Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence



  In 1997 rail service performance in terms of cancellations deteriorated alarmingly as a result of Northern spirit (called Regional Railways North East at that time) not having enough drivers to operate the services timetable at all times.

  In both periods three and five the level of total cancellations across the franchise as a whole exceeded the call in thresholds of 2.5 per cent for total service cancellations and 3.5 per cent for all cancellations (total service and past service cancellations). It is pertinent that three call ins in three years means that the franchisee is in breach.

  In West Yorkshire the figures were much worse; in the two periods there were 4.2 per cent and 3.5 per cent total cancellations and 4.5 per cent and 4.1 per cent all cancellations. In two individual weeks total service cancellations exceeded five per cent. Under the franchise agreement the penalties only apply to the franchise as a whole and not to individual areas or groups of routes.

  Northern Spirit claimed that the poor performance should not be deemed to be call ins. In its view force majeure applied because they considered that the cancellations occurred because of a concerted action among some drivers not to turn up for work on particular days and claim sickness.

  The PTEs involved considered that force majeure should not apply for several specific reasons which have been conveyed to OPRAF. This issue has yet to be resolved and further discussions are currently taking place.

  This year Northern Spirit appear to be minimising cancellations (currently in West Yorkshire around one per cent to 50 trains per week) at the expense of punctuality and the lengths of trains as the latter do not directly lead to call ins. However they can be just as damaging to passengers.

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Prepared 28 April 1999