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Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: I certainly support the objectives of the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. Would it not be wonderful to board a train, as one used to be able to do on the north coast of France, and get into a carriage marked "Dover, Paris, Rome" and just be moved around the system so that you started the journey in Manchester and ended it in Rome? Such long journeys, particularly for tourism purposes, would bring quite different categories of passengers back onto the railways.

That is a rather frivolous response to a serious amendment but nevertheless, it has an extremely attractive and important aspect to it.

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: I have some sympathy with the amendment's intention in relation to Channel Tunnel services, even if I do not accept that the provision should be added to the Bill. It is right that the SRA should have a strategy which would best serve rail travellers and freight operators seeking to get to the Channel Tunnel from beyond London. We have recognised that by explicitly providing for the authority to be under a duty to prepare such a strategy.

Considerable thought is being given to the best resolution of the regional Eurostar question. The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions commissioned the Arthur D Little report, which was released in February. The British Railways Board is currently exercising its functions under Section 40 of the Channel Tunnel Act 1987 to prepare a plan stating the measures which should be taken for Eurostar services serving various parts of the UK and it may take account of the ADL report in its considerations. The SRA will then have a duty to prepare a strategy under Clause 205(4).

We want to give the authority the flexibility to consider appropriate ways of meeting changing demands for cross-Channel travel. It may be that it will conclude in accordance with its Clause 205(4) duty as currently formulated that direct regional Eurostar services or an additional freight link should be provided. But it may also include considering how regional passengers and freight operators could benefit from better integration of domestic and international services. Indeed, we are encouraging domestic train operators and Eurostar (UK) Limited to ensure that convenient through-ticketing is developed for passengers travelling to the Continent from outside the South-East. In addition, by 2007 regional rail users will be able to travel on high-speed trains into Euston and King's Cross for easy connections to international services departing from St. Pancras.

The SRA will also want to be able to consider the best use of the available capacity on the national network, and whether economic, social or environmental benefits would justify a subsidy to certain international through services. It will also have

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to recognise that certain parts of the country cannot be served by direct through services, as the ADL report confirmed.

The original clause here provides for a strategy that will address actual passenger and freight needs and certainly does not preclude the operation of regional services through the Channel Tunnel.

On freight, there is already an established international freight market through the Channel Tunnel which originates from throughout Great Britain. The recent decision by the Transport Council to liberalise access for international freight operators across member states' networks should strengthen the growth in that market. What is needed is a strategy which can help augment growth in this market. The original clause provides for such a strategy and would accompany the strategies developed under Clause 205(1), which would include reference to the promotion of freight traffic on the network.

We want the SRA to be looking widely at all options for encouraging international traffic and not tie it to securing international services if it does not consider that to be an appropriate option. I hope, then, that my noble friend will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Berkeley: I am grateful to my noble friend for that very full explanation. I believe that he has satisfied me on nearly every count. I shall certainly read Hansard carefully. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 205 agreed to.

Lord Berkeley moved Amendment No. 286:


    After Clause 205, insert the following new clause--

PERFORMANCE MEASURES AND MINIMUM STANDARD LEVELS

(" .--(1) The Authority shall publish regular performance measures on all scheduled passenger services.
(2) For franchised services, the Authority shall maintain a public performance measure covering all scheduled services.
(3) For services not subject to franchising agreements, the Authority shall procure from operators and their employing authority equivalent information and publish it alongside those of franchised services.
(4) For international services, performance information applies to the UK part only.
(5) Exemptions from performance measures may be granted to heritage railways.
(6) The Authority shall publish minimum standard levels for each franchise operator together with levels of performance at which penalties apply and at which a franchise holder may be--
(a) deprived of his franchise, or
(b) prevented from applying for other franchises for specific periods.").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 286 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 286A. My concern in tabling the amendment is that in the past I have perceived a great gulf between what the previous government and the franchising directors have said about what a wonderful passenger service they were creating and what it is like to travel on such a service.

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We are getting better now at measuring delays, cancellations and overcrowding. However, one still reads pretty horrendous stories. I am a little concerned at the response from my noble friend to a Written Question I tabled which asked what levels of poor service to passengers would exclude franchise operators from being awarded new or extended franchises. My noble friend responded, stating that past performance is one of many criteria that will be taken into account. Is that enough?

The SRA has recently put on its website a rather better and more comprehensive performance measurement, certainly of cancellations and delays. I thought that it would be useful to try to structure an amendment to put that on the face of the Bill. I refer to paragraphs (1) and (2) of Amendment No. 286. I hope that it will also include overcrowding, which can be solved simply by building more trains. That may sound trite, but I think that is so.

I also think the provision should be extended to services which are not subject to franchise agreements. I refer, for example, to Heathrow Express. I expect it is very reliable but there is no reason why the SRA should not report on it. It should be required to provide reports. I refer also to Eurostar. I suppose I tabled the amendment having got up early one morning to catch the 6.15 train from Waterloo only to find that it had been cancelled. I wondered who measures and publishes performances of the Eurostar trains.

I felt that heritage railways should probably be exempt. Then I thought that, possibly in paragraph (6) of the amendment, there must be a standard below which the franchisee should not, under any circumstances, be awarded another franchise. I do not know what that standard would be. However, if we are to attract more people on to the railways, we should give them information, comfort and the knowledge that they will get from A to B with as much reliability that we can achieve.

I turn briefly to Amendment No. 286A. This idea goes back to Amendment No. 283, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, concerning unmet needs for railway services. The Railway Reform Group produced an interesting document suggesting that many more people would be attracted to using the railways if there was a clockface departure timetable throughout the day, including the rush hours.

That happens in the Netherlands and Switzerland. It has proved extremely successful in attracting more people to rail on the basis that they do not need to consult a timetable. For people who are not used to them, timetables can be difficult to read. If trains to London, Manchester or Derby depart at a certain time past the hour or half hour throughout the day, that would provide a useful means of attracting more people to use the trains. This adds to the matters which the Strategic Rail Authority should be considering to encourage more people to use rail. I beg to move.

Earl Attlee: I rise to speak to Amendment No. 287, tabled in my name, in this grouping. Clause 206(2) sets

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out the objectives of the authority in exercising its functions. It includes the promotion of through ticketing between passenger service operators. However, it does not appear to cover through ticketing across different forms of transport. The amendment makes explicit the need to promote such through multi-mode ticketing schemes. It also provides for the promotion of integrated information and ticket booking facilities.

The integration of information and booking facilities is a vital element in a modern, integrated transport system. With the sophisticated technology now available, it should be possible for passengers to obtain from one outlet information as to the scheduled times of trains, up-to-date information on their running, the range of fares and the cheapest fare for the particular journey, similar information on the bus and other connections and the ticket itself. It should be a major task of the authority to encourage such systems.

11 p.m.

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: These amendments all have the laudable aim of making journeys easier and standards more transparent. For various reasons though we consider them unnecessary or undesirable.

I shall start with the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Berkeley. He is totally right that good information about the standards that the railway service providers are delivering is worth while, even though I do not agree that the amendment itself would be helpful. The shadow Strategic Rail Authority publishes regular bulletins of performance information, including the standards set and outputs against them. It has set a public performance measure for franchised services which includes the performance of all trains, on all days, with no exceptions. That is a clearer, more meaningful measure than the previous Passenger's Charter.

Franchise agreements include a threshold level of operational performance below which the franchising director has the power to terminate the agreement automatically. And franchise operators' current performance is a key factor that is being taken into account by the shadow SRA when considering bids under the franchise replacement process. Obligations to publish performance information for franchised services, and to take current performance into account when re-negotiating existing franchises, are included in our instructions and guidance to the franchising director. We expect to publish similar requirements for the SRA.

The existing level of standard setting, monitoring and reporting in respect of franchised operators therefore already covers what my noble friend wishes to put in the Bill. I do not believe that the amendment is necessary. Moreover, to add this level of detail to the Bill would be restrictive. The details of publication of information is properly a matter for the SRA to manage, with any directions and guidance from the Secretary of State as he may deem necessary.

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The amendment also covers non-franchised services and for those a different set of circumstances applies. There will not be the same public interest, in a regulatory sense, to put a requirement on the authority to publish performance information on a statutory basis. That is consistent with the position in other transport industries such as aviation.

Amendment No. 286A is rather different in nature and would mean that, when promoting through journeys by rail, the SRA would also have to promote what are known as "clockface timetables"; that is to say, timetables and connections on the basis of regular patterns of service. The SRA will be a strategic body. Because of its responsibility for franchising, the SRA will have a major influence on the timetable. Franchisees must deliver a timetable that incorporates the agreed passenger service requirements (PSRs), including connections where those are franchise conditions. However, it would not be appropriate for the SRA to have the specific duties in respect of the timetable contained in Amendment No. 286A. That level of detail is for the industry to undertake within the regulatory and contractual framework.

At a more practical level, services should relate to demand rather than a specified regular pattern. Co-ordination of a regular timetable on a national basis would be an onerous task, with no guarantee of success. Regular patterns may disadvantage customers on less well used services. Where a regular pattern of service is desirable, the industry's timetable planning process should be sufficient to achieve the benefits for the passenger. The National Timetabling Conference, set up by the industry after the first Rail Summit, is providing a mechanism for balancing the previously fragmented process for timetable planning. The important thing is to maximise capacity through good "slot management".

Amendment No. 287 would mean that when promoting through journeys by rail, including through ticketing, the SRA would also have to promote inter-modal ticketing and the integration of the railway information and ticket booking facilities. I welcome the approach to integrated transport of Members opposite. Under Clause 204(c) it is a primary purpose of the SRA to contribute to the development of an integrated transport system. There is therefore no need to specify on the face of the Bill all the aspects of integration to which the SRA is to have regard.

I can assure noble Lords opposite and my noble friends that integrated ticketing and integrated information are a vital part of integrated transport. The SRA will promote such schemes, which are growing in number. For example, we have asked the franchising director, when he examines franchise replacement bids, to give due weight to the extent to which integrated transport measures both within the rail network and between rail and other transport modes can be achieved, including integrated public transport information.

As regards integrated ticketing, my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey referred in Grand Committee to examples of multi-modal ticketing

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schemes in over 130 towns and cities, so such schemes are already quite commonplace. We should like to see them extended. As for integrated information, later this year we shall be launching a single telephone service to give people timetable information on all forms of public transport. That will meet another of the commitments in our transport White Paper.

I fully understand the points made by noble Lords opposite that, having moved towards integrated ticketing and integrated information, the next step is to bring the two elements together to provide passengers with a one-stop shop.

Commercial factors are already encouraging train operators to address the problem that rail information and ticketing is not readily available from a single source. A number of train companies' Internet sites already provide a combined information and booking facility. Examples of online booking services offering discounted tickets and information include those offered by First Great Western, First North Western and Virgin.

As far as concerns government action, a single telephone service for public transport timetable information is a good start. We shall build on this in the future, continuing to work with operators and local authorities to exploit the Internet. The Government's objective is a comprehensive travel information and retailing service. In the light of my response, I hope that noble Lords will not press their amendments.


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