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Earl Attlee: I have listened carefully to what the Minister has said about the amendment. I shall read Hansard even more carefully. He will not be surprised to hear that I shall probably return to the issue in due course, but in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 302 to 306 not moved.]

Clause 211 agreed to.

Midnight

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 307:


TENDERS AND FRANCHISE AGREEMENTS: RELEVANT CONSIDERATIONS

(" . After section 26 of the Railways Act 1993 there shall be inserted--
"Tenders and franchise agreements: relevant considerations.
26A. In preparing and issuing an invitation to tender under section 26 and entering into a franchise agreement the matters to which the Authority may have regard to, and make provision for in the invitation to tender and the franchise agreement, include the following--
(a) what arrangements the prospective franchisee has or will make with bus and other transport operators in respect of bus and other transport services that connect with the franchisee's services;
(b) what facilities the prospective franchisee will provide, and at what times, for carriage of cycles on trains and on any substitute bus service provided by the franchisee when a train service is not operating;
(c) whether a reservation facility is made available in respect of cycles;
(d) whether any fee is payable for carriage of a cycle and, if so, whether such fee includes carriage on any other train (including a train not operated by the franchisee) as part of the same journey;
(e) what facilities are available for the disabled;
(f) what arrangements the prospective franchisee has made or proposes as regards the matters set out in section 17(9)."").

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The noble Earl said: I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 316 and 357. The new clause would enable the authority to use the franchising process more proactively to promote and secure a truly integrated transport system. Too often, rail passengers find themselves stranded on arrival at the station, because there are no connecting services. Train operators should be encouraged through the franchising process to explore with bus and other transport providers the possibility of connecting services. Train operators should also make proper provision for disabled people.

Cycling as a means of transport is environmentally friendly and healthy and should be encouraged. The Government's downgrading of the previous government's targets for increasing cycle journeys was a retrograde step. It is difficult for cyclists to use trains, because there is not enough space and spaces cannot be reserved. Bus services laid on when track maintenance interrupts a journey do not allow for cycles. Cyclists often find themselves paying a fee for their cycle every time that they change trains.

Train operators should also be encouraged to make appropriate arrangements with Railtrack for the provision at the station of the facilities referred to in our proposed new Section 17(9) of the 1993 Act. As the authority dictates the terms on which the train companies operate, it should be encouraged to use the franchise system to address those issues.

Amendment No. 316 addresses operators' concerns about Schedule 17 and the uncertainties caused by giving the regulator more powers to change licences. It is a key to the financial viability of the train companies that the franchise agreements are fixed and cannot be changed unilaterally for the duration of the franchise. That gives operators and investors certainty, which is critical for making the significant long-term commitments that are necessary for ordering rolling stock. The amendment would provide that certainty and ensure that licences are not changed arbitrarily.

The Minister in the other place said that he had much sympathy with the amendment, but was unable to meet the concerns expressed. We committed ourselves to return to the issue. We hope that Ministers have reconsidered how they might address the concerns.

On Amendment No. 357, Section 17 of the Railways Act 1993 enables the regulator to secure access for an applicant to a railway facility, such as a station, and such facilities as ancillary services, whether provided or procured by the facility owner. The proposed new subsection provides that such ancillary services can include those listed.

If a transport system is to be truly integrated, people arriving at stations need information not only as to the train services but also connecting bus and other services. They need to be able to buy tickets which cover their entire journey, preferably by means of new technology which combines fare and travel information with the provision of a ticket. They need somewhere to wait in comfort and safety, especially at night. If disabled, they need good access and facilities.

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Those matters are relevant to the arrangements between train operators and Railtrack and it should be made explicit that they fall within the ambit of the regulator's powers in relation to access contracts. I beg to move.

Lord Berkeley moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 307, Amendment No. 307A:


    Line 27, at end insert--


("(g) what facilities are available for selling network rail tickets;").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 321 and the other amendments in the group.

I rather think that Amendment No. 307 moved by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, has a lot to commend it. But it is rather sad that he had to include all that information about cycles, mainly because the system for carrying cycles, as he said, is chaotic at the moment because there is no overall policy. My amendment was one way of trying to resolve the problem and his is another way. I expect that my noble friend will say that they are both unnecessary.

Perhaps I may just talk a little bit about cycles. As the noble Earl knows, reservations for cycles are necessary on some trains. On Virgin trains, it is £3 for a compulsory reservation. If you miss that train and want to catch the next one, you must pay another £3.

Thames Trains has some very good cycle luggage spaces. You do not have either to reserve or to pay for them. You just cannot use them in the rush hour. That is probably reasonable, given the crowds.

I am tempted to follow the example of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and read out a long list. I have a lovely leaflet produced by the National Rail Guide called Cycling by Train which tells you all about every train operator, including those who are not franchised, like Eurostar and Heathrow Express. It tells you what you can and cannot do. I shall not do that at this time of night. But it is a very good guide. I do not know how you obtain those leaflets if you are not a parliamentarian. I believe that the laissez-faire attitude of the past five or six years on cycles must be changed so that there is a policy. The SRA should be under a duty to enforce a policy which is consistent and intelligible to those who might wish to take bicycles on the train.

Amendment No. 307A deals with facilities available for selling network rail tickets. Again, it is back to the same old question of the ease with which one can buy a ticket. If you go to Oxford, like I do, there are two options: Thames Trains or Great Western. Thames Trains fines you if you do not have a ticket before you board the train. It is a £10 fine if you get caught before Reading and nothing afterwards. Great Western welcomes the purchasing of tickets on the train. Who, apart from aficionados like me, would know that?

It is even better because, after five years, Thames Trains has brought in a slot machine which enables you to use a credit card to buy a ticket, which is quite useful. The French have had that network-wide for at

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least 10 years. But, of course, you cannot buy senior citizen railcard tickets from the machine so you have to queue for those tickets. I could go on about this for a long time.

Half the trouble, and it applies to buses as well, is that those who make the rules do not buy the tickets. I have a very interesting Written Answer from the Minister dated 29th June when I asked him how many employees of the rail regulator and the SRA in shadow form receive free or discounted rail travel tickets from train operators, because it goes without saying that those people will not need to buy their own tickets. The answer was four from the rail regulator and 39 from the Strategic Rail Authority.

Perhaps I have an odd way of looking at life, but I wondered how keen they would be to ensure that easy selling of tickets would be a number one priority for the new franchises. I ask the question but believe that noble Lords included should know how to buy their own tickets. They should not always go down to the House of Commons travel office. It is good practice to buy tickets. We should buy second-class and queue. We can then make a fuss about it when it does not work. I beg to move.

Lord Addington: I have listened to the debate and am convinced that important points have been raised. I find myself in considerable sympathy, particularly with the first amendment tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. I look forward with interest to the Minister's reply.

Lord Whitty: Amendment No. 307 would give a list of relevant considerations when the authority tenders for, or enters into, a franchise agreement. Many of the issues raised are clearly relevant to what the authority will have to take into account. However, here we are concerned with structures and powers. Those structures and powers already exist.

The first part of the appropriate structure is the directions and guidance from the Secretary of State, which already exist. They address franchise renegotiation and cover issues such as multi-modal travel, bicycles and disabled passengers. The second part of the structure is how the authority then translates both the directions and guidance of its duties under the legislation. Duties under the legislation consist of both the primary purpose under Clause 204 and the manner in which the authority exercises its function. Those are wide-ranging and incorporate the interests of all users, including, for example, disabled persons and bicycle users.

Members of the Committee may be unhappy about the way in which in the past the authorities have carried out their duties to take these matters into account. However, the powers and structures are there and augmented in the Bill. I should, perhaps, mention the amendment to the amendment, to which my noble friend Lord Berkeley referred, which relates to ticketing. I think that we all recognise some of the problems with ticketing to which he and others have referred. However, the arrangements for selling network tickets are licence matters which already

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apply to train operators. They are required to provide impartial and comprehensive information and ticketing systems. That includes giving passengers details of the cheapest, as well as the most direct and quickest, journeys available to them. Again, therefore, the structure and powers already exist.

I turn to Amendment No. 321 which concerns bicycles. The amendment provides for by-laws to be made. However, the powers already exist for the authority to regulate the conduct of those who wish to take their bicycles on the train. Again, therefore, the amendment provides for structures and powers which already exist.

Amendment No. 357 in this grouping is a comprehensive new clause which wraps together many of the issues raised. We are not convinced that the access contract would be the most appropriate place for this type of benefit. The access agreement is a bilateral contract between two parties. When a particular ancillary service is tailored to a particular contract, in those circumstances it may well be an appropriate medium for delivery.

However, many matters which have been identified in the amendment and discussed in the debate, for example ticket facilities, are more in the nature of general public interest rather than individual interest by the parties to the bilateral agreement. That suggests that the more appropriate way to deal with them would be either by the licensing system or a franchise. Such a provision would then be able to be applied across the network and enforced by the regulator. In other words, there are a number of different arrangements for securing the benefits described in the amendment. It would not be appropriate for the legislation to prescribe that they should all go into an access agreement as opposed, for example, to a licence.

Finally, Amendment No. 316, which is rather different from the rest of the group, would prohibit the SRA from seeking consent from the rail regulator for a reference to be made to the Competition Commission to seek modification of consumer protection conditions if the modifications related to matters already contained in a franchise. We have looked carefully at the operating companies' concerns that the SRA should not be able to reopen in a proposed licence modification consumer protection matters agreed or not agreed as part of the franchise replacement process.

Following representations we provided that only the regulator can modify a licence where the licence holder agrees. Where the licence holder does not agree, the SRA would need to obtain the regulator's consent for referral to the Competition Commission. The practical effect of the Bill therefore is that the position in reality will not be very different from that which applied under the Railways Act 1993. The rail regulator can already seek to modify licence conditions.

We therefore understand the train operators' concerns but consider that they are exaggerated. Licence changes relating to consumer protection are already in franchise agreements. The issues have rarely been raised so far and we see no reason why they

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should be more frequently raised in the future. Nor do we see a case for ruling out the ability to seek licence changes in the public interest. The SRA should be able to act where the regulator may act at present under the 1993 Act, with all the safeguards in place that this Bill provides.

I hope that on this rather disparate group of amendments Members of the Committee will accept my reassurances that, by and large, the Bill already covers such issues.


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