Examination of Witness (Questions 100
WEDNESDAY 6 NOVEMBER 2002
100. I am surprised that a cost benefit analysis
is not in place at this stage. When would you expect something
like that to be completed given the detailed discussions which
are taking place in other organisations such as local authorities?
(Mr Steer) I am hopeful that the cost benefit case
will be developed in the not too distant future. I cannot give
you a precise date for that. It is certainly true that a great
deal of detailed planning work into the project is going on, some
of it in consultation with local authorities.
101. You did say you were going to publish a
freight strategy. Have you done so?
(Mr Steer) The freight strategy was published in 2001.
102. Then you said you were going to do regional
freight strategies. Where are they?
(Mr Steer) Indeed. We decided that the best way to
make available the regional freight strategies, three of which
have been developed, is as part of the overall strategic plan,
which is updated annually. Those will appear within that document
in January next year.
103. So when EWS say you are not spending enough
money on it are they being unfair?
(Mr Steer) Not enough money on . . .?
104. On the whole development of your freight
studies. How many people do you have on your freight team?
(Mr Steer) The SRA has a very well established and
thriving freight team.
105. Of what size?
(Mr Steer) It is a freight team of around 30 people.
106. What size are the teams dealing with the
passenger transport operations?
(Mr Steer) The team which deals with the passenger
franchises is a larger team of over 100 people.
107. So EWS might have some reason to suspect
you are not putting the same effort into freight as you are into
(Mr Steer) If they measured it on a headcount basis
they would be being naive. We have a different relationship with
our passenger train operators, with whom we have a contractual
relationship, than we have with the freight operators, where we
have forward planning, a role in relation to grants and so forth.
I should be surprised if EWS do not believe that SRA puts a great
deal of effort into rail freight.
108. So we can expect to see the rest of the
regional freight strategies before very long.
(Mr Steer) We are developing them on a programme of
109. So what are your immediate priorities?
(Mr Steer) Our early priority is the South East, West
Midlands and North West where we see the biggest issues in relation
to freight routing, freight terminals.
110. When can we expect that to be set out.
(Mr Steer) The conclusions of those studies will be
incorporated within the wider strategic plan.
111. Yes, but you said this would be part of
your reporting machinery every year as you upgrade the ordinary
Strategic Rail Authority documents. What year are we talking about?
This year, next year, five years?
(Mr Steer) In January, in three months' time the findings
from those regional freight strategies we have completed will
be incorporated into that document. Having them incorporated there
is extremely helpful because as freestanding documents it is hard
for people to understand how they interrelate with anything else
that is being proposed for the rail network. As you know, it is
a multi-user network, freight and passenger, so issues and choices
about freight terminals in the North West for example, interact
with other decisions which have been taken on the network.
112. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
agreed with the planning inspector that the siting of the freight
exchange at Colnbrook on green belt land was unsuitable but there
had been a planning application supported by the Strategic Rail
Authority. Do you think there is going to be any other suitable
site to the west of London for a rail freight terminal?
(Mr Steer) We felt that was the best site that we
were aware of for a terminal in that area.
113. So the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
consulted you before they took their decision, did they?
(Mr Steer) I think the Office of the Deputy Prime
Minister took account of the representations we had made to the
inquiry, which I would imagine is the correct thing for that Office.
114. If you do not build any new rail freight
interchanges how are you going to get your 80 per cent growth
(Mr Steer) I accept the question. We need more rail
freight terminals and in that particular part of the country,
we believed, along with the developer who put forward the site
and argued convincingly in the inquiry, that there was no better
site for that.
115. What did the Strategic Rail Authority do
when the decision was taken? Did you go back to the Office of
the Deputy Prime Minister and explain the implications of the
(Mr Steer) We have made it very clear what we believe
the implications of that decision will be, that it is going to
make it harder for us to achieve the rail freight growth targets
in exactly the way you described.
116. Did you make the strong argument on the
environmental advantages of moving freight off road onto railways?
(Mr Steer) Oh, yes.
117. With some force?
(Mr Steer) I believe so. We have a freight team within
the SRA which is not at all shy in making clearly known to the
outside world what the virtues of rail freight are.
118. Is this decision going to be taken as a
precedent for other similar planning applications elsewhere in
the United Kingdom or not?
(Mr Steer) There is always a risk that planning decisions
of this nature will deter those who would otherwise come forward
and promote new rail freight terminals. The SRA is extremely active
in the marketplace trying to ensure that does not happen.
119. The South East England Regional Assembly
has told us that you did not consult with them over the access
to Hastings scheme. Why were they not consulted?
(Mr Steer) I find that slightly hard to follow. The
SRA was involved in the access to Hastings multi-modal study and
has taken the conclusions and is working hard to see which of
them can be implemented. I am sorry, I cannot comment on why the
SEERA were not consulted.