Examination of Witness (Questions 180-199)|
WEDNESDAY 10 APRIL 2002
180. Yes, one would hope so, but I ask you again,
would you think increases of that size, which are going to come
into operation in June, would be worthy of close examination?
(Mr Byers) I think we are all aware of the decision
in relation to the network railcard. I do think that this should
be looked at in the round by the Strategic Rail Authority, which
they are, I think, doing, and I do think we will then need, in
the light of their proposals, to give it detailed consideration,
but I would much rather look at the whole question of fares in
total and also the benefits that can come from certain
181. So we can take it that fares are going
to be a major consideration for you?
(Mr Byers) I think they have to be, Chairman, because
if we are going to achieve a target of a 50 per cent increase
in rail passengers at the end of the 10 Year Plan, then obviously
fares are going to play a clear part in that, because you can
price people off the trains, which I think is the point you are
Chairman: That is something which has occurred
to one or two of us, Secretary of State.
182. Have you seen the report that was, I understand,
presented to you in the last week on the whole question of the
installation of the Automatic Train Protection system and its
(Mr Byers) I will be receiving a report but I have
not received a report yet.
183. So you are not in a position to make any
comment on it?
(Mr Byers) No.
184. You talked earlier about the positive relationship
between yourself and the SRA, what is the relationship between
the SRA and the Regulator?
(Mr Byers) I think the fact they agreed the concordat
recently is a positive development. Both Tom Winsor and Richard
Bowker agreed that, and that is to be welcomed. It reflects the
responsibilities they both have but also I think is a recognition
that they will achieve far more, when they can, by working together.
185. Do you think the need for the Regulator
has increased or decreased since the setting up of the almost
new Strategic Rail Authority?
(Mr Byers) I think there is going to be a need for
independent economic regulation and that will remain the case
while we have a licensed structure. What I do welcome is the fact
that clearly the relationshipwhether it is a personal thing
between Richard Bowker and Tom Winsor or whateverbetween
the SRA and the Office of the Rail Regulator is now a very positive,
very constructive and very co-operative one, and that can only
be good for the industry.
186. Secretary of State, given the public perception
which exists in relation to the SRA and the Regulator, and in
a wider sense, is quite low, at what point in the 10 Year Plan
might you expect to see public perception much more greatly improved
in terms of its analysis?
(Mr Byers) Of both the SRA and the Office of the Rail
(Mr Byers) My view on all of this is that people will
judge on whether or not there have been improvements in the quality
of rail travel, in punctuality, reliability, safety, the quality
of the rolling stock, all those will be key issues. It will not
be until we see genuine improvements on those factors that people
will say, "Yes, we think the SRA is doing a good job or the
Rail Regulator is doing a good job" or it may even be that
they think the Secretary of State is doing a good job.
188. I do not know about that!
(Mr Byers) Maybe not!
189. Given your confidence about the private
sector as well as the public sector investment, at what point
in the 10 Year Plan might we be expected to see some sort of turnround
in public perception?
(Mr Byers) I honestly believe we will begin to see
improvements in performance during the course of this year. The
next lot of figures are coming out on, I think, 6 June, and we
will see what they show. There should be improvements anyway because
we are coming out of the difficulties of Hatfield, and, let's
be honest about this, there should be improvements whatever you
do because of Hatfield and the consequences of that. But over
time, year on year, people will be able to judge whether there
have been real improvements. The way people do that is from their
own travelling experience. We will look at the national figures
but for most people it will be whether or not you can get from
Wakefield to London and rely on the train, or Liverpool across
to Manchester, or Liverpool up to Newcastle. People will do it
on the journey they take day in and day out. What you have to
say at the moment, if you are a London commuter travelling on
South West trains, is four out of ten of those trains do not turn
up on time, and that is simply not good enough. So in the travelling
week for two days or four journeys, you are not going to get to
work or back from work on time, and that is not acceptable. People
will judge whether we are improving it on whether or not their
own personal experience has improved.
190. On safety, you have pointed out you have
not received this report on train protection but what about the
rest of the recommendations which have come out of various accident
inquiries? Health and Safety seem to think we are not on track
to deliver most of those.
(Mr Byers) As the Committee will be aware, on the
TPWS progress is being made and that is being implemented. There
were specific proposals coming from Cullen-Uff, and I think those
are the aspects which Mr Donohoe may have been referring to, where
there has been a cross-industry working group, it will shortly
go to the Health and Safety Commission, and the Health and Safety
Commission will report to me and they have not reported to me
yet. I think they are still awaiting recommendations from the
cross-industry group but they will report to me in due course.
I was concerned that not enough progress had been made on the
Cullen recommendations, which is why I said about six weeks ago
that I would expect as a matter of urgency the recommendations
contained within Cullen to be implemented. They have been around
long enough, it is now for the industry to see them implemented.
191. But the ones which were supposed to be
in place by the end of March, I think there are 23 out of the
40 which still have not been achieved.
(Mr Byers) Which is why I said
192. So when?
(Mr Byers) I said at the time to the Health and Safety
Commission that I did not feel they had acted quickly enough and
that I wanted them to be implemented as soon as possible.
193. When is "as soon as possible"?
(Mr Byers) As soon as the industry is able to implement
them effectively. What they do know is we, that is myself and
no doubt you as a Select Committee, will be monitoring when they
are to be implemented.
194. In answer to Mrs Ellman you said you could
not tell us what you were asking, but the multi modal studies
have come up with quite a series of recommendations for rail improvements.
There is no money in the 10 Year Plan for those, is there?
(Mr Byers) There is a significant amount of money
in the 10 Year Plan that has not yet been contractually committed,
including over £8 billion, of public capital expenditure
for rail alone. Clearly some of that could be used for those projects
contained within the multi modal study proposals.
195. So what about things like the up-grade
from Hazelgrove into Manchester or the ones in the West Midlands?
Do you see any hope for those?
(Mr Byers) I would not want to go into specific proposals
here, but what I can say is that the details coming out of the
multi modal studies as far as rail is concerned will be considered.
The whole point of carrying out those studies was to look at transport
in the round, that is what I intend to do, and there is finance
there to support additional proposals.
196. If you are looking at it in the round and
one segment of the circle is missing, it is not very good for
transport, is it?
(Mr Byers) Quite, which is why I said we have to look
at it in the round. If there is a combination of bids for rail
under the local transport plan, under the roads programme, if
that is appropriate, if that is part of the scheme, then we can
have a comprehensive approach to these transport issues. I got
very heavily criticised when we did not go ahead with the two
by-passes at Hastings, however in my view there is an alternative
to that which is based on using public transport more effectively,
and that will have a cost and we need to find the resources to
do that. That is the way we intend to do it.
197. You need to find the resources but you
have not found them yet, have you?
(Mr Byers) As I say, there is within rail alone an
unallocated amount of £8.1 billion, and of course we can
allocate that to some of these multi modal study proposals.
198. We may want to argue with you about that
later on. Can I ask you about London Underground. How soon do
you expect these private finance negotiations to come to a financial
(Mr Byers) As you know, Chairman, in the light of
the concerns you expressed and also the National Audit Office,
we have extended the period under which the comfort letters will
be considered by Parliament, so the normal notification period
will now apply. I think that was important on reflection because
this is a major development and it is right that members of the
House should have the opportunity to consider them in detail.
That means there has been a delay of a few days to allow that
to happen. We will obviously want to consider the outcome of the
consultation exercise, which we are still doing in Government,
and we will arrive at a conclusion about whether or not we wish
to proceed with the tube modernisation proposals. We will do that
as soon as it is appropriate to do so.
199. The tube modernisation proposals in general
or in the particular scheme you are looking at?
(Mr Byers) In the particular scheme which is being