Examination of Witnesses (500-519)|
18 JUNE 2003
JAMIESON MP, MR
Q500 Mr Stevenson: So the answer
Mr Burr: It depends how long it
stays on the shelf.
Q501 Mr Stevenson: I shall come to
how long it is going to stay on the shelf, but the answer to my
question, has it been shelved, is that it is on the shelf.
Mr Burr: It is not under active
consideration at the moment.
Q502 Mr Stevenson: It is on the shelf.
It has been shelved.
Mr Burr: But not necessarily permanently.
Q503 Mr Stevenson: Thank you for
that. That is fine. So this important, nay some would say pretty
vital, piece of infrastructure development to take what the customers
of Felixstowe need and that is nine-foot six-inch boxes, unless
you are going to reduce the train capacity by one third, and all
the rest of it which would be necessary, which increases congestion
on the line of course, has been shelved by the SRA.
Mr Burr: That is not actually
Q504 Mr Stevenson: You have just
Mr Burr: It depends whether you
regard that as the only way of getting those high boxes out of
Felixstowe. The plan, which is being implemented more quickly
than that upgrade could have been implemented, will allow these
high boxes out of Felixstowe onto the West Coast Main Line in
the way that the boxes go now. There is an alternative way through
Nuneaton which is not at the moment open for those boxes.
Q505 Mr Stevenson: It has been shelved,
but there may be an alternative.
Mr Burr: There is an alternative.
Q506 Mr Stevenson: It has been shelved.
Mr Reeves: It depends on the way
in which the traffic develops. If the demand for carriage of nine-foot
six-inch containers grows, as it may well do, then the SRA will
need to look at that option again in the context of their overall
Chairman: We have got the message.
Q507 Mr Stevenson: As we understand
it, as best we can read the situation, the SRA, with the exception
of the West Coast Main Line upgrade, has effectively said that
there is no money to go forward with planned infrastructure investment
for the foreseeable future. If that is correct, if that is basically
what the SRA said, my question is: has the £4 billion which
was earmarked in the ten-year transport plan for freight improvement
been utilised to meet the shortfall in network rail maintenance
Mr Jamieson: It is no secret to
anybody that it is the case that the pressure on the costings
of the rail system has been enormous and the cost of the West
Coast Main Line has been huge, but the investment is probably
the biggest we have made in 100 years. Once it is complete, we
will see a lot of very, very welcome improvements that we all
want. What it would be our ambition to achieve and what it would
be the SRA's ambition to achieve has to be curtailed within the
funding they have.
Q508 Mr Stevenson: Has the £4
billion which was identified in the ten-year transport plan for
freight been moved elsewhere to cater for the increased costs
you referred to, which we all know about?
Mr Jamieson: There has been a
reallocation of funds because of the huge overrun on the West
Coast Main Line.
Q509 Mr Stevenson: Has the £4
billion been moved across?
Mr Jamieson: There will still
be money to take forward freight proposals. The SRA have assured
me that they will continue having dialogue with all ports, Felixstowe
included, about their future needs, including in fact even today
when we were discussing Dibden's future needs, the port site Felixstowe
would have, and they will then have to look at that time at their
own priorities in terms of funding to see whether they could fund
some of the wishes of the ports.
Q510 Mr Stevenson: So if the £4
billion has been moved across, and the suspicion is that it has,
to meet the shortfall elsewhere, to which you referred and we
all understand, then the SRA will be looking to increase its funds
if it is going to replace, either in whole or in part, £4
billion which was identified in the transport plan.
Mr Jamieson: They will have to
look at the whole of their funding to see how they are going to
spend it in future years. They will come back to government and
put their plans before government and we will have to make a decision.
Some of those decisions will be made at a higher pay scale than
mine, but decisions will have to be made about future funding,
depending on the demands.
Q511 Mr Stevenson: Can I ask a question
again relating back to access? As we understand it, the SRA has
not made any commitment to W10 standard provision from Southampton.
Mr Burr: Yes, the SRA have explained
that as far as projects like Dibden Bay are concerned, especially
given the financial position and pressure that the minister has
referred to, it would be premature for them to start improving
railway lines before the department has decided which port projects
are going to be approved. If the port project is approved, it
will not be operating at full capacity on the following day or
in the following year; it will take time to build and trade will
take time to build. The promoters of the Dibden Bay project propose
to build it in phases and there is a project in progress to enable
those boxes to get out of the port of Southampton.
Q512 Mr Stevenson: Are you concerned
about the suspension by the SRA of the freight facilities grant?
Mr Jamieson: Yes, I have to say
I am. If there had not been the pressures in other parts of the
budget, we would have liked to have seen that continue. I have
to say that £40 million will still be spent in this financial
year on previous commitments and £40 million next year on
those commitments, so it has not actually stopped. What has happened
is that they are not able to look at any new projects in the current
year because of the pressures on the budget.
Q513 Mr Stevenson: In the current
Mr Jamieson: Yes, in the current
Q514 Mr Stevenson: They anticipate
then that there is likely to be some movement towards restoring
the freight facilities grant next year.
Mr Jamieson: I certainly hope
so. As you know, one of the key elements of our policy is moving
particularly freight from road onto rail. If we can give assistance
through the track access grants or the freight facilities grants,
then obviously we would be very anxious to do that. Once we are
out of some of the huge costs that we have had on the West Coast
Main Lineand this project will be finished in the next
year or soit will then give us an opportunity to look at
some of the other grant aid which we can give.
Q515 Mr Stevenson: Are you still
committed as a government to your 80% increase in freight in the
Mr Jamieson: That would certainly
be an ambition.
Q516 Mr Stevenson: Are you still
committed to it?
Mr Jamieson: It is an ambition,
we have, yes.
Q517 Mr Stevenson: It is an ambition,
not a commitment.
Mr Jamieson: It is an ambition
we have to increase freight by that amount, yes.
Q518 Mr Donohoe: You are the UK Ports
Mr Jamieson: I feel a Scottish
question coming on here.
Mr Burr: May I explain that ports
is a devolved matter in Scotland and Northern Ireland, although
marine safety is a reserved matter.
Q519 Mr Donohoe: What liaison discussion
have you had with your counterpart north of the border?
Mr Jamieson: I have had no direct
recent discussions with my counterpart north of the border.