Examination of Witnesses (Questions 175
WEDNESDAY 12 JULY 2000
M GRANT AND
MR T JENNER
175. May I begin, Sir Alastair, by apologising
for keeping you waiting? When a Division is called in the House,
as you know, I have no alternative but to suspend the Committee.
May I ask you to identify yourself and your colleagues for the
(Sir Alastair Morton) On my right is
Mike Grant, Franchising Director and Chief Executive of the Shadow
Strategic Rail Authority. On my left is Terence Jenner, Solicitor
to the British Railways Board and to the Shadow Strategic Rail
Authority who has a rather wider role than the title might suggest.
176. May I ask whether you want to make some
(Sir Alastair Morton) Very few. We feel at the moment
we are getting to the end of the overture of this particular opera.
You could say it began with the Integrated Transport White Paper
and the Select Committee's report. The Bill will be law by the
end of this year we trust and we have been busy in shadow form
during the overture for more than a year. Now we are getting within
ten days of the Government's ten-year plan which will tell us
how much money we have. Very shortly after that the Regulator
will produce a final draft and then a final version of how much
money Railtrack has and both those are very important elements.
We are in the thick of the franchising now, we have produced a
map which shows the shape of things to come, rolling stock orders
have resumed and we would suggest about the end of November, but
there is nothing definite or magic about the date, we shall produce
our strategic plan to follow on from the Government's plan. Ours
will set out to prioritise investment in the system. We shall
be through all that and ready to go when the Bill passes into
law we trust.
177. We shall want to explore various aspects
of that with you. May I begin by asking you whether the Regulator
is placing too much emphasis on enforcement action in the way
he manages his relationship with Railtrack?
(Sir Alastair Morton) No, I do not think we would
suggest that. The Regulator has taken a view, which has quite
widespread support and as you may have noticed from various press
releases quite often explicit support from us, to sharpen up,
brace up the performance of those responsible for the network.
These things have side effects rather like crime in my native
country of South Africa: it is so different from what went before
that people think it is more shocking than it perhaps is. Nevertheless,
it has had a considerable effect on just about all the players.
As it shakes down and most particularly as the Regulator's five-year
review comes out and is digested and we see where we go from here,
as opposed to shadow-boxing around it, which has definitely been
happening, a rhythm will develop which will be a faster rhythm
than before what I call Tom Winsor's cattle prod.
178. Do you think his approach risks weakening
the company's ability to invest in the rail network?
(Sir Alastair Morton) I remember when the shares of
EuroTunnel were somewhere around £12.
179. So do we all.
(Sir Alastair Morton) Unless you were actually raising
money when Railtrack shares were at £17 it is of academic
interest only. There is no law of stock market or nature which
says their shares have to be at that level. The shares will be
where the market judges the circumstances to warrant them being.
Therefore Railtrack will raise money at the price that the market
is willing to give it. That is privatisation, that is capitalism.