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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 256 - 259)



  Chairman: Good afternoon to you, gentlemen. I am delighted to see you, some of you again, if I may say so. Housekeeping first. Would any member of the Committee please declare any involvement in the transport industry?

  Helen Jackson: Member of the Transport and General Workers' Union.

  Mr Stevenson: The same.Chairman: Rail and Maritime Transport Union.Mr Donohoe: Member of the Transport and General Workers' Union.

  Mrs Ellman: Member of the Transport and General Workers' Union.

  Miss McIntosh: Interests in the RAC, Eurotunnel, BA, BAA, First Group and Railtrack.


  256. Thank you very much. Can I ask you first, working from your right and my left, to identify yourself for the record?
  (Mr Smith) John Smith, Director of Regulation and Government, Railtrack.
  (Mr Armitt) John Armitt, Chief Executive, Railtrack.
  (Mr Bloom) Alan Bloom, Special Railway Administrator, Railtrack PLC.
  (Mr Hill) Chris Hill, Special Railway Administrator.

  257. Mr Armitt, do either you or Mr Bloom want to open with a few remarks?
  (Mr Armitt) If I may, thank you. First, we are very pleased to be here. I joined Railtrack, as you know, just before Christmas, so I am now six weeks into the task. The first thing to say is that I have been impressed by the commitment and quality of the people I have met, from signalmen to managers to engineers. When you talk to people they are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and clearly enthusiastic about what they are doing. Today primarily it was the 10 Year Plan, but obviously in a sense the Strategic Plan has come along and we are very focused on that. We welcome the Strategic Plan. We have already had some constructive discussions with Richard Bowker at the SRA and we are looking forward to working with them and everybody else in the industry on delivering as much as we possibly can of the Strategic Plan. We are working with the administrators in a very constructive way. Alan will tell you what he is doing, but basically I would say that he is not interfering on a day to day basis with our ability to get on and manage the company and do what we have to do in improving the railway. Within the company we are working on the business plan at the moment for the next five years, which of course is throwing up the amount of money that we believe we need going forward, and when we have finalised that we will discuss that with the rail regulator and the SRA. The key thing there is that we are able as far as possible to get our business plan and the Strategic Plan inter-related so that we are working together. At that point I think I will stop.

  258. Mr Bloom, do you want to make any comments?
  (Mr Bloom) Just a couple if I may. When we last gave evidence to this Committee it was at the end of October last year. At that time we had only been in position as administrators for three weeks. It was the first time that railway administration had ever been used and there was a very great degree of uncertainty and concern expressed by many parties as to how the business would be operated in administration. We have now been in situ at Railtrack for around four months and are pleased to be able to deal with any further questions you have in relation to the Railtrack administration. The demarcation of responsibilities which John has referred between the Board of Railtrack and ourselves remains as it was when we described it at the end of the third week. The Board has responsibility for day to day operation of the railway network and we are in continuous dialogue with them. We have day to day responsibility for the transfer process. The most important aspect of our work in the early days of the administration was to create a stable environment for the railway network. We are pleased to say that with the efforts of John Armitt and the team at Railtrack a lot has been achieved to that end. Indeed, recruiting someone of John's standing to lead the Railtrack senior management team was in itself a major step. We have retained all the other directors with the exception of Mr Marshall who you knew at the last hearing had already handed in his notice and who left on 31 January, and Mr Harding who has since decided to leave. We have also recruited a senior non-executive director with vast railway experience, Mr Jim Cornell. Since our appointment we have continued to commit funding to both the operation maintenance and renewals business and the enhancement programme and John will no doubt wish to comment on certain other aspects of the business performance as this hearing progresses.

  259. Thank you for that. I hope, Mr Armitt, you are enjoying the encomiums. If one starts off with them there is some hope that one might finish up with one or two as well. Mr Bloom, can I ask you what is the current timescale for Railtrack to come out of administration?
  (Mr Bloom) At the moment we are still aiming for a date for court hearings to exit from administration around the end of September.

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