Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100-119)|
WEDNESDAY 19 JUNE
100. Is there anything else apart from that?
(Mr Garnett) Then you have things like delays at stations.
The timetable was written in 1990, so you have a two-minute stop
which allows people to get on and off the train for 45 seconds.
You simply cannot do it in 45 seconds any more because there are
so many people on the trains. That means extending the timetable
and if you extend the timetable everybody then jumps up and down
and says you are trying to get out of your Passenger Charter and
everything else. There has to be a mature debate in the industry
about how we address some of those issues and that is one of the
very good things that the Strategic Rail Authority is now beginning
to lead with its review of timetables.
101. Anything else?
(Mr Garnett) That is the key issue. We have to make
sure we recruit enough drivers ourselves. So far, of the 144 drivers
we have recruited since the start of the franchise 29 per cent
are now coming from outside and between now and the end of the
franchise that will rise to 50 per cent.
102. How many of those 144 have you trained?
(Mr Garnett) We have trained them all, but from outside
the industry we have trained 34, coming totally off the street.
The rest have come in from other parts of the network and we have
then had to retrain them on our railway, on our rolling stock.
103. Did the HSE look at your training programmes?
(Mr Garnett) They looked at our training programmes,
but I do not know what they said. If they had been critical, I
would have heard about it very quickly and I heard nothing to
say that there was a problem.
104. As far as you know, they did not raise
any particular policies you were following and they did not make
any criticisms of how you did it.
(Mr Garnett) As far as I know, but I shall write back
to confirm that point when I have had a chance to check it.
105. Do you think it is sensible to hold season
ticket prices at RPI minus one?
(Mr Garnett) In all honesty, no. We are squeezing
more and more traffic in into a narrower and narrower period.
With the ever increasing escalation in London house prices we
are noticing that people are moving further and further out. For
us the rise in season ticket holders from places like Grantham
and Newark is very considerable in the last two to three years;
enormous house expansion taking place there and all we are doing
is adding to this congestion coming into London termini. I go
back to my point that if you got rationalisation of the operators
in London termini you might be able to squeeze some more paths
in during the peak.
106. More paths. You would not use money as
a barrier to make sure that only some people were able to use
(Mr Garnett) It is very difficult, if people have
gone and bought a house out in Newark on an assumption of what
the season tickets cost. In the late 1980s BR dramatically changed
the rules on season tickets. I remember, though I was not involved
in the railways then, that it caused a tremendous outcry from
people who had moved out on an assumption and then the rules changed
dramatically. We cannot go on distorting the fares. It is a bit
like the fuel escalator. If you hold fares at RPI minus one over
a periodthe same point that Mr Green was making about the
saver fareyou start seriously to distort the relativities
and at some stage this issue of season ticket fares is going to
have to be grasped. My guess is that it is not one any government
is going to want to do in the short term.
107. You are seriously suggesting that in fact
it would have to be changed.
(Mr Garnett) I think at some stage it is going to
have to be addressed because we cannot afford to run more and
more trains in a two-hour period in the peak and a two-hour period
in the evening, if we do not have the capacity in the network
to do that.
108. Mr Green, sections of your CrossCountry
network are in need of substantial improvement. Do you think that
those priority improvements which you identified will actually
be implemented by 2010?
(Mr Green) What is happening at the moment is a £200
million investment programme to upgrade the track. It is bang
on schedule and it is being very well managed. I am confident
that will happen.
109. That is a rather careful answer. You did
actually identify things like additional tracks, Darlington-Newcastle,
all the others, you have a long list, including electrification
for Crewe-Kidsgrove and Crewe-Chester. Forgive me if I say I am
mildly surprised that you think everything is bang on track. Are
you saying that the one bit you have started is all right, but
you are not talking about the others?
(Mr Green) Yes, that is fair. For the future, I think
the rail industry is going to need more capacity in the North-East.
I think the Darlington-Newcastle corridor will get congested and
will need extra capacity which could be done. We should worry
about the whole schedule.
110. When are you going to finish your negotiations
about the West Coast Mainline?
(Mr Green) I would have thought by this autumn we
would have a new deal with the Strategic Rail Authority, Railtrack,
Regulator, in place. It is a complicated process which has to
be gone through, as you know.
Chairman: We have gathered that it is not quite
as simple as it might be.
111. When does autumn start, when the leaves
get on the track? You said "by this autumn" and I just
wondered whether you could tell us when autumn started.
(Mr Green) I am sorry, I cannot give you a precise
date. I made a general comment that by the time all this has been
through the process of the Rail Regulator, the process of the
Strategic Rail Authority and Railtrack and our board, I would
have thought autumn was a fair bid for a date. The work is still
happening. The trains are being delivered, the track is being
renewed. It is all about re-funding.
112. Mr Cameron, they have excluded infrastructure
plans from the Trans-Pennine bids. Are we therefore saying there
will be no improvements before the end of an eight-year franchise?
(Mr Cameron) None is planned at the moment for the
Trans-Pennine Express network. They were planned in the original
bid, but they were excluded, as you quite rightly say, from the
113. The Strategic Rail Authority said that
it will move to a 15-year contract between break points, but the
Trans-Pennine contract is eight years. What can you do in that
(Mr Cameron) They put a very specific franchise bid
to us. They suggested that we had to come up with plans to spend
£140 million NPV over eight years, which roughly speaking
is about £25 million a year. What we put back in our proposal
was to put new rolling stock in, 176 vehicles. We are also making
sure that we put additional drivers and conductors in place to
make sure there is operational resilience for running the service.
We are talking about £15 million worth of station improvements,
much quicker ability to buy tickets by investing in ticket offices
which do not currently exist at some stations, places like Kendal,
by putting additional staff in on those stations, car parks, CCTV.
That is what we are proposing to spend £140 million on.
114. Over what period?
(Mr Cameron) Over eight years.
115. Mr Garnett, you have a negotiation of your
own with ASLEF. Are we to take it that you are more dependent
on fare box revenue that the other operators?
(Mr Garnett) Yes, we are totally subsidy free. We
operate totally in the private sector in terms of having to live
on every passenger who pays to travel on our railway. We pride
ourselves on having good working relations with our staff. We
have partnership agreements with the three trade unions; we are
the only train company to have that. We also received Investors
in People the other day, the first train company to do that. We
work very, very hard to get these good working relationships with
our staff, them with us. We are therefore dependent on negotiations
with the trade unions and we have to make sure that we can survive
inside that framework of being subsidy free.
116. Every one of you is comfortable with the
programme which is being suggested to you by the Strategic Rail
Authority for upgrading your various services, or not?
(Mr Garnett) If I may respond for the East Coast,
we do not yet know. We are waiting to hear what the East Coast
upgrade is going to be and the timescale on it. We hope to hear
in the near future.
117. Mr Green, you are still in negotiation.
(Mr Green) My worry would be that 85 per cent of all
the investment in the West Coast is now going to go on renewals,
which means that only 15 per cent is going on enhancement. There
is going to be a shortage on new capacity and we are talking very
seriously with the Strategic Rail Authority on that subject and
they fully understand the issues.
(Mr Cameron) On the Trans-Pennine Express, in the
first bid we put in quite a lot of infrastructure, nearly £1
billion of infrastructure. Whilst that is not forthcoming in the
second franchise, what we have suggested is that we do something
akin to the Highways Authority, where we develop schemes on behalf
of the Strategic Rail Authority ready for when funding becomes
available in future ten-year plans. On the Northern franchise
no proposals have been put to us yet, so we do not know what may
be forthcoming in the Northern franchise.
118. As far as Manchester is concerned, there
are too many operators, are there not, just as the argument about
coming into London, coming into Manchester Piccadilly and there
are problems of capacity at the airport? Would it not be logical
to have one operator coming into Manchester and not this huge
(Mr Green) Certainly fewer; I do not know that you
could ever get it down to one. You are absolutely right.
119. If we could have fewer, how much extra
capacity could we get by having fewer?
(Mr Green) There would certainly be more; I could
not possibly guess a percentage. At the moment we have conflicting
needs, conflicting demands, we physically cross on the tracks
outside Manchester and it is quite a mess.