gave them £250 million more than they asked
for. That was through our knowledge gained in a difficult way
from the condition of the network.
869. Was that the sort of money they are actually
having to spend since Hatfield?
(Mr Winsor) The amount of money they are having to
spend since Hatfield is not yet known. They are spending without
knowing what this activity is going to cost them and they are
going to assess the bill later.
Chairman: It sounds as though you should have
sent them your consultants.
870. With your technical skills now, do you
think the amount they are spending is more than you allowed them?
(Mr Winsor) We are not sure how much they are spending
at the moment; that is information which is still coming in so
I cannot answer that I am afraid.
Miss McIntosh: May I remind the Committee of
my interest in this subject.
Chairman: Miss McIntosh has declared her many
871. Three. When did gauge corner cracking become
a phenomenon in this country?
(Mr Winsor) I am not an engineer and I cannot answer
that question directly. Railtrack's knowledge of gauge corner
cracking is not brand new. Gauge corner cracking is a phenomenon
which has been understood for some years. The way in which it
propagates into the rail is something about which Railtrack is
872. Could you just clarify what authority you
have for saying that gauge corner cracking is not a new phenomenon
in this country?
(Mr Winsor) My specialist track engineer with 26 years'
873. When did it become a new phenomenon?
(Mr Winsor) He would have to be here to answer that
874. Could you possibly drop us a written note?
(Mr Winsor) Of course.
875. In your view would there be any advantages
to Railtrack taking the maintenance of the track back in-house
rather than having external contractors?
(Mr Winsor) There may be some advantages for Railtrack
to do that. What really matters is how well the chain of command
works from the top of the organisation to the people on the ground
who are having to do the work. It may not matter very much whether
that is in a separate company or whether it is in a single company.
What matters is whether the culture, the safety culture and the
policy of preventative maintenance, works correctly.
876. You have very kindly provided supplementary
written evidence to the Committee in which you state at paragraph
5, "Given this, I have concluded that £8.8 billion should
be paid through track access charges from franchised passenger
operators". I presume these figures were based on the forecast
of people and freight travelling by rail over the forecast period.
(Mr Winsor) The figures are arrived at through a variety
of means. This is the overall figure in relation to the operation,
maintenance and renewal of the network for the next five years.
The £8.8 billion is the net figure after you take off the
Government grant of approximately £4.6 billion. The total
figure is £4.6 billion plus £8.8 billion. It is the
amount of money they need to operate and maintain and renew the
railway over the next five years. It does net off the income which
Railtrack would get from a number of sources including stations
and freight operations.
877. What percentage over the last five years
has Railtrack raised from the sale of land which under the new
criteria you will not allow them to do? Are you in a position
to give that figure?
(Mr Winsor) I am not in a position to give you the
precise figure. If I have understood the point of your question
it is that I am going to stop Railtrack getting rid of land.
878. You specifically say that in your evidence.
(Mr Winsor) Yes, I do and I look forward to doing
it. Railtrack is a very significant land owner and it is very
important that land which is beside the railway, which could be
used for additional freight facilities, station car parks, station
extensions or other railway purposes, is not lost. Railtrack can
get more money selling it for non-railway purposes than it can
for railway purposes. Therefore I intend to establish a licence
condition and this is one of the licence conditions we sought
in 1993 and were told we could not have because it was unnecessary
because Railtrack would never be privatised. The licence condition
in question will impose a control on Railtrack so that it may
not dispose of land proximate to the railway for non-railway purposes
unless there is no conceivable idea or no reasonable prospect
of it being used for the railway. If Railtrack actually loses
money as a result of that, then they can be compensated in a different
way so as to maintain the amount of money they need for the operation
and maintenance of the railway. But this land needs to be protected.
I am sad to say that Railtrack is resisting my proposals and I
may find it necessary to refer the matter to the Competition Commission.
879. You may like to enlighten the Committee
on how they would be compensated in a different way. My question
to you though is: what if the franchised passenger operators cannot
pay the amount because the numbers of people and the amount of
freight which have been forecast simply do not materialise over
the five-year period?
(Mr Winsor) They will get it from the Government.