Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200
WEDNESDAY 3 JULY 2002
200. On the ports you were claiming there problems
with, how does their safety record compare to the other ports?
(Mr Welsh) I cannot answer you on aspects of safety
but I have no reason to suggest that conditions of safety vary
significantly and indeed local laws do exist to ensure that there
is not an erosion of safety.
201. Local laws do not do very well, do they?
In many of these instances local laws do not do very well in protecting
safety, do they?
(Mr Welsh) Certainly as far as other transport areas
are concerned the European Commission is involved in setting common
standards for safety.
Chairman: We are trying to concentrate on ports.
I think, Mr Welsh, we will come back to this.
202. Does the Government's 10 Year Plan meet
the needs of ports for road and rail?
(Mr Welsh) We have given evidence to your Committee
before on that and we have made particular reference to the need
for enhanced infrastructure investment and bringing forward infrastructure
investment in both our rail and road strategic networks. For roads
it is key motorways like the M25, the M1, the M62 and, since we
last gave evidence to the Committee, we have identified the six
or seven major motorways and trunk roads in Britain that our members
throughout the whole of the UK have identified as the main areas
where investment should go in. Likewise with railways, our members
again have identified the need for investment in the east coast
main line and in particular the west coast main line as being
areas where investment should go in. That is critical for the
whole of the UK in terms of meeting the needs of access to those
203. What have you done with the information
you have now got? Where has it gone? Has it been discussed with
(Mr Welsh) We have not yet taken it to the SRA but
we have certainly now put out our views to Mr Darling and government
officials and indeed it will be our intention to talk in detail
with SRA although, in fairness, we have been talking with the
SRA for a long time about our common concerns about investment
and tackling the right bottlenecks under the investment that is
made available under the 10 Year Plan.
204. Could I ask the SRA directly what are you
doing to ensure that links to ports are adequate in relation to
the 10 Year Plan?
(Ms Clarke) We are developing two specific projects,
two large-scale projects, as we speak: one to connect the port
of Southampton and the other for the port of Felixstowe. These
have existing rail links but they require gauge enhancement, which
is the raising of the bridges and tunnels for the larger containers
which are typical nowadays, and they will need additional paths
for freight trains. Those projects are under development and we
are working very hard to find affordable projects which will allow
us to provide what is needed for those two ports. Both those routes
feed on to the west coast and the SRA is working with Railtrack
and other parties to solve some of the difficulties around the
west coast to make sure freight capacity is available there. We
have another project for the port of Immingham and other ports
on Humberside which is very important. That area of ports produces
about 20% of all freight on the railway and it does need upgrading.
It is subject currently to a lot of speed restrictions so we are
looking at improvements there. Our market development team, of
whom John is a member, is looking at new connections. In particular
we would like to see Dover reconnected with the network. It is
a huge source of ports traffic, and some of the other ports as
well, such as Birkenhead and a number of other places where we
feel there is potential that we would want to capture on to the
railways, so there is really quite a lot going on.
205. Who decides what projects are value for
(Ms Clarke) We have criteria to meet, so from our
perspective the first thing we have to do is meet our internal
criteria and get through our own Investment Committee which is
the normal way of getting business propositions through.
206. What are they looking at? What is the nature
of the criteria?
(Ms Clarke) They will be looking at the costs and
how well we have managed those, what options we have looked at
to make sure we have got the best value scheme from a cost point
of view. Then they will be looking at the benefits which for rail
freight in the SRA are to do with the environmental benefits of
transfer of units of traffic from road to rail. These reflect
things like accidents, CO2 emissions, other pollutants, health
related illnesses, congestion and all of that kind of thing. We
have a value at the moment which we apply which is under review
to reflect those. That is the basic balance: the environmental
benefits against the public contribution, because sometimes there
are also private sector contributions to some of these projects
which help to make the case.
207. Can I ask The Freight Transport Association
are you satisfied with the way the SRA develops services to ports
and access to ports?
(Mr Welsh) We have been in dialogue with the SRA before.
We are anxious on all occasions to open up opportunities for rail
freight services. What we have identified at the moment is what
I call our key trade routes and that is, as I said before, the
major trunk routes that our members have identified as being critical
to the overall performance of the network and that is where they
are particularly interested, so it is the west coast main line
and making sure there are suitable freight train paths on that
route. It is in tackling some of the bottlenecks in the system,
like at Reading, Nuneaton and Peterborough where there are specific
freight problems and they are well known between us as being areas
where, out of the four billion that is being provided in the plan,
it should go in our view.
208. Are you satisfied that those bottlenecks
will be dealt with?
(Mr Welsh) The money is there and, like our trade
routes argument, now that we have identified where that money
should go we are campaigning very rigorously with Government that
they now bring forward the money that has been earmarked within
the 10 Year Plan for investment within those priority areas.
209. Have there been any recent projects that
you have identified as necessary but have then been overruled
as not being value for money, as the SRA have?
(Mr Welsh) That is not one that we have been involved
(Ms Clarke) There is no difference at all between
us on what the objective is to be. All the places that Chris has
mentionedPeterborough, Reading, all those placesare
places that need investment. We have not got to the point yet
of having anything turned down. We are trying to make sure that
when we put the cases forward they will be sufficiently robust
that they will not be turned down and we see that as our job as
the champions of freight within the SRA. Certainly I would consider
that the industry and the representatives of industry will be
anxious until these things actually have approval and work starts,
and we are as frustrated and anxious to move things along quickly
as anybody else. There are signs of some good news. We do have
some real work programmes for the last quarter of this year. It
is a small amount of work but it is the first bridge reconstruction
work on the Felixstowe to Manningtree route and we have a firm
timetable now which would deliver the gauge clearance for that
port by 2004. We are beginning to be able to give people the comfort
that things are moving forward. We have got a timetable which
is going to deliver benefits.
210. On this point of rail access to ports,
and we have been referring to freight, are there any plans for
passenger services to ports in view of the importance of our ferry
services from the ports all round the coast? Is there any plan
by SRA to offer passenger services to the ports?
(Ms Clarke) Of course it is not my area of responsibility
but I did ask some questions about this and I understand that
passenger volumes to ports are not very large at the moment and
so they do not
211. You obviously do not know anything about
the lines that run up to places like Fishguard.
(Ms Clarke) I must take that trip and satisfy myself
Chairman: Only if you have a lot of time. Take
212. What is the relationship between SRA and
the ferry services for organising ferry services?
(Ms Clarke) I am not sure I can answer that question
and I am not sure it is fair to ask John to answer it either.
213. Mr Chapman, have you the answer to our
(Mr Chapman) Like my colleague, Julia, I deal specifically
with freight but I have a brief from my colleagues on the passenger
side. Basically, the lead relationship is between the passenger
operating companies, the TOCs (train operating companies), and
the ferry companies. If the train operating companies come to
us for specific requirements to link in with ferries then we will
look at those in the same way that we look at other proposals.
214. Can we bring you back to the opportunities
for expansion of bulk goods? You have identified some parts of
the east coast and some parts of the west coast and you have identified
some pinch points, but what potential is there to increase rail
carrying of bulk transport, or are we contemplating that most
of the improvements will relate to container traffic?
(Ms Clarke) I would like John to answer in detail,
but it is not true to say that it is just containers we are interested
in, but the ports tend to be different.
(Mr Chapman) Julia is right: it is not simply containers
although that is a fast growing part of the market. It is estimated
that container growth will be 50% between 2000 and 2010 but we
are looking at other traffics as well. We are investigating here
with the port operating companies car traffic, for example, movement
of finished cars into and out of the UK.
215. For that you would need to look at the
cross-Britain lines, not just the east coast and west coast.
(Mr Chapman) Oh yes, that is right. Grimsby is a major
port for importing cars. Currently they all go by road and that
is something I would like to see changed.
(Mr Chapman) On car transporters or individually,
217. No; you find that large amounts of them
are driven individually from the Midlands to the ports, which
(Mr Chapman) It could go by rail subject to certain
enhancements that need to be done, so we are looking at that.
We mentioned earlier the port of Dover. Some of that short sea
traffic that currently goes entirely by road, and something like
two million lorries went through the port of Dover last year,
conceivably could switch to rail. At the moment there is no link.
We are also looking at the bulk traffic side of portstimber,
coal, iron oreso our focus is not entirely containers;
far from it. We have an interest in all traffics that pass through
218. What kinds of percentages are you talking
about between containers and bulk traffic?
(Mr Chapman) We said earlier on that 23% of the growth
is likely to come from container traffic. About 50% of the total
growth is likely to be port related, so about another quarter
of the traffic is likely to be other port related traffic in the
categories I have just mentioned.
219. You talked about Southampton and the problems
about the bridges there. If you actually get it on to the west
coast main line are the bridges high enough there for the new
containers to get underneath or do they have to have special vehicles
to take them? Is there anything like the capacity on the west
coast main line to really significantly increase freight movements
(Ms Clarke) My understanding, and John will correct
me, I hope, if I am wrong, is that on the main part of the west
coast the loading gauge is adequate for the 9'6" high container.
In order to serve the port of Southampton we have to increase
the loading gauge between there and the west coast and we also
have to look at the loading gauge access to terminals in Manchester
and Merseyside, but the main trunk route of the west coast is
clear. The west coast is a difficult one. Unless you know what
happened today you are always out of date with it, but the assumption
that we are working on is that there will be capacity for the