Transport CommitteeWritten evidence from Merseytravel (CTR 09)

1. Introduction

1.1 Merseytravel welcomes the Transport Select Committee’s inquiry into “Cable Thefts on the Railway”. This is an issue of growing importance across the entire network.

1.2 However through a combination of careful planning and implementation of pro-active measures we have been able to minimise the number of incidents affecting the Merseyrail Electrics network.

2. Background

2.1 Merseytravel is the combined Passenger Transport Executive (PTE) and Integrated Transport Authority (ITA) for Merseyside, and is the public sector body responsible for the coordination of public transport across the Liverpool city region with the exception of Halton. Working with our partners across the Districts and with the business community, our objective is to produce a fully integrated transport system which is accessible to all.

2.2 Together with our private sector partners, Abellio/Serco, we operate the Merseyrail Electrics network. Merseyrail is an urban network of vital importance to the transport infrastructure of Liverpool and the city region. Merseyrail runs almost 800 trains per day and carries over 100,000 passengers on an average weekday. The Merseyrail system is the most intensively used commuter network outside of London.

2.3 Merseyrail is also one of the most punctual and reliable railway networks in the whole of the UK and also tops the passenger satisfaction levels league table. Merseyrail has approximately 1,200 staff and operates 66 stations including four city centre underground stations giving easy access to work, shopping and leisure.

2.4 Merseytravel is unique in awarding a 25 year franchise for the operation of the Merseyrail network. This has led to the establishment of a long-term relationship between the franchise holders, Abellio/Serco, and Merseytravel. This unique public/private relationship has resulted in higher levels of investment in the network directed by local needs.

2.5 It is this type of local control that has meant that Abellio/Serco and Merseytravel have taken pro-active steps to deal with the issue of cable thefts.

3. Cable Thefts on Merseyrail

3.1 Over the past year, Merseyrail has experienced only four minor incidents related to cable theft. These were all related to people attempting to steal cables, copper etc.

3.2 However, in all four incidents, the actual theft was prevented and the thieves arrested. As a result, there have been no train service disruptions due to cable theft on the Merseyrail network.

4. Our Experience

4.1 In the first instance, we do not believe that cable theft should be seen as a stand alone issue. Instead, it is part of the same overall concern of dealing with the safe and secure operation of the rail network.

4.2 We have been able to introduce a number of initiatives which involve Merseyrail’s staff in helping to deliver a safe network. In particular, there is an active programme for all drivers on the network and they are trained to identify subjects or vehicles who pose a potential issue.

4.3 Over a long period of time Merseytravel and Merseyrail have fostered and developed a relationship with the British Transport Police (BTP). The importance of the role that the BTP plays in the safe operation of the network should not be underestimated.

4.4 The BTP, for instance, undertake an extensive range of neighbourhood policing which includes elements of behaviour on the rail network. This community work has improved relations.

4.5 A good example of all stakeholders working together is provided by the last incident prevented on the network. One of the train drivers identified a van driver as acting suspiciously near the network. This was called in to the BTP who immediately despatched officers and this led to an arrest.

4.6 There has also been a policy of “zero tolerance” of anti-social behaviour on the Merseyrail network for a number of years. A team of officers on the trains enforce bye-laws including travelling without tickets, “feet on seats”, the abuse of staff and so on. All trains have CCTV which is monitored and all stations on the network have Secure Station status. All stations, aside from just four, are also staffed from before the first train arrives until after the last train leaves. There are help points on all platforms and in some booking offices. These are linked to Merseyrail’s control centre where fully trained staff will be able to provide service information and help in any emergency situations.

4.7 In essence, a huge amount of time and effort has been spent by everyone at Merseyrail, Merseytravel and the BTP in tackling anti-social behaviour and working with communities across Merseyside. The effective operation of the system and its turn-around from being “Miseryrail” to one of the best performing railways in the country has also engendered local pride. This too has been beneficial.

4.8 In terms of the infrastructure of the network, efforts have been made to fence large sections. This has undoubtedly increased security levels.

4.9 Finally, it has to be noted that the line is electrified using a third rail system. The personal safety issues associated with this, the chance of electrocution, forms a large part of the messages delivered to local communities by Merseytravel, Merseyrail and the BTP. These personal safety issues also appear to put people off of straying onto the network and have, therefore, been a contributing factor in the minimisation of thefts on the network.

4.10 All these actions together have set a level of expectation by users and have contributed towards the overall look and feel of the Merseyrail network. The approach has not been silo-based but is instead centred on working with all relevant stakeholders in developing a locally tailored approach.

31 October 2011

Prepared 25th January 2012