Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
MONDAY 27 NOVEMBER 2000
40. Thank you. Finally, you have a plan, I understand,
to allow operators potentially to raise fares following capacity
improvements, which ought to make the punctuality and the number
of cancellations improve as well, of course. The problem with
improving capacity is that obviously really helps the passengers
who are travelling at peak hours, which is when the capacity is
often insufficient, it does not really help the passengers who
are travelling off-peak at all because they usually have sufficient
capacity anyway on their trains. Will the increased fares, therefore,
only apply during peak hours once the increase in capacity is
in place, or will they also apply to the off-peak passengers who
will not gain the benefit?
(Mr Grant) What we have said to the train operating
companies is if they have got ideas to increase fares once the
upgrade, if you like, has been delivered then we are prepared
to listen to them. There are not any proposals on the table at
the moment. I would expect that train operating companies would
be dealing with off-peak very differently from peak.
Mr Rendel: Thank you.
41. Mr Grant, may I tell you before I start
that I was at one time a sponsored member of the TSSA, so you
are aware of that. You are the Strategic Rail Authority but that
title is a bit of a joke, is it not? You have no responsibility
for safety, that belongs to somebody else. You are not passing
any views on structure and architecture, that seems to be outside
your remit. What on earth are you responsible for?
(Mr Grant) Perhaps I can address
42. I hope it is more than "perhaps",
I hope you can tell me with great conviction.
(Mr Grant) I can tell you with great conviction what
we have achieved so far in the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority.
43. I have asked what you are responsible for.
(Mr Grant) We are responsible for franchise replacement.
We are responsible for producing a Strategic Plan. We have wide
funding powers under the new Bill. We have power to direct Railtrack,
again under the new Bill, and we have stronger enforcement powers
44. But you are producing a Strategic Plan which
cannot take account of structure.
(Mr Grant) Which cannot take account of strategy?
45. You said yourself that architecture is outside
your current remit. You are due to report on things other than
the architecture of the system some time in the future. Who is
going to be thinking about the structure in the meantime?
(Mr Grant) We are here to try to make the structure
work better. I do not think we are in a position to change the
46. Are you allowed to think about the structure,
to make it better? To make it better do you not have to think
about it and consider whether it is the best structure?
(Mr Grant) We certainly do have to go through the
procedures. If the working groups that are in place at the moment
come up with the conclusion that the difficulties are too great
then, of course, that will be reported in those discussions. We
have a steering group over the five working groups and if the
steering group and the working groups conclude that it is a problem
with structure, the problem of making the structure work better,
then that is what we will report.
47. So you do have views on structure. Do you
think the present structure is ideal? If you were starting from
now, is it the structure that you would recommend to ministers?
(Mr Grant) Clearly we are not starting from now.
48. I know you are not. You said you are allowed
to have views and I assumed, therefore, you were allowed to express
(Mr Grant) There are a number of things in the current
structure which we want to make better. I think it is not for
the SRA at this particular time to opine on the structure, it
is our job to try to make it work better.
49. Most people would not see it that way. If
the structure is at the heart of what is wrong then you should
have a view on it. You say there are various things wrong with
the structure, so obviously you have identified things that are
wrong, now in order of priority give me three.
(Mr Grant) We have identified that we need to look
at performance. We need to look at the possession regime.
(Mr Grant) The possession regime. These are the working
groups. We need to look at the scale of the agenda: is the industry
up to delivering.
51. Sorry. You have said that these are the
working groups you have referred to and you have said that architecture
is outside the work that they are doing.
(Mr Grant) It is outside but
52. In that case, how can you have a strategic
view on it?
(Mr Grant) As part of that process they will look
at the structure and if they feel the structure is not going to
work properly then they are allowed to report that. What they
have been asked to do is to look at the existing structure to
try to make it work better.
53. Over what period? It might be cheaper to
alter the structure, it might be quicker to alter the structure.
Are you not allowed to comment on that? Do you not consider that
as an option on which you might, as the Strategic Authority, make
some recommendations to ministers?
(Mr Grant) I think altering the structure would take
some time, it would cause a hiatus.
54. The other things you are not in a rush over,
are you? How long is it before you produce your report?
(Mr Grant) Before we produce the Strategic Plan?
(Mr Grant) January.
56. Will these committees report in that time?
(Mr Grant) They will report. They will not report
on conclusions, they will report on the problems they have encountered,
the parties who may be in a position to put them right and the
direction of the solution. That direction of the solution may
be that they report the structure is not right.
57. One suggestion that has been put forward
to address the problem of the railsand I am not an expert
on engineering, I am an economist by training, in other words
virtually unemployable as anything other than a Member of Parliamentis
that there is an engineering incompatibility between the designs
of the trains and the freight rolling stock that is being used
now in relation to speed, its size and so on, and the engineering
quality of rail. Is that something you look at, the rails themselves?
(Mr Grant) I am not an expert on that either, but
what I do see throughout the world is trains that run fast, trains
that are heavy, and apparently on the gauge corner cracking point,
which may be a new phenomenon, that is not a problem everywhere.
I think it is only right that we should expect a railway system
to be able to carry fast trains, to be able to carry heavy trains,
because it is part of that design.
58. But you feel it is a problem here?
(Mr Grant) Sorry?
59. You say it is not a problem everywhere but
you feel it is here?
(Mr Grant) We are told by Railtrack that gauge corner
cracking, which is the current problem, is a new phenomenon. There
is apparently no problem in France, there may be a problem in
Germany. If you look at the world's railways and those railways
that are run best, they do not seem to have the same problem.
Whether it is a new phenomenon or not, I do not know. I would
expect that we should be in a position that the rail and wheel
interface is one that is compatible and can carry trains at speed
and trains which are heavy.