Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200
WEDNESDAY 30 JANUARY 2002
200. And this has all been coloured by a previous
gentleman from Railtrack, who gave us evidence saying that it
did not really make any difference anyway, and that it was not
accurate; he was, of course, only the Managing Director?
(Mr Bowker) I think an asset register is important;
if you are going to ask third parties to form a view on interface
management and taking a risk then it is important that they do
know what those interfaces are.
201. So the lack of one is one of your problems.
EU Directives; are they going to cause you any problem?
(Mr Bowker) No; it is not really a question of problems.
Again, they are matters to be dealt with. We do have the Inter-Operability
Directive, which is being factored into our planning.
202. And the money is there for that?
(Mr Bowker) The main plank of the Inter-Operability
Directive, is ERTMS, where there is money in the Plan for scoping
and for pilot schemes, for trialling schemes.
203. Scoping; what is your definition of the
(Mr Bowker) Scoping, with respect to looking at the
operational and technical feasibility of the project.
Andrew Bennett: But not doing it.
204. But not doing it, just looking at it?
(Mr Bowker) At this stage, the group that has been
set up to look at what the proper implementation and timescale
for ERTMS might be has not formed a view. There is not a workable,
operational scheme in existence that we can go and buy. So we
felt it was inappropriate to speculate at that level of lack of
information. But a lot of work is going on, to address those questions.
Chris Grayling: It is a multi-million-pound
205. And safety; how far is the money in for
the Uff-Cullen proposals?
(Mr Bowker) There is not substantive funding for the
implementation of Uff-Cullen; but that is tied up very much with
the ERTMS proposals. What there are are all the monies necessary
to secure the completion of TPWS, which is a major safety scheme
and will deliver major enhancements to safety on the railway.
206. In answer to Mrs Dunwoody, you said you
were not sure whether one or two of the companies could only make
a profit because their trains were overcrowded. It has been put
to me that at least one company can only really make a profit
by going on using the slam-doors right up to the last possible
moment, because if they had to move to new rolling-stock it would
wipe out any prospect of profit. Are you worried about that?
(Mr Bowker) I am not sure it would change any practical
effect, because the programme to get Mark 1 replacement rolling-stock
207. It is slipping, is it not?
(Mr Bowker) The programme to build the trains is under
way, and it is a programme which I believe the industry is up
to meeting the challenge of, but there are not huge great swathes
of slack in it, so it will need very tight management controls.
208. And are you in a position to put some pressure
on them to get on with bringing them in?
(Mr Bowker) The best pressure they have is the fact
that the train operators are the duty holders of the operator
safety case, and it is an obligation on them to comply with the
regulations to replace Mark 1 rolling stock.
209. So it is a duty to bring them in, in the
end, but the speed with which they bring them in is not laid down,
(Mr Bowker) To deliver it by 31 December 2004 is a
challenging time frame but a deliverable one, in the view of the
210. Lastly, are you in regular discussions
with Lord Birt about the future of transport in this country?
(Mr Bowker) I have a meeting arranged to see Lord
Birt on 8 March.
Chairman: It is nice to know that you are going
to get the chance to meet him, Mr Bowker. Perhaps you would like
to come back and tell us what he says, after that. Thank you very
211. I am going to have to ask three questions
in one. Do you stand by the strategy to attract private sector
funding in the Strategic Plan?
(Mr Bowker) Yes, I believe it is absolutely right
to seek private sector investment.
212. Are you aware that, as of January this
year, 18 of the 25 Train Operating Companies face losses of £120
million? It was put to us by the Department earlier that they
were actually coming to you to ask for more subsidies. Now I cannot
understand, if they are seeking more subsidies from you, how,
at the same time, you can seek investment into these strategic
projects; can you explain?
(Mr Bowker) I have heard these numbers bandied around,
of £120 million, but they were done by independent assessors,
and I have not seen the basis of them, so I cannot comment on
the number. There is no doubt that since Hatfield and since September
11 many operators have seen significant damage in terms of income,
and I think it is actually to some of their credit, actually,
that they have been able to stay very focused on delivery the
way they have. We will always engage in discussions with train
operators where they feel there is a need to. What I want to see
is train operators who actually want to be in this market; there
is absolutely no value in having operators who are surviving by
their fingertips, because that is a bad way to have a partner
in a relationship. So, to the extent that they want to engage
in dialogue, we will.
213. Okay; but you have not actually answered
the question, whether they can still, while receiving subsidies,
apply for more subsidies from you, how they would be in a position
(Mr Bowker) Well, because I do not think they are
connected financial flows. I do not see the Train Operating Companies
in the future having the major lead role in the raising of equity
or debt for private sector investment, so I am not sure that the
particular subsidy line that they have is a major determinant
on our ability to raise private sector finance.
214. And a final question. Arriva, obviously,
were fined very heavily for replacing the train service between
Thirsk and Newcastle by a bus service; what is the position if
their passengers are disadvantaged, as they have been on four
days, so far, probably, by the beginning of February, through
a rail strike? What penalty will you impose on them for something
which is beyond their control?
(Mr Bowker) Sorry; something that is beyond the passengers'
Chairman: If they are bad at industrial relations,
are you going to fine them?
215. Or if the unions hold them to ransom, I
(Mr Bowker) In order to create a balanced position
between the train operators and the unions and their staff, where
there is clear industrial action, we have taken steps to relieve
some of the performance regime payments, so that the Train Operating
Companies are not hit twice. If that were the case, it would be
less likely that we would get resolution of these problems, not
216. Thank you very much indeed for being so
open, Mr Bowker. Doubtless, when you have had one or two of your
encounters with people like the Lord Birt, you would like to come
back and talk to us again?
(Mr Bowker) Thank you very much indeed; thank you.
Chairman: Thank you.