Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions


I.  Integrated Transport

  1.  What is the Government's definition of a "integrated transport"?

  The 1998 Integrated Transport White Paper set out our policy. Integrated Transport broadly means:

    Integration within and between different types of transport—better and easier interchange between car/bus/rail etc. with better information on services and availability of integrated tickets.

    Integration with the environment—considering the effect of transport policies on the environment and selecting the most environmentally friendly solution whenever possible.

    Integration with land use planning—to reduce the need for travel and to ensure new developments can be reached by public transport.

    Integration with policies on education, health and wealth creation so that cross-cutting policies on issues such as school travel, cycling and walking, and the profitability of business work together rather than against each other.

  2.  (a)  Over the last five years, how has government policy, central government expenditure and funding to local authorities and to the National Assembly for Wales assisted the creation and strengthening of links between:

    —  transport and land use;

    —  public and private transport;

    —  motorised and non-motorised transport; and

    —  public transport modes?

  In England the Integrated Transport White Paper (para 4.156—better planning) emphasised the central role of land use planning in shaping transport demand. Since the White Paper, strengthened planning guidance on transport was published as Planning Policy Guidance note 13 in March 2001 (www.planning, The objectives of the guidance are to

    —  Promote more sustainable transport choices both for people and for moving freight;

    —  Promote accessibility to jobs, shopping, leisure facilities and service by public transport, walking and cycling; and

    —  Reduce the need to travel, especially by car.

  At the regional level, revised regional planning guidance, incorporating regional transport strategies, has been or is being produced in all English regions to integrate the planning of major new development and the identification of transport investment prioritises. Regional Planning Bodies have also taken the lead in managing the programme of multi-modal studies looking at ways of tackling the problems on our major transport corridors. The 10 Year Plan for Transport [ref?], which provides the funding to deliver the investment decisions arising from these strategies and studies, also emphasised the importance of better integration between land use and transport planning at the national, regional and local levels [ref, TYP paras 6.37 and 6.38].

  Separate Policy Planning Guidance is issued by the National Assembly for Wales.

  Over the last 5 years we have created and strengthen the links between public and private transport, motorised and non-motorised transport and public transport modes through a wide range of initiatives and policy mechanisms. The main ones include:

    —  "A New Deal for Transport—Better for Everyone" published July 1998—it set out a new approach to transport policy which has relevance throughout the UK;

    —  Transport 2010—The 10 Year Plan provides for £180 billion of public spending and private investment primarily in England but £64 billion for railways in Great Britain;

    —  The Transport Act 2000 is the most comprehensive piece of transport legislation in over 30 years enacting many of the measures in the act but notably it set up the Strategic Rail Authority;

    —  Created Home Zones with 100 schemes in England and Wales the plan includes road humps, a one way system, trees and plants and games for children;

    —  Introduced Local Transport Plans in England to encourage local authorities to work in partnership with local people and local transport providers to draw up plans which identify and meet the needs of their own areas. £8.4 billion over next 5 years to enable English local authorities to implement their local transport plans;

    —  £46 million Urban Bus Challenge competition launched with £8 million available this financial year for innovative projects to improve public passenger transport for deprived English urban areas;

    —  Development of the Transport Direct Programme which aims by 2003 to provide the traveller with all the information they need before and during a journey anywhere in the UK and with the ability to but the associated tickets.

  (b)  In terms of the Public Sector's expenditure level of £300 billion, what percentage has been spent on the construction and operational funding of such schemes?

  It is not possible to identify separately what proportion of Government funding has been spent on schemes specifically, aimed at creating and strengthening these linkages.

  3.  (a)  What assessment has been made of the effectiveness of schemes to ease bus movements in urban areas (eg bus priority schemes, bus boarding platforms in the carriageway rather than bus stop lay-bys)?

Bus Priority

  Bus services are highly susceptible to the effects of traffic congestion, not only in the form of direct delays, but also in its effects on bus operations and the reliability of services. Research suggests that bus frequency and reliability are key factors deterring the public from making greater use of services.

  Bus priority can take many forms, but is essentially designed to enable buses to avoid general traffic queues and delays. In its simplest form, bus priority effectively segregates buses from other traffic through the use of bus lanes, bus-ways or other devices. More sophisticated forms of bus priority can reduce delays to buses through advanced forms of traffic signalling or traffic management. Such schemes can manage traffic queues in such a way that buses are not impeded; alternatively traffic signal schemes can be devised to recognise approaching buses and provide extra green time to enable vehicles to clear a junction.

  The effectiveness of individual bus priority schemes is found in practice to vary widely due to local circumstances. Bus lane schemes typically reduce bus journey times by one or two minutes, although some longer schemes do provide significantly greater benefits. Signal priority schemes may only provide a saving of 5 to 10 seconds per vehicle at a single junction, but such schemes working in synchronisation along a corridor can provide worthwhile benefits to a service. The objective of many schemes is not to provide huge savings to bus users, but to improve reliability to the point where operators can run services to an accurate timetable.

  Increasingly, bus priority is addressing whole corridors through initiatives aimed at improving the overall quality of bus services. Quality partnerships or route strategies such as the London Bus Initiative and the West Midlands Showcase routes are aiming to transform the passenger experience through both improving the comfort and convenience of buses and stops and introducing priorities along routes to improve reliability. Showcase routes in Birmingham have resulted in patronage increases approaching 30 per cent and elsewhere similar initiatives have increased patronage by 10 per cent to 30 per cent.

Bus Boarders

  Bus boarders are kerb build-outs that assist passengers to board buses conveniently and at the right level, which is of particular importance to the mobility impaired. They also avoid the need for buses to pull-in to lay-bys where they may be delayed re-entering the traffic stream. They require careful consideration in terms of design and location to ensure that delays to general road traffic are not increased. Sites should only be selected where buses can stop and still leave adequate spaces for other vehicles travelling in the same direction to pass the stationary bus without delay. Parking controls around bus boarders would usually be used to ensure that road space is available for two-way traffic.

  The introduction of carefully designed bus boarders is aimed at improving both accessibility and bus operations. Local authorities which have installed boarders consider them to have been successful. However, at present there is limited structured before and after data available on how well they achieve these aims, and sometimes they have been part of a wider range of measures on a route. The Department plans to work with local authorities to monitor the introduction of bus boarders as part of its research programme, with a view to assessing their effectiveness and helping develop good practice advice.

  (b)  How important are policies which actively discourage the use of private cars in creating an effective integrated transport system?

  The aim of the Government's transport policy is to increase people's choice in travel through better public transport and improved facilities for cycling and walking, improving the road infrastructure and reducing congestion and pollution. It is all about striking a balance and securing improvements across all modes of transport.

  4.  The English Tourism Council's report Tourism and Transport (September 2001) identifies four key areas to achieve an integrated transport policy for tourism. These were Information; Interchange; Investment and Integration. Unless the first three were provided for the last would not take place was the general thrust of the report.

  The Transport Direct project is a part of the "Information" element. However bus operators already complain of the cost of "Traveline" a simpler service currently in use.

  (a)  How does the Government intend to finance a scheme which provided the "Information" element necessary for an integrated transport policy?

  (b)  How will a complex system of services, demand patterns and frequent service changes be met?

  The 1998 integrated transport white paper recognised that information about transport was a key element of an integrated transport policy. One of the Government's objectives was to see a national public transport information service developed. Transport operators and local authorities responded, creating what is now known as traveline. Regionally organised, it provides information on routes and times for all public transport services. The National Assembly for Wales and the Scottish Executive have devolved responsibility for traveline in their areas. Broadly, capital costs were met by local authorities (with Government support) and running costs are being met by transport operators, mainly bus companies. The exact financial arrangements differ from one region to another and were decided by each of the consortia. Concerns about running costs are being addressed, particularly by actions designed to increase call volumes, reducing unit costs.

  Transport Direct will build on traveline but its exact form has not been decided—a business plan is currently being developed. The Government does not intend to take forward this project on its own. We recognise the need to work in partnership with transport operators, information specialists and technology providers. The money required to develop and maintain Transport Direct is likely to be generated from a number of sources:

    —  Transport Operators are likely to see increased patronage for their services, leading to revenue gain—the carrier benefit;

    —  Commission can be earned for ticket sales—the retailer benefit;

    —  Some services, particularly those tailored to an individual's needs, could be charged for (eg a service which warned a commuter that their train was running late before leaving home in the morning)—value added service income;

    —  Additional mobile communications traffic and the opportunity to target non-transport services may lead to further income.

  We expect to provide public funding in areas where is a social rather than commercial need to develop information services or where some research is needed to enable a truly comprehensive service to be available to the public. For example we:

    —  expect to provide some funds via local authorities;

    —  are developing a research programme, including in particular market research;

    —  will work with industry, where it would be helpful to define and agree technical standards.

  (c)  What progress is being made in obtaining required timetable information from bus companies?

  Timetable information is supplied by bus companies to traveline regional partnerships for incorporation in regional journey planners. In many cases, local authorities already receive the information in a suitable format. Data is often supplied electronically. The Government is working with the traveline partners to develop further a standard, which will be used for electronic bus registration, to make the process simpler still.

  (d)  Has it been necessary to re-charge any bus company because of its failure to supply information?

  The Transport Act 2000 requires each local transport authority to develop a public transport information strategy. The Transport Act creates a duty for local transport authorities (county councils, unitary councils and Passenger Transport Authorities) to work with bus operators to ensure the availability of local bus information, if necessary by stepping in to provide it themselves. The authority may seek to recover its costs in the latter case.

  The relevant provisions of the Transport Act 2000 in England were commenced on 1 February 2001. The National Assembly for Wales have devolved responsibility for the Transport Act 2000, and commenced the same provisions there in July 2001. It is not a requirement that the Government be notified where an authority exercises the powers on transport information, but it is reasonable to assume that as yet, no authority has done so.

  (e)  What progress is being made on PTI2000 (to be developed into Travel Direct)

  Traveline (formerly PTI2000) provides information on all public transport services throughout Great Britain by way of call to a single telephone number, 0870 608 2 608. The service continues to make steady improvements in reliability and accuracy. The traveline partners review performance regularly, including by mystery shopping. In September 2001 an internet site, was launched. It currently links to information for only a few regions, but this will increase in the coming months as regional journey planners become available on the internet.

  (f)  How have bus and rail timetable/fares information services been integrated, eg what links are there between PTI Cymru (or PTI2000) and National Rail Enquiry Service (NRES)?

  Traveline (formerly PTI2000) provides information on bus and rail services in each region, along with all other public transport services. However, if a caller requires rail information only, they are when first connected to traveline invited to call the national rail enquiry service. This reflects the purpose of each service: traveline is intended to provide multi-modal journey planning information, while national rail enquiries can provide more detailed rail information (eg fares, engineering work).

  (g)  Why are taxi company phone numbers not provided?

  TrainTaxi Ltd publishes a listing to the telephone numbers of up to three local taxi companies for each railway station. The guide is a commercial initiative, and is available for sale. Traveline is currently reviewing its future direction, and taxi information may be considered.

  5.  The National Assembly for Wales has indicated its desire to pursue its own integrated transport policy within Wales (Policy Review of Public Transport Consultation Report, July 2001).

  (a)  What additional powers does the Government consider the Assembly requires to achieve its own integrated transport policy?

  The Government believes the Assembly has adequate powers to deliver an integrated transport policy.

  (b)  What plans, if any, does the Government have to introduce legislation to devolve further powers in respect of transport to the National Assembly?

  The Government has no such plans at present.

  (c)  Will provision be made to increase the Block Grant by amounts appropriate for subsidy (operating) and investment as indicated in Transport 2010?

  Changes to the level of the Block Grant within the period of the Transport 10 Year Plan will be determined within future Spending Reviews by HM Treasury on the basis of the Barnett Formula.

  (d)  How does the Government believe that the National Assembly can integrate road and rail investment given the widely differing sources of investment?

  The Government believes that the National Assembly for Wales should develop links with the Strategic Rail Authority to take this matter further.

  (e)  What evaluation techniques do DTLR currently use for different options? (See Railways section for further questions.)

  DTLR uses the New Approach To Appraisal (NATA) to appraise different solutions to transport problems. NATA presents the key economic, environmental and social impacts of projects in a clear, consistent and balanced way using a one-page Appraisal Summary Table (AST) and associated worksheets. Impacts are assessed against the Government's five objectives for transport (environmental impact, safety, economy, accessibility and integration), each broken down into a number of sub-objectives. Advice on the use of NATA is set out in Guidance on the Methodology for Multi-Modal Studies (March 2000), supplemented by Applying the Multi-Modal New Approach To Appraisal to Highway Schemes (March 2001) and Guidance on the Appraisal of Major Public Transport Schemes (July 2001).

  NATA applies to England only. Understand the National Assembly for Wales are using a previous version of NATA.

  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 network;

    —  the Wales and Borders franchise requirements?

  Which offices of the NAW and departments of the UK Government have been involved?

  The DTLR, as the Department with overall responsibility for transport issues, takes the lead in discussions with the National Assembly for Wales (NAW) on transport related issues. All of the matters mentioned, along with other transport issues, have been discussed in recent meetings between DTLR and Welsh Ministers.

  Officials are in regular contact about developments which may affect devolved policy. There are biannual meetings between senior officials from the DTLR and NAW to discuss areas of common interest. A bilateral concordat between the Department and the Cabinet of the National Assembly for Wales governs our day-to-day working relations. Copies of the concordant are available from the DTLR internet site ( It is currently being updated to reflect machinery of Government changes.

  The Office of the Rail Regulator has contact with the Assembly and, among other things, has explained the Regulator's powers in respect of the accountability of Railtrack.

  7.  (a)  When improvements are made to east-west links and to border roads (eg the A483 which enters England at its northern end), what discussions take place between NAW and Government officials?

  Improvements on roads that lead to or cross the border are subject to various discussions depending on how proposals are arrived at. Such proposals may arise from the results of multi-modal studies, roads-based studies, "schemes to be progressed" (from the roads review) or as a result of other studies as appropriate. It is always the intention that the appropriate Welsh bodies are represented on study steering groups or that Welsh bodies are fully consulted before schemes are added to the Targeted Programme of Improvements.

  Improvements to local roads are bid for by local highway authorities and Government Offices would lead on any liaison issues. However, we are not aware of any such improvements that involve border roads.

  The following is a summary of the studies and other proposals which have recently reported or are still working:

  A5/A483 Shrewsbury to Chester Road Based Study

  National Assembly for Wales sits on Steering Group (chaired by Government Office West Midlands), study will make recommendations to the regional planning bodies, National Assembly for Wales, Secretary of State, Highways Agency and transport operators. Study due to report in Spring 2002.

  A483 Pant and Llanymynech bypass

  The Highways Agency has been in regular contact with the NAW on this scheme, which involves a cross-border bypass with a few hundred metres of the road in Wales. The scheme has the support of the NAW and will be delivered by the Highways Agency in partnership with the NAW. The latter are contributing £2 million plus index linking for construction costs and will bear the acquisition and compensation costs for land and property in Wales. NAW will be involved in the preparation of the preferred route.

  London to South West and South Wales multi-modal study (SWARMMS)

  The decision was taken from the outset to include the NAW as a steering group member, albeit as an observer. This invitation was a recognition that the study was principally looking at east-west movements and would therefore have an impact on South Wales as well as providing opportunities to travel from South Wales to London and Heathrow.

  A550/A5117 Deeside Park Junctions Road Based Study

  Study area runs up to but does not cross border. Study now reported and North-West Regional Assembly accepted case. NAW were on steering group and were fully involved in the development of, and agreement to, the schemes recommended.

  A49 Route Management Strategy

  NAW attended Route Seminar for stakeholders, held in July 2001. NAW will be consulted during public consultation phase.

  Preparation of West Midlands Primary Route Network Plan

  A regional initiative involving West Midlands Local Government Association. GOWM has consulted NAW, copying plans and seeking comments.

  (b)  How are such schemes fitted into the construction programme of the two bodies?

  We are not aware of any schemes being simultaneously added to the construction programme of both bodies. The only scheme which crosses the border is the A483 Pant-Llanymynech which will be delivered solely by the Highways Agency in the Targeted Programme of Improvements, albeit with financial support from the NAW. Continued liaison between the HA and the Welsh Office will pick up issues of a mutual interest such as forthcoming schemes.

  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 1999-2000), 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 the NAW.

  Has the Government re-considered its view on these or any other matters covered in its response to the Committee's Report?

  Local Transport in Wales is a devolved matter.

  The Government's view in relation to rail remains as stated in its response to the Committee's Second Report. There is no statutory requirement on the SRA to consult local authorities in relation to rail, or on local authorities to consult the SRA in relation to the planning of rail services. However, the Government expects the process for determining rail needs to be a two-way process between the SRA and local planning bodies, including those in Wales, so that local plans and strategies are consistent with the national framework. We have made this approach clear in our draft Directions and Guidance to the SRA and in our guidance to local authorities in England, outside London, on local transport planning.

  The draft Directions and Guidance recognise the broader policy framework within which the SRA operates, and that many aspects of the Authority's work will have a local or regional impact. The draft Directions and Guidance make it clear that the Authority should take into account, among others, relevant policies of the Welsh Assembly; and that, in formulating its strategies and carrying out its functions, the Authority should work closely with the local and regional planning bodies, and should have regard to Local Transport Plans (LTPs).

  In practice, the SRA consults widely with local authorities on a range of matters. The SRA explains this process in more detail in its memorandum to the Committee.

  9.  (a)  Is it the case that the Government's policy is to use the revenue from congestion charges and workplace parking charges to invest in public transport?

  It is for individual local authorities to decide whether or not to introduce congestion charging schemes in the context of their local transport plans. The Transport Act 2000 guarantees that the revenue from the charging schemes will then be retained locally for a minimum period of 10 years from the scheme's start date. This money will be ring-fenced for the local authority to spend on improving local transport services. This revenue will be additional to existing transport funding which the authorities receive from the central Government. The National Assembly for Wales is responsible for approving charging schemes in Wales.

  (b)  What assessment has the Government made of the policy in the Netherlands, where investment in public transport has preceded the introduction of, or increase in, higher parking charges?

  In the Netherlands, as in the UK, responsibility for parking strategies rests with the local authorities. A number of local authorities in the Netherlands are running schemes where investment in public transport is directly linked to an increase in parking charges, as described. Both the UK and the Netherlands are participating in a collaborative European research project which involves the study and analysis of parking policies in town centres of the participating countries and which will compare their effects on mobility, traffic demand management and the local economy. The aim is to develop best practice guidance, which will inform parking strategies for EU countries. The report of this study is expected in late 2002.

  (c)  How will funding be provided where revenue from road and work place charges is estimated to be well below the investment needs (eg the cost of a single light rail route in Cardiff from the Bay to Cathays is estimated at £120 million)?

  We judge each proposed light rail scheme on its merits. Schemes are subjected to a full economic appraisal, which looks at such issues as forecast patronage and value for money. The 10 Year Plan provided for £2.6 billion for light rail. However, about half of the assumed investment is expected to be provided from local authorities, developer contributions or from the concession value of schemes. Road user charging and the workplace parking levy are just two means by which local authorities can aim to raise revenue for a light rail scheme. It is, though, at the discretion of local authorities, in light of their local knowledge of traffic problems and the likely solutions to them, to decide whether road user charging or the workplace parking levy have a part to play in any light rail scheme development.

  The National Assembly for Wales has responsibility for approving congestion charging schemes in Wales and for providing unhypothecated revenue funding to its local authorities.

II.  Railways

  10.  Selection of the franchise for Wales and Borders

    —  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 assessed?

    —  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 "cut 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 will 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 and Birmingham.

  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 correctly?

  The SRA has responded to this question in its memorandum to the Committee.

  11.  What provisions are now being made to ensure railway companies participate in multi-modal travel schemes in areas outside London and the PTEs?

  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 responded to this question in its memorandum to the Committee.

  12.  There is real concern and evidence (according to the Rail Passenger Committee—Cymru Wales) that the SRA is underfunded in relation to the network needs. The investment figures contained in Transport 2010 are seen as realistic—on average £6 billion per annum for Great Britain (about equally split between public and private sectors) and therefore (using the Barnett Formula) would be £300 per annum. Whether this includes, or not, the £80m subsidy figure currently applied to Wales's railways, the estimate by RPC of £15m capital investment in Wales in 2000 is clearly well below the DTLR's own estimates.

  The Government believes that its current public expenditure plans will deliver the key rail objectives set out in its 10 Year Plan for Transport. We recognise that there are particular problems at present. However, there is no reason to believe that the priorities and targets committed to in the Plan cannot be delivered within the spending commitments provided for in the Plan.

  So far as concerns 10 Year Plan funding for particular projects, there is no reason why Wales should be treated differently from any other part of Great Britain. Proposals for projects in Wales will be assessed on a GB-wide basis and in terms of overall affordability and value for money.

  (a)  Why was funding not forthcoming from the public sector in 2000/01?

  In 2000/01, a total of £847 million was paid to train operating companies (TOCs) in Support for Passenger Rail Services (SPRS) by the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA). Of that total, £17 million was paid to Cardiff Railway and a further £414 million to the six TOCs which run services into and out of Wales.

  (b)  How is the Government intending to respond to Railtrack's withdrawal from many investment projects because of its financial position?

  For some time now, we have envisaged that Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) and other such innovative mechanisms would complement more traditional approaches to financing railway enhancement investment projects. In particular, we have acknowledged that major projects over a certain threshold could not be undertaken by Railtrack alone because of the risks involved. It is likely that future projects will be taken forward by stand-alone partnership companies—a concept which the Government has been developing.

  (c)  A figure of £1.5 billion of "lifeboat" funding payable to Railtrack has been quoted extensively by DTLR and the Office of the Rail Regulator (ORR).

  Under an agreement between the Government and Railtrack reached on 2 April 2001, £1.5 billion of grant funding to the company was re-phased, delivering long-term savings to the taxpayer. This was not extra money, but provision which had already been allocated under the Rail Regulator's review of access charges. The provision was brought forward, within the 10 Year Plan period, to ease financial pressures on Railtrack. Under the 2 April agreement, Railtrack agreed to give higher priority to management of the core rail network.

  (d)  How will this money be accounted for in terms of its expenditure by Railtrack?

  The Government will be bringing forward proposals for Railtrack's responsibilities to be transferred to a private company without shareholders—a private sector "company limited by guarantee" (CLG), run on a commercial basis. The Government also intends to take the opportunity to streamline the existing system of regulation, whilst still recognising the need for some form of independent economic regulation.

  The Government believes that the greater management focus and efficiencies available from a CLG, combined with a more focussed system of regulation, would help to optimise the value for money of Government support, including the grant brought forward under the 2 April agreement.

  The new industry and regulatory structure would offer a clearer line of accountability between Government support and rail outputs and outcomes. One of the CLG's primary objectives would be to address Railtrack's lack of knowledge of the condition of its assets, to allow the new regulatory system clearly to monitor and enforce the delivery of rail outputs.

  (e)  What mechanism will there be to pass these funds from the Treasury to Railtrack?

  Funds paid out of the provision brought forward under the 2 April agreement are paid to Railtrack by the SRA. So far, one payment has been made: £337 million, paid on 1 October 2001.

  (f)  How does the Government answer the concerns of the RPC, the train operating companies and the National Assembly, all of whom have put forward realistic investment programmes (easily funded by £300mpa), that the improvements will be unaffordable?

  As already noted, investment proposals will be assessed on a GB-wide basis. Small projects, which could secure passenger benefits relatively quickly, might be eligible for funding under the SRA's Rail Passenger Partnership (RPP) scheme. Alternatively, the SRA has already specified a range of small enhancement projects in Incremental Output Statements (IOSs).

  13.  Short term extensions to existing operators

  The SRA plan for 20-year contracts, intended to achieve new investment, is to be reviewed. The Secretary of State has in the draft guidance ordered the SRA to "concentrate on improving services within the existing franchises or through 2-year extensions" so as to improve services for passengers (by say 2004/2006) in terms of safety, punctuality and comfort. What are the intended benefits of this guidance?

  The Secretary of State's draft Directions and Guidance for the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) and his draft statement of policy on passenger rail franchising, which builds on the draft Directions and Guidance, set out the Government's priorities for the railway and re-focus its policy on franchising.

  The Government regrets that its franchising policy proposals were misunderstood or misrepresented as narrowly focused on franchise extension, or as an abandonment of the long term. Our proposed policy specifically allows for a range of approaches, whatever is most appropriate in the particular case. No doubt different approaches will be appropriate in different cases. Where franchises are replaced it will be for consideration what the duration of the new franchise should be. The Government's intention is that the SRA should do whatever is most appropriate to obtain benefits for passengers, in the short as well as the longer term—whether that is through agreed enhancements or extensions of existing franchises, or by replacing them early or in the normal course of events.

  The Secretary of State has asked the SRA to take a fresh look at what can be achieved within existing franchises to drive up safety, punctuality and comfort across all franchised services. The Government wants to see improvements in existing franchises that include:

    —  new passenger performance targets;

    —  investment in additional services;

    —  improvements to rolling stock; and

    —  improved passenger facilities.

  The intended benefits are listed below. Not all of these will necessarily arise on any given franchise. Some of these benefits may be deliverable through existing franchises or extensions of them but others may require selective early replacement of a franchise.

    —  Better punctuality and reliability eg tougher performance targets, extra drivers, spare trains for emergency use, enhanced maintenance cover, better arrangements for dealing with disrupted services;

    —  Reductions in overcrowding eg extra rolling stock, additional services and longer trains;

    —  Improved personal security eg more CCTV at stations and on trains, secure parking, more accreditation under the Secure Stations initiative and extended staffing hours;

    —  Integrated transport measures eg integrated public transport information systems; better and safer interchange at and access to stations by local public transport, by car, cycle and on foot; and new park and ride stations;

    —  Improved accessibility for disabled people eg at stations and on trains;

    —  Putting passengers first eg better compensation when things go wrong, no quibble refunds, and a greater voice for passengers in the level and standard of services;

    —  Improved station facilities eg signage, information, waiting rooms, and ticket offices;

    —  Improved passenger information and retailing eg real time travel information and Internet ticket sales.

  The need for the safe operation of the railway is a given. The Government has never suggested that performance be at the expense of safety, and believes that the two go hand in hand. The SRA has a duty to take into account the need to protect all persons from dangers arising from the operation of the railways, taking into account, in particular any advice given to the SRA by the HSE. The draft Directions and Guidance say that the SRA should ensure that HSE is fully consulted whenever railway safety may be at issue, and that it should be guided by the advice of HSC/HSE on all health and safety issues.

  Franchising is not the only tool available to the SRA. The Rail Passenger Partnership scheme provides funding to assist the provision of new or enhanced local and regional services that cannot be justified on financial grounds but which contribute to the Government's wider objectives for rail. The SRA has streamlined the assessment process for smaller schemes. This will ensure that successful projects are appraised more quickly and the benefits felt by passengers sooner.

  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 network:

  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 has responded to this question in its memorandum to the Committee.

III.  Objective 1 Funding for Transport[1]

  15.  Investment funds for moving assets

  (a)  What is the Government's view on the use of Objective 1 funding for moving assets such as buses, trams or trains given the successful use of such funds in this type of investment in the Republic of Ireland?

  The Government has allowed, indeed welcomed, Objective 1 funding to be used for the Tyne & Wear Metro extension to Sunderland. This was announced in December 1999. Similar funding is being sought for a tram scheme in Merseyside and in South Yorkshire, and local authorities expect to seek money for other schemes in the future.

  (b)  Have Objective 1 funds been used previously in this way in the UK?

  Support tends only to have been given in small community based Structural Fund Community Initiative programmes in which the economic outputs are less stringent than for Objective 1 and 2 mainstream programmes. Even then, the need and benefit to the community within the programme area has to be clearly justified.

  (c)  What conditions, if any, have the European Commission placed on such investments?

  The Regulations require that in the case of investment in infrastructure, the grant cannot exceed 40 per cent of the total eligible cost of the project. As well as that, the Commission requires that any project which will benefit a single end user or shareholders shall have to make a clear business case for support. Any subsequent offer of grant then includes the provision to claw back any excess profits. Issues concerning State Aids also have to be considered.

  (d)  Is the Government aware of any conditions imposed on the use of Objective 1 funds for bus investment and the Quality Bus Corridors in Dublin or for new rolling stock for DART suburban railways?


  (e)  Have discussions ever taken place with EU officials on the use of Objective 1 funds for Valley Lines trains (excluding Cardiff) using Objective 1 provisions?

  Not an issue for the DTLR.

1   See page 60 for corrected answer to the question. Back

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