Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160-179)|
WEDNESDAY 19 JUNE 2002
160. Can you give us an assessment of the situation
in and around Manchester that we have just been hearing about
from a Railtrack perspective?
(Mr Armitt) The situation in and around Manchester
which is clearly one of the largest and busiest cities and therefore
it is operating at near capacity.
(Mr Clarke) The issue principally in the Manchester
area is one of capacity at the peak times with the morning and
evening flows of traffic. At other times there is spare capacity
in the Manchester area. There is certainly a significant issue
at that time relating to the number of trains which pass through
the Manchester corridor.
161. What can be done to ease that problem in
a realistic timetable?
(Mr Clarke) Infrastructure changes to ease that congestion
situation would be difficult in the short term. The obvious issue
is capacity of the trains themselves which would increase the
passenger carrying capacity in that area without taking up additional
162. We mentioned the possibility of transferring
some lines to the Metrolink and therefore removing services altogether
from Piccadilly. From what you know, is that a viable possibility?
(Mr Clarke) No, the discussions we have currently
going on with the PTE relating to Metrolink at the moment would
not affect the issues relating to the Manchester corridor into
Manchester Piccadilly. It only relates to the Oldham line.
163. One of the previous witnesses actually
said quite clearly that it was not a question of the capacity
of the rolling stock but co-operation in the way that the train
paths were organised. Do you think that is not the case?
(Mr Clarke) In certain areas of the network in Manchester
it is a capacity issue because of the number of trains at a particular
164. So it is both the rolling stock and the
capacity. How long have you been debating this with the operating
(Mr Clarke) In respect of . . . ?
165. Better paths, better co-operation.
(Mr Clarke) We are in constant discussions with the
operating companies about how we path trains through to maximise
the infrastructure which is currently there. It is an issue at
the peak times. In principle there is spare capacity at other
(Mr Armitt) I spent yesterday and today in Blackpool
with train operating companies.
166. We all have great excitements in our lives.
I am sure that was one of them.
(Mr Armitt) Agreed. The train operators and the Railtrack
people are having a conference which involves all the train operators
and all our train planning people at which they sought out the
issues which you are referring to.
167. Would you like to give us a detailed note
of the conclusions of that?
(Mr Armitt) The conclusions of that will not be known
for several more months, because it is a discussion which leads
to the summer and winter timetables for 2003-04. These discussions
are held in detail, train paths are agreed almost in a sense of
a consensus of negotiation between the various train operators
and our ability as Railtrack to satisfy the very often conflicting
demands of different train operators in an area.
168. Yes, consensus of negotiation seems to
me to be to see more.
(Mr Armitt) We try to agree. On occasions we actually
have to say, sorry, that is it.
169. Are you saying that it would not be possible
to create extra train paths at peak times by taking one or two
suburban lines and putting them into the Metrolink network rather
than the heavy rail network?
(Mr Clarke) It is not going to make a significant
difference at the moment.
170. Given where we are in the franchise process,
and we have been hearing about the urgency of getting that sorted,
but also some of the issues within it, can you tell us where you
are in terms of discussions with Network Rail about the future?
A number of the franchise processes require very tangible commitments
about service enhancements and by definition infrastructure enhancements.
(Mr Armitt) We as Railtrack are not in discussions
or negotiation with Network Rail. Mr Rollings as the Administrator,
can probably bring you up to date with where the transfer to Network
Rail has got.
171. Not even operational discussions?
(Mr Armitt) No.
(Mr Rollings) Railtrack PLC is not in negotiations
with Network Rail. Network Rail is in negotiations with Railtrack
Group for the purchase of the shares of Railtrack PLC. As we sit
here today, nothing has been signed, no agreement has been reached;
although agreement is close, it is not quite signed. When it is
signed, if it is signed, then there will be a number of steps
172. Wait a minute Mr Rollings. You have to
have some pity on those of us who are simple creatures.
(Mr Rollings) By all means.
173. It is closed, but not signed, but if it
is signed it will close.
(Mr Rollings) If agreement is reached between Network
Rail and Railtrack Group, there will be a number of further hurdles
which have to be gone through.
174. Yes. You are of the opinion, however, that
agreement has been reached.
(Mr Rollings) I think agreement is close to being
reached. I am not party to those particular negotiations, so I
cannot tell you exactly where they have got to.
175. But if operational discussions have not
started about future investment programmes, how they are going
to be financed, what they are going to be and when, do we have
any sense of how long that is going to be before those can start?
(Mr Armitt) The reality is that when all of this is
completed, Network Rail will acquire Railtrack PLC. We will then
have an integrated management of those members of Network Rail
who join in with the current Railtrack management. Railtrack management
has prepared its business plan during the last few months, going
forward. No doubt Network Rail will have been producing their
own figures. They are aware of our plan and therefore we would
expect to sit down very quickly and hammer out a common plan and
then to proceed inevitably with an application to the Rail Regulator
for a review of the funding available to Network Rail/Railtrack.
176. Who defines what is maintenance and renewal
as opposed to upgrade and enhancement. Who decides where that
(Mr Armitt) I think I would be correct in saying that
decision is essentially made within Railtrack. Maintenance is
maintenance of the existing asset. Renewal is renewal of the existing
asset, essentially in its current form but if there is some development
of technology then in what would be the current but new technology
when the capability of the network is enhanced. In other words
you can actually travel trains at faster speeds or at closer headways
or if we are increasing the capacity of the network and that is
what we would describe as enhancement.
177. How much of the West Coast Mainline can
be improved in a significant way through local improvements?
(Mr Armitt) The West Coast Mainline is in our current
forecasts, at least three quarters of it, if not slightly more,
as what we would describe as renewal. The upgrade to the West
Coast Mainline is essentially one of giving enhanced speeds and
giving greater capacity by being able to run trains more closely
178. Why does the line have to be closed for
18 consecutive weekends?
(Mr Armitt) The reason that we have sought to close
it for 18 weekends is to maximise the efficiency of the work which
is to be carried out and to meet our overall programme requirements.
If we were to carry on doing the work in the evenings and in short
possessions, it would simply spin out the time taken to do the
work and it would cost considerably more. That is why, as far
as possible, we will go for blockades through discussion and negotiation
with the train operating companies.
179. Is your decision based on time to bring
the improvements into effect or is it straight cost?
(Mr Armitt) It is both. We want to keep the cost down
of improving the West Coast; we should like to deliver it as quickly