Questions for the Government and the SRA
The SRA has been provided with a number of questions
which have also been provided to DTLR to consider on behalf of
the Government. The responses set out below deal with those aspects
of the questions which are specific to the SRA role in delivering
the national transport strategy.
6. What discussions have recently taken
place between the UK Government and the National Assembly for
Wales regarding transport policy and transport funding? In particular
what discussions have been held regarding:
integrated transport policy issues
Railtrack's failures to maintain
The Wales and Borders franchise requirements?
Which offices of the NAW and departments of
the UK Government have been involved?
There are regular contacts between officials
of the National Assembly for Wales and SRA officers with agreement
to meet at least quarterly. In practice the development of policy
in Wales has meant a more frequent dialogue over the phone and
in meetings. The discussions on re-franchising have been underpinned
by a Memorandum of Understanding.
The SRA also maintains relations with individual
local authorities in Wales. The local authorities throughout the
UK are consulted on changes to service provision (PSR) and re-franchising
and on other aspects of SRA policy of specific interest, such
8. The Committee raised concerns about the
requirements of different bodies to consult one another during
its inquiry into the Transport Bill (Second Report from the Welsh
Affairs Committee, HC 287, Session 1999B2000), in particular:
county and county borough councils
must submit LTP's to the National Assembly. (Thus two way consultation
and integration may be achieved.)
no consultation or integration is
required between the SRA plans and LTP's from either body.
the SRA is required only to consult
Has the Government re-considered its view on
these or any other matters covered in its response to the Committee's
The SRA operates an extensive programme of consultation
with local government bodies throughout the UK to ensure that
SRA policy takes into account planning and transport strategies.
Local government is also consulted on specific issues such as
proposed changes to local service provision.
10. Selection of the franchise for Wales
How were the bidders chosen?
What criteria will be used/are being
used to select the preferred bidder?
What criteria will be used to assess
the proposal and how is value for money/best return from expenditure
What service improvements on each
of Wales's lines are SRA looking for?
To what extent are the following
criteria to be applied:
(a) the service reflects demand flows. The
through services to Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol will continue
as these are important destinations and appropriate Acut off@
points for adjacent franchises
(b) the franchise is sufficiently large to
be operationally possible and achieve economies of scale, but
be managed locally to achieve maximum market growth
(c) it creates a market oriented dynamic
railway whose primary concern is service quality and an efficient
attractive railway, serving customer needs
(d) services on several currently peripheral
routes (e.g. via Wrexham) will become major services in a Wales-based
network improved frequencies lead to increased demand
(e) the creation of "hubs" at Chester,
Shrewsbury and Cardiff will provide increased main line frequencies
on north-south routes serving those stations and Bangor, Manchester
Companies bidding for franchises complain that
they have not been given sufficient insight into the criteria
to be used for selection. The new Draft Directives and Guidance
to the Strategic Rail Authority (June 2001) requires that "all
bidders ... must be made aware of the criteria upon which their
bids are being assessed". Has this guidance been followed
All the responses that the SRA received for
the W&B franchise were either from existing franchisees or
from organisations that had previously pre-qualified for previous
franchise replacements. If the SRA had received expressions of
interest from other organisations they would have been requested
to provide information regarding their corporate structure and
governance, management resources, capabilities and skills and
advice as to how funding for their proposals funds would be raised.
This information provides the basis on which the SRA decides as
to whether such organisations would be pre-qualified as a potentially
Criteria applied in selecting the preferred
counterparty (bidder) are outlined in the SRA's Instructions To
Counterparties (ITC) issued to all who pre-qualify. These are
reviewed in the light of any changes to the Directions & Guidance
issued to the SRA by the Secretary of State. The SoS issued a
draft for consultation in June. This will be reflected in the
SRA's revised ITC.
The ITC also advises the basis on which the
value for money of a proposal is assessed. This is in terms of
the net present value of benefits per £ of Counterparty Franchise
Payment requirements, in line with the SRA Planning Criteria.
The ITC also contains advice on how benefits are evaluated, including
those that are non-financial.
The SRA has not prescribed line by line specifications
in the process to date, but has encouraged counter-parties to
speak with local stakeholders and understand their aspirations.
11. What provisions are now being made to
ensure railway companies participate in multi-modal travel schemes
in areas outside London and the PTE's?
Are these included in the new contracts?
Does this include the provision of integrated
timetables, seamless interchanges and integrated through fares
on buses and trains? If so where is this taking place in Wales?
The SRA has encouraged potential operators to
take into account the aspirations of local authorities in respect
of ticketing initiatives, and passenger information. We would
generally expect them to co-operate with such schemes.
The Association of Train Operators recognises
the importance of encouraging good practice in this area and has
recently engaged consultants to establish a kite-marked scheme
(run by Jouney Solutions) to acknowledge achievements. Over 100
of the 500 bus/rail schemes operating throughout Britain have
now been kitemarked.
12. The Committee is referred to the evidence
to be submitted by the Government.
13. The Committee is referred to the evidence
to be submitted by the Government.
14. Specific Rail Services
(a) Railtrack has put back the Ebbw Vale
freight line development into a passenger service.
Is the Government intending to fund such a service
which the local authority consortium sees as a priority?
(b) The introduction of and hourly service
from Bangor via Chester, Wrexham and Shrewsbury to Birmingham
together with the existing hourly service from Cardiff to Manchester
will provide two vitally necessary improvements to Wales's rail
Wrexham will have an hourly service in both directions.
A Bangor-Birmingham service integrating with
a Cardiff-Manchester service at a same platform hub at Shrewsbury
will (with two through Bangor-Cardiff trains per day as at present)
provide an hourly Bangor-Cardiff (and possibly Swansea) service
over an 18-hour daily period.
This requires reliability and signalling investment
at Shrewsbury. [How and when does the new guidance achieve this?]
The SRA is continuing to maintain a dialogue
with the promoters of the Ebbw Vale line to establish whether
there is a robust case for the proposal and to consider whether
this would be an appropriate scheme for an SPV. The SRA would
expect the capital funding of the scheme to come from other partners
since this scheme is being promoted primarily for reasons outside
the strategic aims of the SRA, but would consider providing the
revenue support in accordance with Rail Passenger Partnership
The development of the Ebbw Vale freight only
branch for passenger use is currently the subject of a LA sponsored
study. It is the SRA's understanding that the NAW will consider
the merits of funding the necessary infrastructure enhancements.
The SRA are awaiting the application for passenger service funding
under the RPP scheme to be submitted for pre-qualification.
North-bound passenger and freight services through
Shrewsbury are constrained by the availability of only one northbound
platform. The SRA has investigated the feasibility of restoring
an additional platform. However this is not technically achievable
at a reasonable cost. There may well be opportunities for selective
improvement of through services arising from the amalgamation
of currently converging services through the creation of the Wales
& Borders franchise.
Services to Wrexham have been enhanced in recent
timetables, and the SRA would be interested to know what the bidders
for the new franchise considered was achievable to serve this
market. The step change in service frequency would require infrastructure
works, including some track doubling, and in the light of the
current supply side constraints, no specific timetable has been
programmed for such works.
Strategic Rail Authority
9 November 2001