Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200
WEDNESDAY 21 NOVEMBER 2001
200. Are you confident London Underground is
going to be able to keep the quality of skill to stand up to the
companies who are going to be doing the work?
(Mr Strzelecki) I am very confident that, if we can
create the climate where the railway is being improved and the
service it provides to the public is improved, and the tube is
not subject to constant criticism, people of good quality will
be prepared and willing and able to work in the underground, and
that is the kind of dynamic we need to create here with the PPP.
201. One of the problems at the moment is lack
of capacity at peak times, is it not; and you could argue that
some of the trains are certainly not really safe, with the number
of passengers they are carrying at peak periods? Is there going
to be some way of enforcing an improvement in peak performance
on the companies?
(Mr Strzelecki) First of all, I would have to say
that we have been running very crowded peak period trains for
donkeys years, decades and decades and decades.
202. I am not disputing that. The question is,
are they safe?
(Mr Strzelecki) I am sorry, Mr Bennett, but I must
challenge your assertion that it is not safe, they are safe and
they will continue to be safe. And, to answer the second part
of your question, about more peak period capacity, yes, the PPP
contracts require the upgrades that were talked about earlier,
and they introduce new capacity, insofar as technology will allow,
and that takes time because they are major investments.
203. So, the new capacity, is that going to
involve the same levels of overcrowding that there are at the
(Mr Strzelecki) Martin or Derek may have a view on
this as well, but my view is that, because the demand for travel
in London overall is at saturation, particularly in peak periods,
any capacity we provide, increased capacity, will fill up; that
is the nature of mass transit systems.
204. Finally, two questions about risk. Supposing
there is a major incident, that means that one of the big interchanges
on the underground is out of action for six months, or something
like that, who carries the risk on that?
(Mr Strzelecki) It would depend; you say a major interchange
out of action. If it was out of action because, for example, a
lot of the escalators were broken down and therefore we could
not safely operate that station, London Underground, the public
sector operating company, would shut that station, because it
was not safe to operate, and the financial penalties, which would
be very significant indeed, would be carried by the private sector
infrastructure company responsible for the maintenance and improvement
of that station.
205. Now what about one of the tunnels under
the river, supposing there were major problems with water coming
in; how would you apportion who was responsible for that?
(Mr Strzelecki) I need to check with Martin, because
that is not specifically a safety issue.
(Mr Callaghan) I think the answer is, it would depend
entirely on what caused the problem. If it is caused by failure
of the maintenance of that tunnel, it is exactly the same situation
that Mike just described; if it is something completely unexpected
then the answer is that, effectively, we stop paying the Infraco
for delivering that performance.
206. But that is too simply black and white,
is it not, that it is unexpected or it is a failure of maintenance?
There will be a substantial grey area in that; who is responsible
for arbitrating on that grey area?
(Mr Callaghan) There is a process for determining
207. I just want to let you go, but I want one
question answered. If one of the bids does not prove value for
money, what are you going to do then?
(Mr Smith) We will not accept it, and we will inform
Government accordingly. We are committed to going forward only
if this passes the two tests, safety and value for money.
208. Even though we are, quite clearly, not
sure what value for money is going to be?
(Mr Smith) We believe that we can assess value for
money sufficiently, and that others will be able to look at what
we have done.
Chairman: It is lovely to meet optimists, Mr
Smith. Thank you very much.