Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 340-342)

WEDNESDAY 24 OCTOBER 2001

MR STEWART FRANCIS AND MR ANTHONY SMITH

Andrew Bennett

  340. There is not much money left, it appears, from the ten-year plan. What is the priority; is it actually to spend it on the existing services, for the existing passengers, or should it be looking at enhancements so that new passengers can be provided with new services?
  (Mr Francis) I think there are tough decisions to make, if that is the limit of the funding; and we would advocate, first of all, that the Government goes back, takes into consideration what has happened to the railway over the last two years, and perhaps give consideration to further funding. But there are difficult choices to be made; investment in and around London, where the vast majority of commuters are, together, balanced against decisions that perhaps I referred to earlier, about economic regeneration, social needs of rural Britain, there are tough choices to be made, we recognise that. And the Rail Passengers Council is there perhaps to assist in some of these tough decisions that need to be made, by bringing the passengers' view and helping perhaps to advocate a structure that that may be done reasonably and fairly.

  341. Is the limit the money, or is it, as Bob Kiley suggested, that there really is not the professional and technical expertise and the skills in the industry to deliver all of it, even if the money was available?
  (Mr Francis) Both; there is a desperate skills shortage in the industry, I believe.
  (Mr Smith) The two designs you outlined both to improve the lot of current passengers and to attract new passengers onto the railway are not mutually exclusive in any way at all, because they are built upon a common basis, which is creating more capacity. If you can run more trains you can get more people on, and the people currently using the trains can ride in more comfort. And if you create more capacity there is more room if things go wrong. So I think you can win on both by investing and unlocking capacity.

  342. That is alright if it is putting more capacity onto existing lines, but if it is putting money into Crossrail rather than doing the East Coast Main Line, or something like that, then it is not a win-win, is it?
  (Mr Smith) That is quite right. There are places where probably you cannot unlock a huge amount of more capacity, and you do just need quite dramatic bursts of new investment to unlock more space. But I think there are actually more places where you can look at wins for both sets of passengers, using the existing infrastructure.

  Chairman: On that really quite cheerful note, can I thank you both and say that it is very nice to think that the passengers have good advocates, and I am sure you will look after their interests.


 
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