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


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 480-491)

KATE TIMMS AND MR VIC COLEMAN
WEDNESDAY 5 DECEMBER 2001

  480. The skills that you need to inspect and see that the Underground is being run safely?
  (Mr Coleman) In my own organisation?

  481. In the country generally.
  (Mr Coleman) We are training our own people. We have taken a number of people from other parts of HSE who deal with other industries, and we have provided them with substantial conversion training to be able to contribute to the work which we are doing in the railway sector, so we are training our own people in-house to do the jobs which we need to do. Of course the Underground, I am very much aware, have been recruiting people from other parts of the railway industry and have also been recruiting people from other parts of other industries. There are an awful lot of health and safety people about.

  482. So you think there are enough people to do the job in the new set-up?
  (Mr Coleman) Let me put it this way. I sincerely hope so but I cannot give you an absolute assurance that that is the case. It is something we have got to look at.

  483. The last thing is, how far does the Health and Safety Executive look at this in the round? It has been put to me that at least two escalators were closed recently which resulted in a substantial number of people not being able to use a particular station. Probably some of those people were at risk of being knocked down on the road. How do you weigh the safety on the road with the safety of an escalator?
  (Mr Coleman) The answer is, not directly when it comes to a situation like that because the risks of the escalator failure, and my people have been very much involved in the problems there, are very substantial. Under the circumstances which pertain with the kinds of problems which have existed it has been absolutely right that the Underground took those escalators out of use when they determined cracks. The second point is that when a station loses enough means of transporting people from deep level to the surface it is more or less obliged to close that station. One naturally follows the other.

  484. Even if there is a much greater risk of people being injured on the road?
  (Mr Coleman) You are asserting that but I think that is very difficult to assess.

  485. I am asking you. How do you make that comparison?
  (Mr Coleman) I do not believe that it would be necessary or profitable for me to make that assessment unless it was a very significant or very in-your-face situation. The situation you have described generates very specific risks in a very specific place which can be quantified as against something which is so nebulous as not to be able to be set against a specific risk.

Chairman

  486. Let us be a bit more precise rather than being nebulous, Mr Coleman. Are you on time and on schedule with your reports and are you convinced that when we get to the completed report based on the new, not the present, arrangements you will be able to grant a safety case at the date that you would expect to grant it?
  (Mr Coleman) I cannot give you an absolute assurance of that because it depends on—

  487. Is there any reason why any members of your staff should say that it is extremely unlikely?
  (Mr Coleman) No, I cannot see that. Let me put two things. One is that we do not yet know what the nature of the document is which the underground is going to give us for 3.1. It is their document, it is their safety case, so until we get it it is very difficult to say how much difficulty we are going to have.

  488. We have been around that circle, Mr Coleman. Supposing we get a hybrid company, part private, part national, and it is a completely different beast from the one you have been talking about, is that going to require a completely different reassessment?
  (Mr Coleman) It would certainly take more time to do the job because it would be very much more work to do. Yes, it would be more effort. Whether we could do that work in the same time span that we are planning, I do not think I am able to say because it depends on what we find.

  489. Mr Coleman, would you like to go away and jot down for us in very simple terms a little matrix that explains to the Committee exactly at what points the contracts will need to be given to you and what effect you will have at that point? I think we would still like something just a little clearer that says who does what to whom and when.
  (Mr Coleman) Yes.

Andrew Bennett

  490. Perhaps you can explain to me when 3.1 will move up to being 3.2, or will it become 4?
  (Mr Coleman) A good question. The configuration of documents is an art in itself, it depends on the nature of the revision, as you can probably tell.

Chairman

  491. Unfortunately, I think in this case it does depend pretty much on the safety of people using London Underground in the future.
  (Mr Coleman) It most certainly does and can I say that has always been our main aim.

  Chairman: We have no criticism of your department or you would know, Mr Coleman. Thank you very much both of you.


 
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