Examination of Witnesses (Question Number
WEDNESDAY 17 OCTOBER 2001
60. Has that arisen now, because it has not
been used in the past literally up to now? Has something happened
in the last few weeks which is changing the Treasury's approach?
(Mr Coulshed) I am not sure about the last few weeks,
but what has become apparent is that people wish to replace rolling
stock which is needed in any event to provide services for the
growing number of people who want to travel on the railway. In
those circumstances, a guarantee is not such a difficult thing
to give because one way or another the rolling stock will continue
to be needed by whoever runs the franchise, including in the last
resort, if no franchisee could be found, by the
Chairman: I do not want to spend much more time
61. On the issue of staffing within the train
operating companies with two year franchise extensions, one of
the concerns which has been raised to me is that one of the consequences
of the two year extensions is that they will find it very difficult
to retain technical staff of whom there is a shortage in the industry.
When there are alternative employers with longer term prospects,
like the ROSCOs for example, the train operating companies will
not be able to hang on to key people for two years. Is that something
you have looked at in assessing the viability of the two year
(Mr Coulshed) I have not heard that point put in that
particular way before, I must say. It is something I would expect
train operating companies to raise in negotiations with the SRA
over a possible extension, or indeed over the terms of an entirely
62. In the press release the Department sent
out on 18 July, it said that Railtrack and the SRA planned infrastructure
up-grades on the East Coast Line in four phases, two of which
were the London to Leeds service improvementsextra trainsand
another one was station improvements at Doncaster and York. Is
it still the case that the new vehicle and the SRA will be exclusively
responsible for this, or are you asking the train operators to
partially pay for these improvements as well?
(Mr Linnard) The position has not changed since that
statement was made. Some work is continuing and will continue
because we are anxious that the fact Railtrack is in administration
does not affect the work which is being done on the ground. When
it comes to the subsequent phases of the East Coast up-grade,
that will be very much driven by the Strategic Rail Authority
working with Railtrack or its successor body and with third party
finance and project management skills. That still reflects the
63. Under the new arrangements, who will be
held criminally responsible in the event of a rail accident?
(Mr Linnard) Railtrack as it comes out of administration,
as it is in administration still has directors, and those directors,
subject to taking legal advice (I am not a lawyer) I would imagine
still have the same responsibilities that Railtrack directors
Chairman: I think if you could give us a short
note on that to satisfy Miss McIntosh. Mr Bennett?
64. When the Government was discussing the new
approach to franchising, was Sir Alistair consulted about that
before the announcements were made?
(Mr Coulshed) The new approach to franchising reflected
discussions that we had been having with people at the SRA, and
indeed representations had been made to the SRA and us over quite
an extended period. It does not just reflect that but it was not
something we had dreamed up with no opinion or evidence put in
from anywhere else.
65. So the fact that he thought it would not
work, you ignored that?
(Mr Coulshed) I am not sure that the way the new franchising
statement was publicised after it was issued quite represented
the truth of it and, in fact
66. You did think we were being unkind, did
you? You were misunderstood and misrepresented as "narrowly
focussed on franchise extension" nor "an abandonment
of the long- term" you think was a bit cruel, do you?
(Mr Coulshed) We do, but I am bound to say that so
many people expressed the same view that we think it is probably
our drafting rather than anything else.
67. Mea culpa from a large Department.
Welcome, Mr Coulshed!
(Mr Coulshed) I think that the policy as set out had
more aspects to it and was designed to be, as Mr Linnard was saying
at the start, more of a "horses for courses" policy
than people had properly understood it to be.
68. Moving on, the Strategic Rail Plan when
it is published, is that going to have to be based on existing
money or is there going to have to be some extra added in to make
(Mr Coulshed) The Strategic Plan will be published
next month and there is a Spending Review due in the first part
of next year. We are in discussion with the Treasury
69. That is a description on two facts, Mr Coulshed,
but they are not connected. Shall we start again.
(Mr Coulshed) We are in discussions with the Treasury
about what should be included in the Strategic Plan.
70. So is the Strategic Plan going to be limited
by costs, so it is not really going to be what is needed, it is
what can be afforded; is that it?
(Mr Coulshed) We hope it will be both.
71. But what is realistic?
(Mr Coulshed) It will in the end be limited by cost.
72. It will be limited by cost. Train protection;
is this still going ahead and how much is it going to cost?
(Mr Linnard) A train protection warning system is
being installed. There is a programme, there are deadlines imposed
by the Health and Safety Executive, and that work is proceeding.
73. How much is it going to cost? Do we know
(Mr Linnard) There have been different estimates.
The consensus seems to be around £300 to £400 million.
74. That money is guaranteed?
(Mr Linnard) That money is guaranteed. It is the highest
priority of Railtrack's investment outside the basic investment
in maintaining and renewing the network and it is also a legal
obligation on train operators to fit the rolling stock equipment.
Beyond that there is coming out of the Cullen recommendations
the European train control system, automatic train protection,
and there are requirements suggested by the report for when that
should be fitted, and there is an enormous amount of work going
on with the Health and Safety Executive and the industry to identify
a costed programme reflecting those recommendations. But I think
Ministers have been very clear that the costs of train protection
in the wider sense, including TPWS and automatic train protection,
that arise from the relevant reports will be brought within the
scope of the ten-year plan.
75. The Disability Discrimination Act; how much
is that going to cost for railways?
(Mr Linnard) We do not know is the answer.
76. What about getting long-term investment
on a large number of stations where you just cannot get on if
you have got mobility problems or you have got a push chair, and
things like that? Franchisees are the ones that have to do this.
Can you really expect someone with a short-term franchise to put
in major alterations to stations?
(Mr Linnard) It is a question for Railtrack and the
franchisees and a view has to be taken on what are reasonable
requirements arising from the DDA, what should reasonably be done
and over what timescale.
77. I have got a station in my constituency
which has got a footbridge which is very difficult to get a pram
across and impossible to get a wheelchair across. The alternative
is to cross the line, of which I am sure nobody would approve
(Mr Linnard) Access for disabled people is a priority.
What I am saying, though, is the way the legislation is written
does not mean that every station in the country has to be wheelchair
accessible within three years.
78. What does it mean then, it means it is a
priority but not for the next 20 years?
(Mr Linnard) It is a test of reasonableness.
79. Whose reasonableness?
(Mr Linnard) Ultimately the courts, and judgments
have to be taken. There is guidance, I understand there is a code
of practice to be published, about how much a station is used,
Andrew Bennett: It cannot be used, can it, by
disabled people if there are not the facilities there? How can
you measure it? What you are saying is if so many able-bodied
people use it then it has to be upgraded, but surely it is much
more important to look at the needs of disabled people who at
the moment cannot use particular stations. I notice you nodding
once or twice but we cannot get that on the record.
Chairman: We cannot get a nod on the record,
Mr Linnard, which may be the reason you are nodding.