Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220
WEDNESDAY 3 JULY 2002
220. What do you call the medium term? Next
(Ms Clarke) Maybe not for the full 10-year period.
We may have to start developing things for later in the 10-year
period. We have got a breathing space to do that and we are intending
to try and accommodate a significant proportion of the growth
by extending train lengths. This is not a simple matter. You cannot
just run a longer train. It depends on signal spacings and loop
lengths and that kind of thing, but perhaps a more modest investment
than extra tracks. You can increase the lengths of trains by as
much as 50% so in a sense half of our growth could come simply
from longer trains in the paths we have today.
Chairman: It all sounds very optimistic.
221. Perhaps I should also remind the Committee
of my interest in Railtrack. May I ask the SRA: in the balance
which has to be reached between the now strict planning regulations
to improve capacity in reaching ports by both rail and road, do
you think that that balance has been reached and that we are developing
capacity at ports and are improving access on road and rail as
opposed to perhaps the planning constraints might sometimes be
(Ms Clarke) I am very sorry; I am not sure I understand
222. Do you think that the balance is right
the way the planning regulations impose the constraints that they
do as opposed to the desire of ports like Felixstowe and Harwich
to increase their capacity?
(Ms Clarke) Are we talking about land use planning,
local government type regulations?
223. Yes, and also the Habitats Directive, "Let's
be nice to the birds".
(Ms Clarke) Goodness! I really do not feel qualified
to answer that. My immediate problem is simply to make my investment
case. I do not believe that we have an awful lot of planning problems
on the rail side for increasing capacity although in some cases
we will have to go through TWA (the Transport and Works Act) and
I know that is quite an onerous and lengthy process. In the order
of obstacles that I see between where we are in achieving our
objective, that is not one on the rail side that I would put right
at the top.
224. Could you just say how high up the SRA's
wish list improved freight capacity north of Newcastle would be?
(Mr Chapman) The hinterland of ports is the whole
nation. Southampton, for example, carries boxes that will go as
far north as Inverness and even beyond.
225. Is there anything beyond Inverness?
(Mr Chapman) I am reliably informed there is. In fact,
I have been there and seen it myself.
226. Now I shall get dozens of letters.
(Mr Chapman) It is important that we look at all the
strategic routes and north of Newcastle and the east coast main
line is a strategic part of the network. Already much of the work
has been done on that line so there is not much that remains to
be done in terms of gauge enhancement. Even further north in,
say, Edinburgh, we are looking at the route to Aberdeen. I have
had dialogue with the Aberdeen Harbour Board and the North East
Scotland Rail Freight Development Board on developing traffic
to and from Aberdeen by rail. At the moment there are significant
constraints so we are looking at the gauge right through to Aberdeen.
227. You have mentioned Southampton and Aberdeen.
Any others with gauge constraints?
(Mr Chapman) Most ports are gauge constrained in some
way or another. Felixstowe, as we have mentioned before, has a
major scheme going forward. Dover and the Channel Tunnel have
major gauge constraints and we are looking at that. There is a
study starting very soon on what can be done there. Those are
the main ports but if you look at the smaller ports, for example,
I went to the port of Poole recently, which feeds into the main
line that Southampton uses and they have a gauge constraint. It
is unfortunate that the British railway network was build by our
predecessors to a particular size and it turns out subsequently
that other railways elsewhere in the world have built to a larger
size so people tend to standardise, particularly things like international
containers, on other people's gauge size and we have unfortunately
lagged behind and need to catch up.
228. Can I ask The Freight Transport Association:
do you think the balance is right between planning constraints
and improving access to ports?
(Mr Welsh) Again, when we have looked at the strategic
road network, indeed, when we gave evidence to your Committee
in relation to the 10 Year Plan, we have been undertaking a detailed
analysis of rule 32, multi-modal studies, for example, which obviously
include both road and rail links. Out of those only six so far
have reported. What we have found is that in many of those the
planning processes are well behind. We are very keen therefore,
having gone through extensive analysis, through the multi-modal
studies with recommendations being made, that we have some recognition
of that in fast-tracking of the procedures in relation to our
key trunk routes, the road ones and indeed ultimately the rail
ones, in other words that any parallel modelling that needs to
be done in terms of the environmental aspects and assessment of
the case so that it fits in with the overall strategic plan is
brought forward, because the parallel modelling work both by the
Highways Agency and the SRA has not yet taken place. That is all
part of getting this fast investment now into the system to give
business confidence that we are going to deliver on the 10 Year
229. What are your members doing to increase
the use of coastal shipping otherwise known as short sea shipping?
(Mr Welsh) The European Commission has published in
its 10 Year White Paper its sea motorways with the object of promoting
short sea shipping.
230. It sounds like them.
(Mr Welsh) In fact, the growth in terms of increased
opportunities for short sea throughout Europe is growing quite
significantly and business is improving. We as an association
have entered into a major exercise in promoting performance indicators
in conjunction with short sea operators,, shippers, ports and
intermediaries to identify those elements which will encourage
greater use of short sea if it suits particular needs. We were
in particular asked by the Dutch and Swedish Governments to manage
a project between Gothenburg in Sweden and Rotterdam where we
brought together everybody in the supply chain, including the
two ports, all the short sea operators on the route and the major
shippers that were using the route, and we have just concluded
that project after a year.
231. Do you want to give us a copy of the results?
(Mr Welsh) We would be delighted to, Chairman.
232. In your memorandum you focus on security.
Are you happy that port security is as secure as airline and airport
(Mr Welsh) Neil Johnson, my colleague, has been involved
(Mr Johnson) Obviously, the focus up till now has
been on security at airports rather than ports but clearly, following
September 11 there has been interest, particularly by the United
States Government, in security issues for maritime transport and
containers in particular and we look forward to working with the
ports and other bodies to make sure that there is a workable project.
233. What does that mean? Do you mean you are
going to put some money into it or you have got a plan or you
have had discussions with them? What do you mean by that? Obviously
I hope you are going to work with them. I do not know who the
hell you are going to work with if you do not work with the ports.
(Mr Johnson) We are promoting a basis of known shippers
for the maritime sector which is based very much upon that already
in existence for the air freight sector which involves all participants,
including the customer, the shipper, in improving their own security,
so if that system is taken up, as we very much hope it will be,
there will be a cost imposed upon shippers as well as everyone
else in the chain.
234. Mr Welsh, who should pay for the improvements
in the infrastructure, particularly in ports?
(Mr Welsh) Clearly in this country we have a private
sector ports industry. We would look in terms of the actual ports
themselves to the ports to provide the necessary investment.
235. So the ports should improve their own infrastructure?
(Mr Welsh) Yes.
Andrew Bennett: Including the rail links?
236. Including the constraints that we have
just been hearing about that you are discussing with the SRA?
(Mr Welsh) I think that as far as the rest of the
network is concerned we think
237. I am not asking that the port of Felixstowe
should contribute to the improvement in Immingham, although that
might be an interesting idea. Where there is a direct constraint
in the infrastructure of a particular port who should be responsible
for that? Should it only be a matter for the SRA and Government
(Mr Welsh) Apart from the contribution that the freight
industry is already making in terms of the tax that is taken
238. We are all taxpayers, Mr Welsh. We all
make a marvellous contribution towards the transport industry,
but that was not actually what I was asking you. Who should be
responsible for improving the infrastructure round the ports,
particularly where there is a constraint which causes some difficulty
for your industry? Who should be responsible for that?
(Mr Welsh) We think society should be.
Chairman: Society; anybody except us. I think
that is clear.
239. But how are you going to decide between
one port and another port? Surely it would be logical for the
port to make a contribution so that they could persuade The Strategic
Rail Authority that a particular port was more desirable than
(Mr Welsh) If a particular port wants to invest because
it sees that it would be in its commercial interest to do so,
then I think that is a commercial decision for that particular
port, and a port that does that may attract the sort of business
that it is seeking to generate.