European Transport Policy

[back to previous text]

Mrs. Dean: I want to press my right hon. Friend about map 3.15, showing United Kingdom rail services. I thank him for his comments on the Ivanhoe line, which is important to north-west

Column Number: 13

Leicestershire and south Derbyshire and to Burton in east Staffordshire as a good project for the future.

The map does not show a complete set of the country's existing routes. Lines that are not shown on the map include the Settle to Carlisle line and the York to Scarborough line in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby. However, some quite minor lines in the north of Scotland are shown. I seek reassurance that just because some lines are not shown in the outline plan for 2010 it does not mean that they will not exist then.

Mr. Spellar: I apologise to my hon. Friend and to the Committee for coughing; as they can see, I have a bad cold.

I assure hon. Members that the routes shown on the trans-European network maps have a trans-European rather than a domestic value. Routes that carry freight or passenger traffic may have a significant local or regional value but that does not necessarily mean that they are a key part of the trans-European network. It is not to their detriment that they are not on the maps.

The Commission intends to look again at the maps in 2004, which will probably be the best time to consider whether the UK maps need to be changed. However, I stress again the differentiationthe reason why some routes appear on the maps and others do not.

Mr. Hoban: The national air traffic control centre in Swanwick is in my constituency. What are the barriers to the creation of a single European sky by 2004?

Mr. Spellar: The national air traffic control centre in the hon. Gentleman's constituency is working extremely well, in spite of newspaper scare stories before it was operational. It is a tribute to the management and especially to the work of the air traffic controllers.

There will have to be intense discussions between the countries of Europe on the matter. The need to organise airspace in a more rational way is recognised, but there are difficulties, as the hon. Gentleman is aware, especially now that the national air traffic control centre is in his constituency. I believe that he is engaged in discussions with a considerable number of centres. The increased volume of air traffic means that there must be greater rationalisation in the management of European airspace, in which Swanwick is well placed to play a major role. However, I do not anticipate that achieving that objective will be plain sailing.

Jim Dobbin: The travelling public want to use different modes of transport. The White Paper refers to integrated ticketing systems to allow people to go by coach, sea or air, which some European countries are seriously considering. Are the Government doing so?

Mr. Spellar: We certainly are; there are several local initiatives on the issue, including Transport for London. We want to ensure that such systems would be interoperable. Several countries, including, I believe, Hong Kong, have such a system, with smart cards containing stored value, which can then respond to the particular journey at the appropriate price. They provide an effective mechanism for allocating the

Column Number: 14

income between various providers. The Dutch transport system uses strip cards as an effective means of moving people around, but it is less effective at allocating the income and ensuring that the people using the transport are paying for it.

Activity is taking place on the international front and we can learn from the experience of those who have already started to develop such systems. Overall, we can see the considerable attractionsparticularly in urban areas with substantial commuter trafficof using those systems to gain a better handle on income and speed up the flow of passengers.

Lawrie Quinn: What discussions have taken place with the new entrant countries? When enlargement of the European Union goes ahead, transport systems across the continent will be fundamental to welding the new Europe together. What role have new entrants played in producing the proposals before us today?

Mr. Spellar: A considerable role, I believe. It is partly to do with their own domestic transport infrastructures which, as a result of their previously inadequate economies, are in a fairly dire state. Additional pressures will also be placed on the transport infrastructure of countries bordering the new entrants. Austria and, to some extent, Germany are concerned about the additional burdens on their transport systems and want to ensure that adequate rail links for freight are in place in preference to placing extra burdens on road systems. In the border between northern and southern Europein the Alps and to the immediate eastsignificant pressures are exerted on the roads and the local environment, as the reopening of the Mont Blanc tunnel showed.

Norman Lamb: I should like to discuss train safety, particularly the proposed introduction of the advanced train protection system. The European requirement is for installation across the trans-European network, while the Cullen requirement is for installation on a much broader range of trackall high-speed routes, as I understand it. Has an estimate been made of the difference in costs between installation on the trans-European network and the much broader Cullen requirement for installation on all high-speed tracks?

Mr. Spellar: I am not sure that we have yet put a figure on it. I recognise the importance of the hon. Gentleman's question. If I recall correctly, it is addressed in the Select Committee's report and we shall deal with it in our response. We welcome moves towards greater safety and towards interoperability on systems across Europepart of creating a single European market. We also have to examine cost-benefit considerations and time scales.

Mr. Michael Jabez Foster: May I ask my right hon. Friend about rail links in the south-east? According to the map, a route is to be developed along the south coastseemingly in line with the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch model railway. Is that a mapping error, or will there be a link between the south coast and the Ashford terminal?

Mr. Spellar: I thought that the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch railway, along with the Hythe royal military canal and the Martello towers, was a key part of our defence installations.

Column Number: 15

The map relates to the trans-European networks. In the UK, we are looking in particular at the lines that run to Ireland and that link up with another European country. As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mrs. Dean), whether a line is on the map relates not to whether it is important to a particular area, but to whether it is seen as part of the trans-European network. We shall consider that again in 2004 and we shall have to take into account a number of local sensitivities to try to ensure the presence of some lines on the map. Of course, by that time, they may have acquired greater significance than they had when the original map was drawn up.

Mr. Pickles: Paragraph 14 on page 9 of the Select Committee report relates to train protection systems. The Committee estimates that 1.5 billion would be required to install the second and third levels of the European rail traffic management system. It talks about achieving full interoperability for 3 billion, which it says is prohibitive. Surely the point is that the position here is different from those of continental railways in that high-speed and freight services often share the same lines. Is that why we are talking about so great a sum of money in this country?

Mr. Spellar: We have not estimated the costs of interoperability on the trans-European rail network. We will obviously consider the technical specifications that are drawn up. At the same time, we must ensure that we conduct a proper cost-benefit analysis and that the cost of the system is not above what would enable it to be sustainable. We must have discussions about how to achieve the required level of safety, but at the same time we must ensure that that is sustainable with regard to running an effective rail system.

Jim Dobbin: Some time ago, I asked a Transport Minister in the Chamber a question about investment in railfreight as compared to that in road haulage and when that would be equalised, and I was immediately called in by the north-western branch of the Road Haulage Association. I understand that, in some European countries, the road haulage and rail people work together to their mutual benefit. Do the Government encourage such teamwork between those two groups?

Mr. Spellar: Yes, I do. In discussions, I have found road hauliers to be open to an increase in the use of rail for carrying freight. After all, for many hauliers whose loads have to go by road because of where they come from or go to or the nature of the route, nothing is more frustrating than being held up in traffic jams that are caused partly by loads that need not be on the road and would be carried more appropriately by rail. There is a far more sophisticated approach to the proper use of rail for carrying freight than may be imagined by those who are not engaged in those discussions. The latter sometimes regard these interests as antagonistic, whereas in fact those who are involved with the industry recognise their complementarity.

Mr. Francois: Returning for a moment to the point about train protection systems, paragraph 13 on page 8 of the report points out that the UK's automatic train protection system is not compatible with the

Column Number: 16

European train control system that the Commission talks about under its directives. We therefore face the prospect of going through the exercise twice, first with our automatic train protection system and then with another system as required by the Commission. The recommendations state that all 100 mph lines should have the European system by 2008 and that all trains running at above that speed should be similarly protected by 2010. What is the Government's position on the incompatibility between those two systems, which threaten to burden us with a tremendous cost?

Previous Contents Continue

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 13 March 2002