Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
WEDNESDAY 5 JULY 2000
100. Are you going to reduce the track access
charges for freight operators?
(Mr Corbett) That is a matter for the Regulator which
he is considering as part of his review.
101. Do you think there is a case for doing
(Mr Corbett) I personally do not, no.
(Mr Corbett) Because the cost of running the freight
trains is more than the track access charges we are receiving.
103. I see and you do not see any growth in
the future in freight as being useful to Railtrack?
(Mr Corbett) No. We outlined in our network management
statement a series of scenarios for the growth of freight and
exactly what the various partiesus, the various operators
and Governmenthad to do and we awaiting the Strategic Rail
Authority's strategic plan for freight.
104. So EWS are wrong when they say your network
management statement is a missed opportunity to state a long-term
vision for rail freight growth?
(Mr Corbett) That is up to EWS to comment but it is
interesting in the last three for four months that EWS's forecasts
for the future growth of freight have come down quite significantly.
105. You have not helped them, have you?
(Mr Corbett) I disagree with that. We have provided
capacity for a 35 per cent increase in freight over the last four
years. We have enough capacity to accommodate a 15 per cent per
annum growth in freight over the next five years, so I think in
that sense we have.
106. But you have made it quite clear that you
want to make it more expensive. Anybody thinking about freight
has to weigh up where the Regulator will come down.
(Mr Corbett) Ultimately it is a matter for the Regulator.
We had to put out all the options, which we have done. In the
network management statement there is all the infrastructure upgrade
that would benefit freight with the various price tags. There
is a series of alternative scenarios and it is now coming to decision
(Mr Smith) Could I add, Chairman, that a lot of work
has gone on to look at the marginal costs of different sorts of
trains operating on the network and it is on that basis that we
think the variable usage costs associated with freight trains
should increase to reflect the wear and tear they impose on the
network. The issue of the level of charges for freight as compared
with passengers is something that the Regulator has to take a
view on, but if freight charges come down that income has to be
recouped from passengers through the franchise operators. So I
do not think there is a free ride here and it is a question of
reaching an appropriate balance between costs of passengers and
107. If the train operating companies who get
the new franchises put a lot of money into new rolling stock,
are they going to be assured that there will not be any delay
on the part of Railtrack in assessing whether or not there is
a safety case for the use of those particular bits of equipment.
(Mr Middleton) The answer to your question is, yes,
provided that the train manufacturers follow the procedures for
getting safety case approval.
108. Why should they not do that? I have recently
travelled on Corvadier where the people making the train wanted
to sell it, the people with the franchise wanted to use it, but
there appeared to be all sorts of delays which were nothing to
do with either group.
(Mr Middleton) My understanding of that situation
is that those trains are cleared to run on the Railtrack network.
The issue is between the train operator and the manufacturer.
109. I do not think that is right. We do not
want to get stuck on a particular thing, but I think that is factually
incorrect. What I would like to say to you is we must be assured
if the franchises are granted that Railtrack will not involve
the operating companies in unnecessary delay in putting new operating
stock on to the rail.
(Mr Middleton) Railtrack will not involve the operating
companies in unnecessary delay in approving the safety case for
the new rolling stock but we must establish that those trains
are safe to operate on the network before they come on.
110. What evidence have you that so far companies
are ignoring the proper provision of safety?
(Mr Middleton) I think you will find if you go through,
and I am quite happy to put a note to the Committee on this, most
classes of rolling stock that have come forward for approval are
now cleared to run on the network and the reason they are not
is because of unreliability problems in the rolling stock itself.
Chairman: I will accept a little note on that
from you, Mr Middleton. Gentlemen, thank you very much. You have
been very informative but I just have one urgent task from Ms
Miss McIntosh: I forgot to declare I have a
very modest shareholding in Railtrack.
Chairman: I am sure that is one of your best
111. Could I ask one last question. The Trans
European Network Project opened the bridge between Denmark and
Sweden in April. The West Coast rail project, and all the other
14 priority projects, when might it be completed?
(Mr Middleton) The West Coast?
(Mr Middleton) The current plan is to complete the
West Coast in 2005.
Chairman: Is there anything else you would like
to tell us about your shareholding? No? Gentlemen, thank you very
much indeed, it has been very informativeI think.