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Lord Berkeley moved Amendment No. 15:



"(5) Regulations made under this section, to the extent that they provide for the investigation of railway accidents and railway incidents involving the obstruction of a railway by road vehicles, may provide for the Rail Accident Investigation Branch to give a direction requiring—
(a) works to be carried out on any road at or in the vicinity of the place where an obstruction occurred for the purpose of preventing further accidents or incidents at that place; and
(b) the highway authority responsible for that road or, where there is no such authority the owner or occupier of the land of which that road forms a part, to carry out or meet the cost of carrying out those works."

The noble Lord said: I am not sure whether the clause is the right place to propose such an amendment, but it seems as good as any and the amendment fits quite well in it. The amendment relates to a document that the Department for Transport issued in February called Managing the accidental obstruction of the railway by road vehicles. It contains a good code of practice about who does what, making

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sure that an incident does not happen again, and undertaking risk analysis on whether precautionary measures should be put in.

The document's conclusion on page 13 states that the lead agency is the Highways Agency, with all the costs shared 50:50. However, costs of railway possessions, which can be extremely high, are paid by the railways, and costs of road closures, which probably comprise something like a couple of non-lit signs, are paid for by the Highways Agency. That seems very unfair on the railways. By definition, the accidents are caused by vehicles going off the road. Why should railways have to pay when vehicles land on them?

My theory is that he who causes an accident should pay for it. The matter is particularly serious when we think of heritage railways, which are usually mostly run by volunteers. The thought of them having to pay half the costs of what the Highways Agency might decide was right would put some of them into liquidation. It seems very unfair.

My amendment is designed to enable the inspector to give a direction as to what needs to be done and who should pay for it. Perhaps "direction" is too strong; perhaps the amendment should mention "advice". Perhaps it should not suggest the accident investigation branch, but it probably should because the branch will have investigated the accident. It is right that the costs should generally be paid by the Highways Agency or highway authority, or that the RAIB should advise or direct on who should pay the cost of preventing an accident happening again, which is what we are talking about. I beg to move.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market: Perhaps I should declare an interest as chair of the Local Government Association's transport executive. Rather unusually, I find myself slightly at odds with the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. There is something rather unseemly and sordid about squabbling over costs after an accident has happened. Nevertheless, if it has been determined that a problem has been caused by a particular factor, and that remedial action is necessary, clearly the notion of who pays for what will rear its ugly head.

The Local Government Association has done a lot of work with the Highways Agency and Network Rail to come to an accord on how such work should be paid for in those circumstances. I would much prefer that approach, where the agencies work together on a case-by-case basis, rather than have provisions in the Bill such as the amendment that would automatically put the whole cost, which can be considerable, on to a particular highway authority. If it were the Highways Agency, I might have a little less sympathy, as it has a much larger budget. However, the cost could be significant for a small highway authority.

I beg the noble Lord's pardon, but the issue is not as simple as a car simply landing on the railway and that not being its fault. It is a question of development over many years in the particular topography, given that we have a transport system that has evolved rather than

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one that we would design if we were building from scratch. I would have trouble supporting the amendment.

Lord Berkeley: The costs are not inconsiderable for the railway—about 30 million a year according to the document. I hear what the noble Baroness says but, if a road vehicle is to be prevented from falling on a railway, surely it is the road vehicle that has to be constrained. The highways people who provide the surface on which it runs should constrain it.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The noble Baroness, Lady Scott, is of course quite right; she would be, given her position. Local authorities and the Highways Agency have done a deal with Network Rail and London Underground and agreed that it is appropriate for the costs to be split 50:50. Clearly there are cases in which the balance would be different if the costs were calculated on particular circumstances, but it is much better, as she said, not to have an unseemly squabble over money and simply to agree on a formula that appears acceptable. I hasten to say that the formula was not imposed by the Government.

The Bill already provides the power for the RAIB report to make recommendations about rail accidents involving road vehicles. To the extent that the RAIB feels that it has something to contribute so far as concerns road safety, it can already make such recommendations. However, it should not be for the RAIB to decide who should bear the costs of any recommendation. That should be decided according to the agreement to which we referred. The chief inspector will make her own professional judgment, based on her management experience and knowledge, to decide what is appropriate.

I may be misreading the amendment, but it should not be assumed that any accident on a railway that involves a road vehicle is entirely the responsibility of the road authority. After all, there are different sorts of level crossing, where railways have responsibilities as well on public roads.

Lord Berkeley: I am grateful to my noble friend for that explanation. It differs from what Network Rail told me—that it had been instructed by the Government to go 50:50—but I shall not take the matter further. I shall read what he said with interest. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 11 agreed to.

Clauses 12 to 15 agreed to.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Clause 16 [Transfer of functions]:

Lord Bradshaw moved Amendment No. 16:


    Page 8, line 8, at end insert ", saving duties concerning safety where the office should confine itself to the economic effects of safety regimes imposed on the railway"

The noble Lord said: The amendment suggests that the Government make the Office of the Rail Regulator responsible for the economics of the railway and not

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for its safety. I realise that the amendment may not be the most appropriate that could have been tabled. If the Minister agrees, I am more than willing to discuss an appropriate amendment with him.

In my campaign to have rather fewer cooks spoiling the broth, with the advent of the RAIB, I would like the Rail Regulator to confine himself to those aspects of safety that affect the costs of the railway, and for him to have no part in determining what safety measures should be adopted on the railway, what is most appropriate, and so on. That would curtail his activities so far as safety is concerned.

I propose that the regulator should fully take into account the safety requirements of the railway—fixing access charges, determining access agreements, and approving safety cases. He would obviously require that people had done those, but he would not have spent time and effort investigating safety. He has many other duties, such as the interim review of the access charges, which is now being undertaken. All that I am aiming to do is to simplify what, by any description, is a very over-complicated system. I am sure that it is right that the huge costs are one of the reasons why railway traffic and travel in this country is so expensive and emerging costs are so high. I am simply seeking to bring some simplicity to the system.

5.30 p.m.

Viscount Astor: Amendment No. 17, grouped with Amendment No. 16, is a probing amendment. I seek more information from the Minister about the Office of the Rail Regulator. After all, this Bill will cover England, Wales and Scotland. I am concerned that its focus will be—

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Tordoff): I am afraid that we need to suspend the Sitting for 10 minutes for a Division in the House.

[The Sitting was suspended for a Division in the House from 5.30 to 5.40 p.m.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: I think that we might recommence.

Viscount Astor: The Division came just as I started speaking. I shall start again because I do not remember where I was when I stopped. The purpose of this amendment is to probe the Government a little more about the office of rail regulation. Amendment No. 17 sets out various functions.

It is important that we note the monopoly of Network Rail, a body set up by the Government. As we know, it is a strange beast which is financed off balance sheet. However, it is the body that, as it were, will own and operate the track until the Government put forward their proposals to break it up or whatever.

However, the second part of my amendment is more concerned with the financial framework and the renewing and using of private finance and, indeed, public subsidy. People are concerned that the office of rail regulation would be the economic regulator, as pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw. We must ensure that its role is clearly defined and that

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there is no misunderstanding. Even looking at the schedules which relate to the office of rail regulation, I am not sure that it is clear and that there does not need to be some improvement. I am not necessarily saying that my amendments are exactly the right way forward, but they are along the lines that we are considering. I shall be interested to hear the Minister's reply.


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