Examination of Witness (Questions 20-39)|
WEDNESDAY 23 JANUARY 2002
20. It has not been proposed by the planning
company with responsibility for the line. That is not quite the
(Mr Rees) I am sorry, I should have rephrased that.
That is quite right.
Chairman: First, Mr Rees, I apologise to you
because as soon as a division is called, I must suspend the Committee.
The Committee suspended from 4.38 pm to 4.45
pm for a division of the House
21. If there are no likely requirements from
the Commission to impose in any way the upgrading of the existing
network, is it simply therefore that the project cycle will be
covered by the Directives and by the proposals in the plan?
(Mr Rees) The answer to that is "yes". The
objective of the interoperability Directives was to try to create
an integrated rail network in the Community. One of the problems
that the railways in the Community face today is that, particularly
in the freight business, the fastest growing sector is the international
sector. The railways have all sorts of technical differences between
the Member States, and quite honestly for no good reason. What
we aim to do and what the Council and the Parliament have already
approved is to create a railway system that is much more linked
together, joined together. Not only would this improve the quality
of service but it would cut down the costs of the railways. Railway
equipment costs a fortune in comparison to the equipment used
on the roads. One of the reasons for this is that every railway
system tends to build its own equipment in penny numbers, and
this costs the earth. Unless we can get some degree of standardisation
into the railway sector, the railways will be in very great difficulty
to compete on an equal footing with the roads. As far as the UK
is concerned, obviously it would have been better if Brunel's
gauge was adopted throughout Europe. This is not the case in the
UK, as you know, Madam Chair, but that would have been much better.
Unfortunately, only Spain listened. We now have a system where
we have 4.8Ö as the standard gauge. The kinetic envelope,
the area around the train, varies and it is highly unlikely, with
all the tunnels, bridges et cetera that exist in the UK, that
it would ever be economic to change the infrastructure. What would
be sensible to think about would be when railway signalling systems
become life-expired, to try to adopt then standard signalling
systems which have much lower costs and would offer the opportunity
of much better operations across the national frontiers. The Eurostar
trains now carry five different signalling systems, which adds
considerably to their costs and also creates problems in terms
of maintenance and reliability.
22. One issue with the Channel Tunnel rail link
is that it is only a passenger route. What you are saying therefore
is that interoperability in freight must be practically impossible
because, if it not going to be applied to the existing network,
there is no freight carriage at all on the Channel Tunnel rail
(Mr Rees) I may be wrong but I believe that both sections
of the new Channel Tunnel rail link are suitable for freight traffic
but I do not think there are any plans to run freight trains as
yet. Anyway, leaving that aside, and it is only an observation,
in terms of freight business, of course freight business already
exists, or it did exist before the problems in Calais. At present,
the traffic is very reduced but the objective, as I understand
it, is to try to build up the freight sector, and it is already
interoperable, but the locomotives that are used are rather special
locomotives; the waggons can move from John O'Groats to the south
of Italy without any particular problems.
23. Can I move you on to the issue of interoperability
in terms of safety systems? How much of the UK rail network will
need to be covered by European standard safety systems, according
to your current estimate?
(Mr Rees) When you talk about safety systems, I imagine
that you are talking basically about signalling.
24. The ERTMS?
(Mr Rees) You have to remember that the European Rail
Traffic Management System - ERTMS - is a system basically designed
for very high-speed routes, routes running above 250 kilometres
an hour. The Channel Tunnel will have ERTMS. It also will be fitted
at level 1, the simplest level, on the West Coast Main Line when
the modernisation is finished and there is a possibility of moving
forward to a new phase, phase 2 or phase 3 later on. There is
no requirement in the Directives to convert the line to Southend
or to Ipswich to ERTMS. It might be sensible in the future, when
the signalling system is worn out, to use a variant of the ERTMS
system simply to reduce costs, but there is no requirement in
25. You say it might be sensible. You will be
aware that the British Government has said that a number of safety
systems, including ERTMS - and they have in fact just said that
ERTMS is going to be the preferred system rather than automatic
train protection - will be introduced on Britain's main lines.
Is it the case from the Commission's point of view that it is
not an appropriate system to use for that purpose, given the fact
that we are talking about 125 mph lines at most?
(Mr Rees) ERTMS is an automatic train protection system
in itself. The UK is adopting something I think called TPWS, which
is a lower cost variant of that, as I understand, which can be
upgraded later. Again, it is a choice that is open. Clearly, if
you wanted to and if the money was there, you could introduce
a system like ERTMS everywhere. The question is that this would
have to be a national decision because, under the requirements
of the Directive, it would hardly be likely
26. Are we talking about the Directive on Railway
(Mr Rees) There is no Directive on railway safety
as such as yet. We are talking about the Directive on interoperability.
27. That is just so we know what it is we have
28. This is the Directive from 1996 on railway
interoperability where you have this requirement that, before
you do anything, it has to be shown to be economic. It would not
be economic to introduce a very expensive system like ERTMS on
a line with only ten trains a day. You could do it if you wanted
to but it would cost you I do not know what per passenger.
29. But it would not be insisted upon. That
is the question.
(Mr Rees) No.
30. Are there any discussions taking place at
the moment on making the signalling and other systems on modernising
the West Coast Main Line compatible with other European systems?
(Mr Rees) They will be compatible. The West Coast
Main Line is starting off with what is termed phase 1 of ERTMS,
which is still lights that the driver sees when he moves along.
Then, at a later stage, it will move to an electronic radio-based
system, which will take the lights away and the driver, as in
a French or a German high-speed train, will see in front of him
an indication of the state of the route and the speed at which
he should drive. It will be compatible and the aim, as I understand
it, of the promoters of the West Coast Main Line is to gradually
introduce this over time.
31. That is phase 2 as well?
(Mr Rees) The ERTMS system is divided into different
phases which move up in terms of complexity. The lowest level
is level 1,on which the West Coast Main Line will start off, which
is a visual system. Above phase 2, you go to a system where the
driver receives signals which are transmitted from the track,
which tell him at what speed to drive, whether he should stop
or go forward, et cetera. Phase 3 is where you get a fully computerised
system which controls the whole route and you move away from the
fixed block, having the track divided into sectors and one train
per section. There is a computer programme which is constantly
looking at the track and keeping a distance between the trains.
So they start off on 1, then they move to 2, and I think the idea
is to move to 3 at some date in the future.
32. How do you view the current problems on
the rail systems in this country in relation to the developments
you want to see in the White Paper?
(Mr Rees) I think obviously it is very weak of me
to say that the problems are unfortunate. The Commission believes
that the best way to move forward with the railways, to exploit
the potential of the railways, is to open them up to the operators
from various companies. The difficulties that have occurred in
the UK have given us problems in terms of persuading certain other
Member States to accept that.
33. I cannot imagine why, Mr Rees!
(Mr Rees) I am afraid that is the situation. However,
we would like also to say that the UK has shown many positive
aspects as well since 1995.
34. You would like to, but are you going to?
(Mr Rees) Yes, I am, in the sense that the UK has
shown the fastest growth of rail passenger and freight of any
other Member State of the Community, and indeed this is one of
the reasons why we have the problem of congestion on the railways.
So the UK is a precursor, it is a forerunner, in moving forward.
Obviously there have been mistakes made but hopefully, I am sure,
lessons will be learnt from these mistakes. We follow the situation
in the UK and take account of it in coming forward with new railway
legislation. As I said, today the Commission has approved a new
package which will be going to the Council and to Parliament in
the next two weeks.
35. In the White Paper, pages 27 to 29, there
appears to be a complaint; you say that too many countries have
not separated the infrastructure from the train, from the server.
Are you aware that separation of track from train is in fact regarded
by many people as the cause of the major difficulty in the railways?
(Mr Rees) Yes, the Commission is aware of that. The
Directive that required a separation is the Directive, for what
it is worth, 440 from 1991. This particular Directive required
a separation at the level of management and accountancy. It did
not require a separation at the level
Chairman: Come now, Mr Rees!
Mrs Ellman: In the statement here, if I can
look at it, it states that, however, in too many cases there is
still no proper separation between the body which owns the infrastructure
and the body which operates the service. That is not accountancy,
Chairman: I would also remind you that a gentleman
called Karel van Miert is on record not in one speech but in many,
many speeches making it very clear that it was precisely that
separation that he thought was absolutely essential. In fact,
many people would say the mess we have here is a legacy of the
ideas that were being proposed at that time. However, that would
be prejudice - not much, but it would be.
36. Could you clarify what this means, in view
of the difficulties we are facing?
(Mr Rees) The Directive in question requires a separation
between the bodies that run trains and the body that runs the
infrastructure in the allocation of train paths on the system.
That was what the 1991 Directive was looking at. It did not require
a separation of ownership. What is happening now for instance
in France is that the French authorities are considering establishing
a part of the equivalent of the Ministry of Transport, Department
of Transport, in Paris as the body that will actually be controlling
the access to the rail system. It is not part then of the SNCC
or of the French equivalent of Railtrack, which is a nationalised
organisation as well. This is in keeping with the Directive. The
Directive was an attempt to allow a neutral allocation of space
on the track between different operators. This requires then that
the body that is undertaking the allocation of space is independent
of the train operators, because otherwise you would be in a situation
where, if you had, as in France now, the SNCC, which is the body
that deals with any application to have the right to operate on
the SNCC, clearly there is doubt there whether any request would
be treated neutrally or fairly. For this reason, the Directive
looked to create a separate body to allocate the space on the
system; it did not require you to separate off the management
of trains from the operation of the infrastructure.
37. It does sound a little confused. I hope
perhaps it will be clarified in due course. The Railways Forum
considers that it will cost between £7.5 billion and £8.5
billion to implement the rail measures in the White Paper. Do
you agree that is right?
(Mr Rees) I am sorry?
Mrs Ellman: The Railways Forum; they identify
that the proposal
Chairman: These are people who actually worked
or are working in the industry. It is a combination of experts,
all directly connected with the railways.
38. The Railways Forum breaks down the cost
and they assess: European Rail Traffic Management System, £3
billion; interoperability Directives.,£1.5 billion; noise
reduction, £3 billion; and other environmental requirements,
£1 billion. Would you think that is a fair assessment of
(Mr Rees) Are these in pounds or in euro?
39. I am afraid we talk in pounds here, definitely
pounds, Mr Rees.
(Mr Rees) I cannot make a judgment but it seems that
figure would be far too small for me.