Examination of Witnesses (Questions 256
WEDNESDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2002
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
Mr Stevenson: The same.Chairman: Rail and Maritime
Transport Union.Mr Donohoe: Member of the Transport and General
Mrs Ellman: Member of the Transport and General
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
(Mr Smith) John Smith, Director of Regulation and
(Mr Armitt) John Armitt, Chief Executive, Railtrack.
(Mr Bloom) Alan Bloom, Special Railway Administrator,
(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
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.