Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60 - 64)



  60. Is half a million about the right price for the Chairman of the SRA?
  (Mr Brown) I am sure Mr Bowker and his civil servants will have the appropriate protocols in place.

Mr Caton

  61. In the brief description you gave of the investment plans I did not hear any mention of improving access for disabled people or making the rolling stock which is going to be purchased more disabled friendly. Do you have any plans for that sort of investment?
  (Mr Gibb) May I touch on the immediate? We are constantly looking at plans to improve disabled access, indeed only yesterday I was with Mr Williams at a meeting in Abergavenny where we were discussing the access to one of the stations with a scheme we were hoping to be able to do within a few months. It is a constant ongoing business. We have obviously inherited a Victorian infrastructure, in this case with a listed footbridge, which is very difficult to make any more user friendly. We are working on that on a constant basis. In terms of our package for the future ...
  (Mr Pheasey) I did refer earlier to something in the region of £19 million as what would be likely to be needed at stations. Most of the trains make reasonable provision. They can all take someone with a wheelchair. The issue actually is the step up from the platform because some platforms—certainly some of them in the Isle of Anglesey for instance—are extremely low. They would be a bit difficult to rebuild. That is an issue I know Railtrack was looking at jointly with the SRA and struggling to find a way of financing that. In terms of the rest of the work for a station, I was actually surprised, when I did a review of this, at the number of stations which actually were already accessible. It is nothing like the fact that they are all not accessible and lots needs to be done. We have to draw a balance between the number of people who use the station already and in Wales some of them are very, very small numbers and it is a bit difficult to spend half a million pounds on a footbridge with ramps when very few people use the station. A balance has to be struck and that is why I referred earlier to reasonable provision. Our proposals and we would want to discuss with the SRA the mechanism for funding it, would make reasonable provision.

  62. Would anybody confined to a wheelchair have to travel in the goods van?
  (Mr Gibb) No, not on the type of trains we operate on our normal daily service. We have wheelchair ramps on all our trains and there is a disabled space on all the modern trains we operate.

  63. What if there are two people in wheelchairs?
  (Mr Gibb) We have sufficient space to accommodate more than one on most types of trains.


  64. We are in grave danger of getting to the terminus on time. Would you like to make a statement before we wind up? Is there anything we have missed?
  (Mr Gibb) Thank you, Mr Chairman, members of the Committee, ladies and gentlemen, for having us. On behalf of Wales & Borders and National Express Group, we have been very pleased to give evidence this morning and we hope that our written evidence and the answers to your questions have further enlightened your understanding of our operation. We believe that the new Wales & Borders train operating company and its predecessors provide a good service to the communities they serve, as do the other eight train operating companies in National Express Group. We acknowledge that there is more to do in the wider rail network and we shall play our full part in this. We seek to offer value for money services, high standards of safety and genuine customer service. The events following last year's tragic Hatfield accident have set the industry back and we look forward to continuing to recover customer confidence and lost patronage and indeed stakeholder confidence. The rail industry faces large and complex problems that no one party can sort out on their own. Looking ahead we anticipate the Strategic Rail Authority's strategic plan due later this month outlining the way ahead for the industry, be it through two-year extensions or through recommencing of the franchising process. The key issues now surround certainty around our future funding and planning and for myself and colleagues to focus on the daily task of running a safe and reliable railway.

  Chairman: Thank you very much. A good way to wind up. We have arrived at the station early. I hope this bodes well for the franchise. Thank you very much.

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