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


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 190 - 199

WEDNESDAY 3 JULY 2002

MS JULIA CLARKE, MR JOHN CHAPMAN, MR CHRISTOPHER WELSH AND MR NEIL JOHNSON

  Chairman: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We have a little bit of housekeeping before we begin. Are there any relevant declarations? Gwyneth Dunwoody, Rail, Maritime and Transport Union.

  Mrs Ellman: Louise Ellman, Transport and General Workers' Union.

  Miss McIntosh: Anne McIntosh, Eurotunnel.

Chairman

  190. Can I welcome you to our Committee this afternoon? This is in no particular order of status and I hope it will not be misinterpreted if I ask you to identify yourselves from your right and my left.

  (Mr Chapman) Good afternoon. John Chapman from The Strategic Rail Authority, Freight.
  (Ms Clarke) I am Julia Clarke from The Strategic Rail Authority and I am Executive Director, Freight.
  (Mr Welsh) I am Chris Welsh from The Freight Transport Association and I am Head of Parliamentary Affairs.
  (Mr Johnson) Good afternoon. I am Neil Johnson, Global Logistics Manager for The Freight Transport Association.

  191. If you agree with one another we would be grateful if you did not say so, and if you disagree with one another we would like you to say so. Do any of you wish to make any opening remarks?
  (Ms Clarke) I have a very brief warm-up, if I may. Moving traffic to and from ports is a vital part of the SRA's strategy and essential to achieving our 80% growth targets given in the 10 Year Plan. At present about half of all rail freight in the UK is port related and the movement of maritime containers alone is expected to form nearly a quarter of the 80% growth. In very general terms our aim at the SRA is to ensure that appropriate and robust rail links to ports are provided wherever there is sufficient rail business to generate the environmental benefits required to balance the cost of investment.

  192. Thank you very much. I think you will find we will want to take you through some of the aspects of that. I am going to start if I may with The Freight Transport Association. What benefits would the European directive on increasing access to ports have for your members?
  (Mr Welsh) The directive will have two fundamental advantages for UK business and the European port scene. The first is that it will provide a considerable legal framework for the industry to improve the quality of service and improve access to ports and we are very keen that the full potential of the ports industry is realised but, more importantly, that customers gain the benefit of improved and enhanced quality of service. We believe the directive will positively promote that. Is there anything you wish to add to that, Mr Neil Johnson?

  193. Before we go on to Mr Johnson I want to ask you something. In the written evidence you talk about "very poor levels of service" in many European ports. Perhaps you could tell us where the levels of service are worse and which operations provide poor service.
  (Mr Welsh) Port services throughout Europe vary quite considerably. The European Commission pointed to poor quality service at ports.

  194. Yes, but where did you as an association find services were poor?
  (Mr Welsh) We are members of the European Shippers' Council and up until six months ago I was Secretary-General of the European Shippers' Council.

  195. We all have our crosses to bear, Mr Welsh.
  (Mr Welsh) It certainly was. We developed our policy on European ports by wide consultation of shippers throughout Europe. In particular countries, such as Scandinavia, in France,—

  196. Which particular countries in Scandinavia?
  (Mr Welsh) Sweden, for example, where there are still restrictions on the ability to operate and provide port services; there are still labour restrictions in those countries. There are still labour restrictions and other restrictions in France and more broadly in southern Europe where there was considerable enthusiasm for the Commission's directive because that was seen as the means by which we could deal with some of the problems in poor quality services.

  197. Is this the royal "we"? I am not sure who "we" are in these circumstances.
  (Mr Welsh) The European Shippers' Council but that is European industry as users of freight transport services.

  198. So the southern shippers were very enthusiastic about it, were they?
  (Mr Welsh) That is right.

  199. You talk about a legal framework making it easier. What part of the legal framework are you talking about?
  (Mr Welsh) Shippers, both in Britain and in Europe, want one single framework for the ports industry so that we have equal conditions for access to markets and improved quality service throughout the European Union. That is important especially for UK exporters and importers because 50% or more of our trade is with the European Union, and so the quality of port services in terms of the overall supply chain is important both in this country and in other ports throughout Europe.


 
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