Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1-19)|
WEDNESDAY 8 MAY 2002
Chairman: Good afternoon, gentlemen, you are
most warmly welcome. I am afraid we do have one piece of housekeeping
before we begin. Can we now declare, as members of the Committee,
any relevant interests.
Mr Stevenson: Member of the Transport and General
Chairman: Member of the Rail, Maritime and Transport
Mr Donohoe: Member of the Transport and General
Miss McIntosh: Interests in Railtrack, Eurotunnel,
First Group and the RAC.
Helen Jackson: Member of the Transport and General
1. Gentlemen, you are most warmly welcome this
afternoon. May I ask you first to identify yourselves for the
(Mr Clayton) Steve Clayton, Managing Director, Arriva
UK's Bus Business.
(Mr Lockhead) Moir Lockhead, First Group.
(Mr Cochrane) Keith Cochrane, Chief Executive, Stagecoach
2. The ground rules are fairly simple: if you
agree, we would be grateful if you would not say so; if you disagree,
then by all means try to catch my eye. Did any of you want to
make an opening statement, or are you prepared to go straight
(Mr Lockhead) We want to make a very brief opening
statement if that would be acceptable. If I could do that on behalf
of my two colleagues. First of all, Madam Chairman, we are fully
behind the Government's Transport Plan. We believe that it offers
the right strategy going forward for public transport in the UK;
we believe that the targets for growth in bus patronage is achievable,
and if complementary policies on traffic restraint are enacted,
we are confident we can exceed those targets. You will be aware,
Madam Chairman, that the UK bus operators are firmly behind the
Government's Transport Act, which places quality partnerships
at the forefront of bus policy. We are making good progress with
many of our local authority partners to develop quality partnerships.
What is important is to build on the Act, and we believe not to
change it at this early stage, because stability, we believe,
will lead to investment, which in turn will lead to growth and
uncertainty, and change may not. Finally, we believe that a number
of misconceptions about bus service provision currently exist,
and these cover such things as subsidy, competition, service changes,
profit, and investment. We have covered these issues in our written
evidence and look forward to taking the opportunity today to expand
on our evidence a bit further. To sum up, the industry's goal
is to make the bus mode of choice. We want to achieve patronage
growth to maintain and increase our investment to extend and enhance
services and to contribute to social inclusion. To do that, we
need a stable, regulatory environment; the flexibility to respond
quickly to customer demand; quick and effective action on congestion
and bus priority; speedier expenditure of allocated resources;
the implementation of the Bus Strategy, and the ability to enter
into joint arrangements to the benefit of our passengers, and
not be constrained by Competition law. Local authorities, Madam
Chairman, are absolutely essential and play a key role in this
renaissance of the bus industry, and we will continue to work
closely with them to achieve our joint objectives.
3. Thank you very much, Mr Lockhead. We all
look forward to the disbursal of any myths that may exist, and
I am sure that the situation of stability is very important for
those people who are standing at bus stops. You all state, one
way or another, traditional bus services might not be the solution
in parts of urban and rural England. Is your strategy to concentrate
on higher frequency services along major routes?
(Mr Cochrane) Our strategy is to deliver passenger
volume growth consistent with the Government's ten year plan of
a 10 per cent volume increase. That is what will make our businesses
successful as we move forward, and that is what will contribute
to the ongoing renaissance in public transport. You touched on
alternative approaches to public transport, and these may well
be appropriate in parts of the country where full size buses are
no longer suitable, based on the volumes of demand and requirements
in those areas. For example, taxi-bus type concepts -
4. We will come to that, Mr Cochrane, but on
the specific question: do you, as a strategy, concentrate on higher
frequency services on major routes?
(Mr Cochrane) No, our strategy is to develop a network
that contributes to achieving passenger volume growth in each
of the geographic areas in which we operate.
5. Does anybody disagree with that? So none
of you would suggest that you are concentrating more and more
on high frequency services on major routes?
(Mr Lockhead) I think, if what you mean by that is
that we concentrate on areas where there is growth, and those
are also high frequency routes, then you are right; we do where
we see passenger growth, and particularly in those areas where
car ownership is probably at the lowest level. We believe that
those high frequency services that supply the level of service
that people need is part of the Social Inclusion Agenda that you
and the Government have adopted.
6. Doubtless we shall question you about that.
Do you notice any major change in the kinds of services that you
are providing since the original Act was passed?
(Mr Lockhead) I think substantial change: simplification
of networks, better information and new technology is all combined
to making the opportunity that we have now to make the bus more
accessible than it has ever been. That is a significant benefit
to us and to our customers.
Chairman: We will come to various bits of that.
7. "Simplification of networks". What
you are really saying is that is closing down routes, are you
(Mr Lockhead) Just the opposite. It is expanding the
network. A network of services is provided because we sell a monthly
card, we sell a weekly card, and people want to travel seven days
a week across the network. If we do not provide a network, we
will not be able to sell those tickets, so it is very important
that we restore, we maintain, and we expand that network of travel
to make the ticket more valuable to the user.
8. What is the average age of your fleet in
London by comparison to the rest of the country?
(Mr Lockhead) If you take into account the Routemasters,
then it is much higher than outside of London. If you take out
the Routemaster, then it is about the same. Our average age in
the whole country is just under eight years.
9. Do you think that is acceptable?
(Mr Lockhead) It is better than it was. The investment
we have had in the last three or four years has taken it down
from an average age of 11 years to eight years, which is about
a half-life if the vehicle will last 15 years. Of course we would
like to get it down below that, and our objective is to do so.
I think the important thing is that we get good quality, low floor,
easy accessible buses into networks.
10. What would happen to those figures if you
included the Routemasters?
(Mr Lockhead) The average age for London would go
(Mr Lockhead) I do not know. I do not have a figure.
12. But they are very old?
(Mr Clayton) Of the order of about 35 years old, although
it is worth remembering that some 10 years ago they were all extensively
overhauled and re-engined.
13. But the point Mr Lockhead was making related
to easy access.
(Mr Clayton) The vehicles specified in London Routemasters
is specified by Transport for London. It is not a matter for the
14. But Transport for London say they have replaced
60 per cent of their fleet in recent years. Has this happened
(Mr Clayton) In some parts of the country, yes.
15. Could we have a note from the three companies,
rather than take up any time on what the position is, as far as
that situation is concerned?
(Mr Lockhead) Absolutely. No problem.
16. Only 15 per cent of the fares that are collected
in Central London are by cash. I have heard from the Drivers Union
that there are problems with the increasing numbers of assaults
of the staff on buses. What are you doing to improve upon that
situation as far as the rest of the country is concerned?
(Mr Clayton) Thankfully, the number of serious assaults
is very low, but they do happen, it is undeniable. We have been
working very closely with the Trade Unions over many years in
London, and increasingly in the rest of the country, with measures
such as the fitting of the assault screens, which some staff actually
do not like, because they see it as putting a barrier between
them and their customers. Frankly, I think in some areas now,
a duty of care has overridden that and we have to put them in,
although they are not universally popular with our staff. We have
also been investing quite substantially in the last 18 months
on the fitting of very high tech Closed Circuit Television cameras
on many vehicles which are there not just to protect our staff,
but to give a much greater sense of safety to our customers as
well. For some of them, that is an issue. We also have embarked
in many areas on issues such as the avoidance of conflict, training
for staff, being more aware of some people's disabilities, which,
in itself, can be a source of conflict, and also ensuring that
on certain issues, our staff just do not get involved, hard though
that may be for them at times.
17. But there is a trend, is there not, that
there are more and more of the runs, particularly out of hour
runs, being cancelled because of the level of vandalism and assaults
that are taking place?
(Mr Clayton) There are, on occasions, incidences where
there is a significant level of vandalism or attacks which has
required the short term withdrawal of services, often in conjunction
and consultation with the Police. Thankfully, though, I would
not want to give the impression that that is a widespread thing,
but it does happen from time to time, both here in the Capital
and in other parts of the UK.
18. Mr Cochrane.
(Mr Cochrane) If I could perhaps add to Mr Clayton's
response. We at Stagecoach in both Manchester and London have
been working closely with the Police Forces to put together a
Special Unit to seek out perpetrators of incidents of vandalism
of vehicles. In Manchester alone, vandalism costs us some £400,000
on an annual basis, and we have now invested, along with Arriva,
in a fleet of CCTV monitors. We put those on specific routes where
we are suffering from high levels of vandalism and graffiti attacks.
The Police will ride those vehicles in conjunction with our drivers,
and we have managed to achieve 30 convictions as a result of that
19. In 1985, when we got deregulation of the
industry, one of the aspects that we were told was, "Let
us give freedom for entry to the marketplace", and whatever
else. Recently, we have read that the bigger companies, the three
that sit in front of us, want to have re-regulation. Can you give
us some indication as to whether that is true or not?
(Mr Lockhead) Re-regulation?