Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240 - 245)



  240. On a day-to-day basis there needs to be some incentive built in or some penalty to make sure that this does not happen.
  (Mr Grant) There is what we call a shortfall incentive payment, whereby if the train operating company runs short trains they are penalised. That is in existence at the moment.

  241. The final point I want to make is about information. If I read it correctly, Figure 24 said that one in five passengers said they were dissatisfied with the information they got. In a delay situation that doubles to roundabout 40 per cent. 8.0 of Figure 11 says that one of the aims is to improve information given to passengers on delays. Could you tell us a little bit about how that will happen, when it will happen and is it part of Strategic Rail Authority's power to help to deliver?
  (Mr Grant) Going forward it is an absolutely crucial part of franchise replacement and Mr Jenner will give you a few examples. We all recognise that when trains are late and passengers are not given accurate information there is nothing more infuriating, it is bad enough being late, but then not being told what is going on is much more difficult. We are looking to improve across the piece information to passengers and we have included a number of clauses in the new franchise agreements to address that point.
  (Mr Jenner) What passengers are interested in is the provision of realtime running information, exactly where their train is. They want to know that before they leave home or on their way to the station so they can plan accordingly, rather than get to the station and find the train is 60 minutes late and then wonder what to do. Some train operating companies are already introducing realtime information websites, where you can access the information on the web before you leave home and are able to better plan your journey. We are encouraging that.

  Mr Campbell: Thank you.


  242. Thank you. If they answered their telephone sometimes it would be a good thing. On the question of no overcrowding on the long distance railways, why is that?
  (Mr Grant) Going forward or historically?

  243. Now?
  (Mr Grant) I think going forward we will, as I say, work more closely with the train operating companies. Perhaps there has not been a need so far. Certainly on the commuter routes it is standing room. Going forward we are working very closely with train operating companies to monitor it.

  244. You mentioned earlier the expectation of a 50 per cent increase in volume, quite a large proportion of these are long distance. There is not a very large increase in the volume of capacity on those tracks so surely you will have foreseen that there will be, therefore, overcrowding on some of those popular lines. Is that not obvious?
  (Mr Grant) I do not think when privatisation took place that people were forecasting the growth that has actually taken place.

  245. Let me move on to one other point. We talked about reservations and at the moment, let me tell you, on the East Coast Main Line you cannot reserve a week ahead. Point number two, I am told by one of my colleagues here that at Christmas only reservations will be able to travel on the East Coast Main Line, that is the proposal, and anybody not booking and just turning up will not be allowed to travel. Do you approve of this? Do you have any control over all this? Is it how it is supposed to work?
  (Mr Grant) It is clearly not how it is supposed to work. I think the situation on the East Coast Main Line is very difficult in the light of the current speed restrictions. I personally do not have an answer to increasing the capacity. It is a situation that Railtrack find themselves in and obviously the knock-on consequences are those of GNER. I do not know that there is any easy answer in light of the speed restrictions and, therefore, the reduced capacity on the line.

  Chairman: I see. Do you have something to add, Mr Steinberg?

  Mr Steinberg: I do not think the statement that Mr Grant made was accurate. Even before the problems of Hatfield the fact is that on many, many occasions on trains on the East Coast Main Line people stood from King's Cross to Durham. To say that it is just a commuter problem and not an Inter City problem is not accurate at all.

  Chairman: Our purpose is not to sit here and embarrass you with things you do not know, our purpose is to get information. Would you like to give us a note on both the historical position of overcrowding and overcrowding planning, if there is such a thing, and your future proposals for them. It only remains for me to thank you for coming and giving evidence, I know it is never easy, and to wish you a happy and speedy journey home. Thank you.

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