Examination of Witnesses (Questions 190
WEDNESDAY 3 JULY 2002
Chairman: Good afternoon, ladies and
gentlemen. We have a little bit of housekeeping before we begin.
Are there any relevant declarations? Gwyneth Dunwoody, Rail, Maritime
and Transport Union.
Mrs Ellman: Louise Ellman, Transport
and General Workers' Union.
Miss McIntosh: Anne McIntosh, Eurotunnel.
190. Can I welcome you to our Committee this
afternoon? This is in no particular order of status and I hope
it will not be misinterpreted if I ask you to identify yourselves
from your right and my left.
(Mr Chapman) Good afternoon. John Chapman
from The Strategic Rail Authority, Freight.
(Ms Clarke) I am Julia Clarke from The Strategic Rail
Authority and I am Executive Director, Freight.
(Mr Welsh) I am Chris Welsh from The Freight Transport
Association and I am Head of Parliamentary Affairs.
(Mr Johnson) Good afternoon. I am Neil Johnson, Global
Logistics Manager for The Freight Transport Association.
191. If you agree with one another we would
be grateful if you did not say so, and if you disagree with one
another we would like you to say so. Do any of you wish to make
any opening remarks?
(Ms Clarke) I have a very brief warm-up, if I may.
Moving traffic to and from ports is a vital part of the SRA's
strategy and essential to achieving our 80% growth targets given
in the 10 Year Plan. At present about half of all rail freight
in the UK is port related and the movement of maritime containers
alone is expected to form nearly a quarter of the 80% growth.
In very general terms our aim at the SRA is to ensure that appropriate
and robust rail links to ports are provided wherever there is
sufficient rail business to generate the environmental benefits
required to balance the cost of investment.
192. Thank you very much. I think you will find
we will want to take you through some of the aspects of that.
I am going to start if I may with The Freight Transport Association.
What benefits would the European directive on increasing access
to ports have for your members?
(Mr Welsh) The directive will have two fundamental
advantages for UK business and the European port scene. The first
is that it will provide a considerable legal framework for the
industry to improve the quality of service and improve access
to ports and we are very keen that the full potential of the ports
industry is realised but, more importantly, that customers gain
the benefit of improved and enhanced quality of service. We believe
the directive will positively promote that. Is there anything
you wish to add to that, Mr Neil Johnson?
193. Before we go on to Mr Johnson I want to
ask you something. In the written evidence you talk about "very
poor levels of service" in many European ports. Perhaps you
could tell us where the levels of service are worse and which
operations provide poor service.
(Mr Welsh) Port services throughout Europe vary quite
considerably. The European Commission pointed to poor quality
service at ports.
194. Yes, but where did you as an association
find services were poor?
(Mr Welsh) We are members of the European Shippers'
Council and up until six months ago I was Secretary-General of
the European Shippers' Council.
195. We all have our crosses to bear, Mr Welsh.
(Mr Welsh) It certainly was. We developed our policy
on European ports by wide consultation of shippers throughout
Europe. In particular countries, such as Scandinavia, in France,
196. Which particular countries in Scandinavia?
(Mr Welsh) Sweden, for example, where there are still
restrictions on the ability to operate and provide port services;
there are still labour restrictions in those countries. There
are still labour restrictions and other restrictions in France
and more broadly in southern Europe where there was considerable
enthusiasm for the Commission's directive because that was seen
as the means by which we could deal with some of the problems
in poor quality services.
197. Is this the royal "we"? I am
not sure who "we" are in these circumstances.
(Mr Welsh) The European Shippers' Council but that
is European industry as users of freight transport services.
198. So the southern shippers were very enthusiastic
about it, were they?
(Mr Welsh) That is right.
199. You talk about a legal framework making
it easier. What part of the legal framework are you talking about?
(Mr Welsh) Shippers, both in Britain and in Europe,
want one single framework for the ports industry so that we have
equal conditions for access to markets and improved quality service
throughout the European Union. That is important especially for
UK exporters and importers because 50% or more of our trade is
with the European Union, and so the quality of port services in
terms of the overall supply chain is important both in this country
and in other ports throughout Europe.