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


Supplementary note from the Secretary of State for Transport

  At his appearance before the Transport Select Committee on Wednesday 10 April Stephen Byers agreed to provide a written note on the stages and timing of the East Coast mainline upgrade and whether this included Wakefield Station. He also undertook to let you know who will get the proceeds from the sale of property via the deal for the Underground.

EAST COAST MAINLINE UPGRADE

  As you know, the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) announced a two-year extension to the GNER's current franchise, from 2003 to 2005, on 16 January. This ensures that benefits to passengers, including enhanced Leeds-London services, are delivered in the next few years, whilst the upgrade project is developed further.

  The SRA is continuing to drive forward the development of the proposed upgrade of the East Coast Main Line, working closely with Railtrack. It expects that the proposed outputs of the upgrade should be able to be reflected in a new long-term franchise for the route, which may start from 2005.

  The SRA estimates that the upgrade will be largely completed by 2008. Overall, the outputs focus on capacity rather than substantial journey-time improvements. The main elements will be enhancements to passenger services from London to Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh; station improvements; elimination of bottlenecks to improve and link diversionary routes for freight services, and additional capacity between London and Peterborough.

  The SRA propose a phased programme. Railtrack's earlier proposal had included works at Leeds, extended freight loops and some renewal work. This phase is now virtually complete and this summer GNER has introduced increased services between London and Leeds. This was a commitment made by GNER as part of its franchise extension and would be continued by any new franchise. By 2005, when the new franchise is due to come into effect, it is anticipated that services to Leeds will be up to every half hour for much of the day, again subject to consultation including negotiation with freight operators.

  Subsequent work on the ECML upgrade will include development of Kings Cross station and enhancements to diversionary routes bringing increased capacity for passenger and freight services. Development work on this phase of the proposal is progressing but the SRA is looking to spread the construction works. While the ultimate completion date cannot be stated with certainty at this stage, it is anticipated it will be largely completed by 2008-10. Further works may be proposed in the long term but these are not currently expected to be introduced before 2011.

  I understand that the SRA's proposals for the East Coast Main Line do not include specific plans to redevelop Wakefield station. Having said that, consideration of bids for the renewal of the GNER franchise from 2005 will undoubtedly include the redevelopment of stations and it is recognised that Wakefield is a key location where bidders could make a difference. I also have been informed that there is some commercial interest in redevelopment at Wakefield. In the meantime, subject to timetabling, the expectation is that most of the additional services from this summer will call at Wakefield. When the main elements of the upgrade are completed, additional Leeds services would, again, be expected to include some stopping services to Wakefield.

LONDON UNDERGROUND—PROPERTY

  The London Underground Property Partnership would provide for the management and development of London Underground's non-operational property. The competition to find a private partner is currently on hold.

  Under the proposed arrangements, London Underground would receive receipts. I do not expect that the arrangements will be finalised until after the ownership of London Underground has been transferred to Transport for London.

Alistair Darling

13 June 2002




 
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