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

Examination of Witness (Questions 40-59)



  40. Too small?
  (Mr Rees) Yes. We are thinking of a very long period ahead.

  41. 2010 is not exactly the end of the world, is it? I am hoping to hang on until 2010.
  (Mr Rees) I am as well and I am sure I will travel on the West Coast Main Line.

  42. You may be hoping for too much there, Mr Rees.
  (Mr Rees) Are these figures for the UK or for the Community?

  Chairman: These are for the United Kingdom. For the European Train Control System the cost of installation is estimated £20 million per life saved. The figures that they gave on the actual implementation of the policy for the European Rail Traffic Management System is £2 billion; interoperability, £1.5 billion; noise reduction, £3 billion; environmental requirements, £1 billion.

Mrs Ellman

  43. Would you agree with those figures? Do they sound right to you?
  (Mr Rees) I must admit, I am not aware of these figures, but I would not like to say I think they are right. I do not know what the environmental requirements are for the railways that are being spoken of and neither the noise requirement. ERTMS is only required to be installed on new or rebuilt lines. There are only two in the United Kingdom, which are the High Speed Link to the Channel Tunnel and the West Coast Main Line. If the UK authorities wished to install ERTMS on a wider basis, this is of course up to the UK authorities, but there is no requirement in Community law to do this. Clearly I would have thought this is wishful thinking by a Railway Forum, which I suppose is a supporter of the railway.

  44. Could I put it a slightly different way? How much do you consider it would cost this country to implement the measures for railways included in the White Paper by 2010?
  (Mr Rees) The measures for the railways consist essentially of the completion of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, the West Coast modernisation, and a number of other infrastructure projects, the cost of which I am not sure but they are known to the Department of Transport and the UK Government.


  45. It depends who did the original costing, Mr Rees.
  (Mr Rees) I am not in a position to comment on that. Civil engineering projects often suffer from a slight degree of economy when it comes to the initial costs, but I think on the sort of figures that you are talking about there, if I would be allowed to say so, the assumption I guess behind the Forum is that the UK will make a decision. It is not required by Community law to go further than required by Community law. If this is the case, those might well be the costs, though I am not in a position to comment on them.

Mrs Ellman

  46. How much European Community assistance would come through to implement the measures?
  (Mr Rees) To implement the measures proposed by the Railway Forum?

  47. Yes?
  (Mr Rees) I could not say. In terms of implementing the measures that are shown for trans-European networks, which are part of the Community's proposals, clearly there is a possibility of assistance being drawn down. I happen to remember that the Community has already provided 180 million for the high speed—


  48. I am afraid, that does not mean anything to me, Mr Rees. What is that in money?
  (Mr Rees) Quite a lot. It means about £100 million and quite a lot of pounds also for the West Coast Main Line, though I am afraid I cannot remember how much. There will obviously be more money coming for the West Coast Main Line from the trans-European network proposals, and other projects in the UK as well, but not for the projects that were mentioned there for noise abatement or for the environment; these are not part of Community law.

Mrs Ellman

  49. So there is no money for these measures?
  (Mr Rees) Because we do not require the UK to do that.

  50. There is no money for the measures in the White Paper?
  (Mr Rees) Sorry; these measure are not in the White Paper. There is the possibility, and the White Paper talks about further action to improving the environmental characteristics of the railways.


  51. But it does not mean it?
  (Mr Rees) It does mean it but we have to develop these project first and subject them to the usual cost benefit analysis.

Mr Donohoe

  52. Could I turn your attention to pages 112 and 113 where you list the projects? Are they costed projects?
  (Mr Rees) Yes, they are. The projects that you see here and, the last column on the right gives the remaining investment requirements for these projects to complete them, are as supplied by the national authorities.

  53. So who is funding them? Is that the national governments?
  (Mr Rees) These are the national governments funding the projects in the usual way they are funded by the national authorities concerned, which is basically, as far as transport infrastructure is concerned, through the public purse.

  54. There are no projects on that from the United Kingdom?
  (Mr Rees) No. These are the new projects that we are proposing in the modification to the trans-European networks proposal of 1996. These are the second round of Essen. It may be that I should say what that is. There was an agreement in Essen in the mid-Nineties to identify 14 priority projects. Some of these are now completed and we are proposing to replace them, the ones that are completed, with projects that were also cited in Essen but were not within the list of 14. There is one new one here, if I may, the satellite navigation system, which I am sure you have heard about, called Galileo.

  55. On reading the White Paper, it seems to be cantilevered fairly severely towards rail at the cost of road and air. Just how important is aviation to the European Union?
  (Mr Rees) Aviation in the Community has shown the fastest rate of growth of any of the modes of transport. We have a forecast, but remember the very unfortunate timing of the White Paper, that it was issued the day before the tragic events in New York, and so in terms of aviation, the figures for aviation have to be looked at with even more concern than normal. Anyway, I make that proviso. We were forecasting a growth of aviation in the Community of around 90 per cent by 2010. In relation to the overall thrust of the paper, obviously we were looking to make a better use of the environmentally-friendly modes of transport: railways, coastal shipping, inland waterways. With air transport, we had a specific problem. The problem was that we obviously do not want to be accused of being kill-joys in Brussels who want to stop people going on their summer holidays to Majorca or the Costa Brava. So what we were looking at in terms of civil aviation is to make the best use of the available air space in the Community. Galileo is one technical means to try to make better use of the air space and to allow more flights into air space. We were also looking at trying to reduce some of the shorter distance trips in the Community by better linking the high speed rail network, which is now developing, into airports, to take out a certain number of short distance air services and replace them with high-speed trains. Already, if you take an Air France ticket from Brussels to somewhere, you will not fly; you will go by train from Brussels to Paris: Deutsche Bahn and Lufthansa are already doing the same thing in Germany, and there are examples like this that are possible. Our view is that air transport is very important. Indeed, it is absolutely essential for many communities, but where there is the opportunity now developing to use high speed rail services to replace short distance air services, we think this is sensible, both in terms of the environment and to free up space in the airports in particular for longer distances services, to allow this growth, albeit at a lower rate, to continue.

  56. You do limit, do you not, the growth of air traffic transport in this paper? That is indicated on page 106, is it not? If one were to look at air traffic and the growth that there has been, would it not be better for the Commission to move towards the levels of air transport that there are within the United States?
  (Mr Rees) Mr Donohoe is right, of course, that the average American citizen travels much more by air than the average citizen in the Community.


  57. It is important to know that "limit the growth in air transport" is a reflection of the view of the Commission on the future of aviation.
  (Mr Rees) Yes, I think that statement is the way in which we are thinking, but allow me again to qualify that. Clearly there is a latent demand for more transport by air. If you are going to travel on holiday from Scotland to the Mediterranean, we are not recommending that you travel by Eurostar, but clearly there is a possibility for travellers who travel from Paris to Marseilles to travel by TGV. If you take out a flight from Paris to Marseilles, you could replace it across France by a flight that originates in Glasgow or in Edinburgh, which is using the same slot to travel down through France to arrive in Marseilles or Toulouse.

  58. That would require a very interesting dirigiste programme from the Commission, would it not? You would then be not only interfering with the movement of slots, the agreement on slots, in relation to particular companies, but you would also be actually telling the passengers what of mode of transport they ought to choose. I am not against a little bit of dirigisme but it is an interesting thing that we should actually say on the one hand that you want to limit the growth in air transport and then use as an example the suggestion that you could take out short flights and replace them with trains. I think it is a very good idea, but are you actually saying it would be the policy of the European Commission that such decisions should be taken on the grounds of your White Paper?
  (Mr Rees) We assume, and I think in general we have the evidence to support us, that consumers make the right decisions in accordance with the alternatives that are on offer.

  59. But you have just said that there would not be an alternative..
  (Mr Rees) In relation to Paris-Marseilles there will be an alternative because the airlines will be continuing, but there will be a better train service. In the case, for instance, between Paris and Lyon, where the new high speed train service has been in place now for almost 20 years, the air market has almost dropped to nothing in terms of point-to-point flights. There are still flights from Paris to Lyon but these are interlining: in other words, people getting on in Lyon, flying to Roissy/Charles de Gaulle or Orly and then taking another flight. We are really saying that we want to offer consumers more choice. One of these elements of choice would be a much improved rail service. If there is an alternative between an air flight and a rail journey over a reasonable distance, over a reasonable time, three and a half hours or four hours maximum, we believe, and the experience confirms this, that more and more people will opt for the rail service. The consequence of this will be that the airlines probably will reschedule their activities; they will reallocate the slot in the airport to a longer distance service where there is no rail alternative.

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