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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 346-359)




  346. Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am sorry to have kept you waiting. Welcome and can I ask you to identify yourselves.
  (Mr Beale) My name is Jim Beale and I am Chairman of the Committee which covers the north east of England. On my right is my Secretary, Ernie Preston. On my left is Brendan O'Friel who is my opposite number on the other side of the Pennines, Chairman of North Western, and his Secretary, John Moorhouse.

  347. Do you have a joint few words to tell us, Mr Beale?
  (Mr Beale) We are prepared jointly to answer questions although I think they will be of particular application to the north east and others to the north west.

Mr O'Brien

  348. Are the current indicators of train operators' performances sufficiently focused on the need of the passengers?
  (Mr Beale) I think our answer has to be that they are improving but very gradually. We carry out surveys at stations, as you perhaps are aware, of passengers every year and of course we also have the complaints information which comes in to us and we can measure these things on a trend basis. The impression, barring of course the recent circumstances at Arriva Trains Northern, is that things are gradually getting better. There are however one or two blips.

  349. Do you have any estimate of the number of passengers who have switched permanently to other forms of transport as a result of the poor services that we have received in the north east?
  (Mr Beale) I am sorry, I am not aware of any such information.

  350. So your research does not go into that kind of detail?
  (Mr Beale) It does not go into that, no.

  351. Why is that? This is passenger service, is it not?
  (Mr Beale) It is, indeed.

  352. If they were passengers on trains and they have left to go to other forms of transport, does that not concern you?
  (Mr Beale) It is a matter of grave concern to us, but the surveys we are doing are amongst current passengers, not potential passengers or past passengers.

  353. You say you have a grave concern about losing passengers from railways yet you do not appear to be doing anything about it.
  (Mr Beale) We do not know how many people are not now using rail who previously were.

  354. So you have this grave concern but you do not appear to be doing anything about it. Why is that? Why are you not trying to attract passengers back onto the railways? I am concerned about the north east and that is where my constituents ask for a service and there are passengers who have moved off to the private car in particular.
  (Mr Beale) We are aware of that.

  355. What are you doing to get them back onto the trains?
  (Mr Beale) We have initiated a project which we are calling the great car commuter challenge where we actually have volunteers to use the train in place of their car for a period of weeks. This is centred round Leeds. It has, I have to be totally honest and admit, been, sabotaged is not quite the word, but the effect of the industrial action of Arriva Trains Northern has made it difficult for us to interpret results. The object of this is to see if there is some way of attracting to the rail system people who are using their cars for commuting and, if this is sufficiently encouraging when we see the results, we intend to expand on it.

  356. What representations have you made to the SRA or to the people on the franchises about the improvement of services in stations, particularly Wakefield?
  (Mr Beale) We are constantly making representations to the train operating companies. Specifically about Wakefield, may I turn to my secretary because I think he probably has more detail.


  357. Mr Preston, do you have anything to say about Wakefield?
  (Mr Preston) Not about Wakefield, but to say that—

Mr O'Brien

  358. My question was about Wakefield.
  (Mr Preston) In terms of stations, the Committee members and its staff are carrying out an inspection of all the stations within its area. It started off in the north east and it is now picking up on stations in West Yorkshire and that is expanding, but I think you have to appreciate that we only have limited resources to do this. The members are part time and it only has a small staff. Wakefield will eventually be done as will all the other stations.

  359. We were advised two years ago that, when Leeds Station was completed, Wakefield would follow on. Were you not aware of that advice?
  (Mr Preston) Not in terms of an upgrade. Wakefield was mentioned at one stage as an aspiration, I think it was by GNER, to improve the station at Wakefield Westgate.

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