Examination of witnesses (Questions 20
WEDNESDAY 9 DECEMBER 1998
COUNCILLOR S STACEY
and MR K MEDLOCK
20. "Next" being 1 January 1999.
(Councillor Stacey) Yes.
21. Do you not believe that the regional
Eurostar trains which have already been ordered were ordered for
political purposes and that in fact that is where the demand is
and that the whole question of Eurostar is not for anything else
other than the benefit of London and below London?
(Mr Medlock) I should very much like to come in,
if I may, to point out that what is happening across Europe is
that the major cities of Europe are being linked by high-speed
rail. What we in the regions are concerned about is that the only
link coming into this country must not stop at London. There is
a case for making sure that there are more cities than London
linked into that network. We have been asked why we want to go
beyond London. At the present time Eurostar is only active in
the market of London and part of the south east. It is not attracting
traffic north of that region yet something like 40 per cent of
the business which British Rail predicted would be generated by
Eurostar was going to come from north of London. That market has
never been tested. In looking at this, when the Consortium talk
about the trial service quite frankly it was the biggest secret
in the north west because nobody knew anything at all about it.
It was never marketed. They talk about it being fast but it was
very slow. It was not a practical proposition. We, from the North
West Channel Tunnel Group, tried to petition British Rail to test
it out by putting a coach on to a West Coast Main Line train coming
into Euston and then providing a bus for the dedicated passengers
who would be already prebooked on to Waterloo and test it that
way. They were not prepared to do it. The reason they said was
they could not guarantee how long it would take them to cross
from Euston to Waterloo. I did not think that was a very good
reason. We want it to go forward into the north west. There is
also a tendency to think about this railway simply taking people
out of the regions into Europe. That is not our mission. Equally
we want to bring people from Europe into our regions. We have
an extremely well organised tourist export market. I regret to
say we do not have one quite as good in the import field. When
these trials were done and we talked to the British Tourist Authority
in Paris they did not know anything about it. How can you expect
to regard this as a test? Let me say this again on behalf of the
north west. We have three of the major national parks, the Peak
District, the Lake District and Snowdonia. It is easier for people
now to travel from Kent to Nice than it is to travel into the
Lake District. That is not a very good situation when something
like 40 per cent of visitors to the Lake District and the tourist
area of the north west are coming from overseas. That business
is at risk. We believe it is a developing market. We argue that
perhaps only ten per cent of the passengers from Manchester for
instance will be business travellers. There will be some people
who would use it but it would be the leisure market, it would
be the organised tourist business and it is very critical to the
economic wellbeing of our region. If I might say so, we believe
it is equally critical as when we come to consider Phase II of
the high-speed rail links, we will not have tapped any of this
market north of London yet at that stage somebody will have to
make a judgement regarding the financial viability of completing
the line to St Pancras. You may make that judgement on a false
premise because you have never tested the market north of London.
These are very critical issues to us.
22. What analysis have you done of your
leisure markets since that seems to be one of the points you are
(Mr Medlock) We have not done anything recently
or at least I have not been involved in any research but when
the North West Channel Group was set up in 1988 it did have some
work done and it gave the figures as to what it was thought the
inter-regional traffic would generate. They were suggesting something
like eight to ten per cent would be businessmen, the rest would
be the individual travellers and then there would be the large
organised tourist market opportunity.
23. I come from the county of Yorkshire,
representing a constituency in West Yorkshire. When we were discussing
the Channel Tunnel Bill we were making a case then that Leeds
and Wakefield should have links and that they should be terminals
for the passenger services as they are now for goods services.
Since then we have seen air traffic developing services, prices
low and Leeds/Bradford airport is one of the connecting airports.
Why will regional Eurostar services be more successful now with
the connecting services when we have the regional air services
which are very well served and can offer easy and cheap transport
both to Brussels and to Paris and to other European cities? Why
do you think Eurostar would now be beneficial?
(Councillor Stacey) There are two issues. There
are some parts of the market where it would not be in competition
with the aeroplane at all. There is existing leisure travel by
car, by coach and so on where actually it would offer an improved
service, a faster service certainly than coaches, more environmentally
friendly method of transport than by the motor car. It would actually
give an improved service to a lot of people in your region over
and above what they have now. There are always going to be people
who are going to pay a little more to use the air service, be
able to pay a little more to use the air service or to pay for
that speed. But there are lots of other people who do not currently
fly, perhaps do not even make the journey at all. The regional
Eurostar trains will actually, as well as changing the way existing
travellers travel, open up possibilities of travel which do not
currently exist. We only have to go back several years now to
when perhaps the package holiday market to Spain or wherever first
opened. Prior to that the idea of ordinary working people travelling
that sort of distance, that sort of destination, just was not
thought of. We are not saying this is going to be the new package
holiday, but it is that same sort of change in concept for some
people in creating the journey opportunities by a method which
they can afford, is comfortable and environmentally friendly.
It is not the competition with the air services for all but a
24. If we accept your philosophy on that,
that there is a benefit there for people in Leeds and Harrogate
and Wakefield to use Eurostar, one of the disabilities we have
is in London. Coming down the East Coast Main Line to get onto
the fast track, unless something is done quickly, then there is
no benefit for our people because there would be the inconvenience
of transferring from one train to the other. Eurostar could not
actually get through. How do you see the changes then? If there
have to be changes how do you see the changes?
(Councillor Stacey) In the short term the longest
of the services for getting round London would be able to get
round London but it would have to go round the west side of London.
25. But we could not contact the fast track,
(Councillor Stacey) Yes, it would then be able
to link up to the existing slow track and then to the first stage
of the high-speed link. That will be possible but of course the
greatest benefit will come with the completion of the high-speed
link when it will have much easier access and provide even greater
benefits. We think one of the crucial things, rather than waiting
for the high-speed link to open and then everyone saying right,
now we will have a look to see whether things are feasible, is
to start growing that market now. The Belgians did not wait until
the high-speed link to Brussels was open before running trains
into Brussels. We did not wait until the high-speed link to London
was open before running trains into London. In exactly the same
way, why should we wait until the high-speed link is completed
with its connections to the East Coast and West Coast Main Lines
before running regional services.
26. If my constituents have to go round
London to pick up the link that is going to add extra time and
that defeats the object.
(Councillor Stacey) They will still be on the
same train. This is the point. The benefit comes from not having
to change stations in London, to lug your luggage on the Underground
or by taxi or whatever and not having to allow for ... I must
say one of the things I thought was disingenuous in the Inter-Capital
and Regional Rail study was the comparison between journey timesthey
used Birmingham as it happensfrom Birmingham and Paris
of existing services and the through service. The actual time
benefit they gave for the through service was actually quite small.
What they did not appear to allow for was that if I want to catch
a train out of south London I have to assume that Virgin is going
to get me into London half an hour late in the first place.
27. How cruel, Mr Stacey.
(Councillor Stacey) All right, an hour late; sorry.
Then I do not know how long to allow to get across by Tube and
lug my luggage up and down and so on. A through service would
mean you did not have to worry about that. You put your bags on
the train wherever you pick it up and you get them off again in
Paris. No more worries. No time disbenefits of getting from one
station into London, whatever.
28. Most of us are sympathetic to the view
that we should like to see more inward tourism from the continent.
What fare structure are you basing your analysis on that people
will get on to a train? Are you saying that the train is going
to be cheaper than aeroplanes? Are you saying it is going to be
cheaper than coaches?
(Councillor Stacey) Cheaper than aeroplanes: certainly.
29. At what level? European air fares are
(Councillor Stacey) They are if you happen to
be standing by the travel agent at the time when the spare seat
comes through. We all see lots of special offer air fares. Cheaper
than the basic air fare. As regards the coach, probably more expensive
than the coach because it is faster and more comfortable in competition.
That is an issue which you really have to ask operators or potential
operators. That is the way we see it happening and that is one
of the problems with Inter-Capital and Regional Rail. If their
management agreement is based on turnover then selling cheap seats
is not necessarily in their interest. That is going back to the
issue of why we think the report has come out the wrong way. We
think that there is this opportunity there to get people in by
a pricing structure which encourages tourism and it is inward
tourism we particularly want to encourage but we want to create
journey opportunities as well for the residents of the regions.
30. Do you accept that there is virtually
no market for the business traveller coming into the north west
or to Yorkshire on Eurostar?
(Councillor Stacey) The issue of the business
traveller. There will be some business travel where the ability
to hold conferences, meetings and so on on the train rather than
trying to sit in an airport lounge and do it will be beneficial.
There is also the issue of sustainable business travel. In the
future there may be premiums to pay for unsustainable forms of
transport, which were excluded from Kyoto agreement and so on
and were in the "too difficult" pile for now. We may
have to look at that in the future. The whole issue of the almost
exponential growth in the contribution of air to greenhouse gases
is a matter for the future. Certainly from the Milton Keynes,
Peterborough region, yes, we believe there will be the ability
to attract business travellers because of the time saving in not
having to get to Heathrow or Stansted or wherever it is you are
going. Certainly when phase two of the high-speed link opens the
line will move further up the country and perhaps include Birmingham,
certainly Rugby, places like that, perhaps Doncaster as the journey
time comes down. We would not be looking at moving vast numbers
at current price structures and speeds from business aeroplanes,
(Mr Medlock) We were extremely disappointed when
the night service was done away with from Glasgow coming down
the West Coast main line. We believe that would have had a business
interest because many people could have boarded in places like
Manchester, Preston. Down the line they could have had their meal,
could have slept and they could have been ready for business first
thing the following morning in Paris. We were disappointed that
this service was not proceeded with. The second point I want to
make in respect of air traffic is that the EU were telling us
that the airways are becoming so crowded that we cannot afford
to use up all this air space on what are virtually domestic flights.
We are part of Europe so flying from Manchester, flying from Birmingham,
flying from Glasgow, becomes a domestic market and as these air
slots are not expandable they need to be reserved for intercontinental
traffic. It is in everyone's interests to make sure that we do
not limit the ability to develop intercontinent traffic and therefore
that is one of the reasons why we should be using rail for these
Chairman: We do not
want to follow down that line just at the moment.
31. I am disappointed with the answers really
because you have done no analysis on the inwardbound leisure market.
What you seem to be saying is that there is a very limited business
market, just south of the Midlands, but that you would be relying
on people in what is essentially a low cost market to choose the
train because they could not be bothered getting on a low cost
aeroplane. It seems to me that the sort of people you are looking
to get on the train simply do not exist. They are either looking
for low cost trips, in which case they will go by coach, or they
will find the cheapest plane and they would not go on what is
likely to be an expensive route. I should like you to comment
on that and say, so we are clear what we are talking about, what
you would estimate the fare to be on Eurostar from Paris to Leeds
or from Paris to Manchester.
(Councillor Stacey) What you are suggesting does
not explain the rapid growth of the high speed rail network in
the rest of Europe because there it is competing at distances
which perhaps it should not with aircraft for business and very
successfully. It is actually seen as travel grows, which it does,
and we all know that any new transport system actually encourages
additional travel. I am not just talking about the M25. It will
actually encourage the growth of the travel market as a whole.
This is happening across mainland Europe. With the original high
speed service in Europe, if you think of Paris-Lyons, there was
a time benefit over air. It was actually set up to compete with
air, did so successfully but that was on the basis of time benefit.
Now that network has grown and people are making much longer journeys
by rail where they can do so more cheaply than mainstream air.
You are always going to be able to get the odd cheap package but
in terms of mainstream air travel then it is competitive on price.
We actually think that that issue plusand I understand
the Consortium's paper also talks about this20 per cent
of the existing Eurostar services market being new travel market,
from new travel opportunities not just abstraction from air and
ferry, so that has proved it has happened here as well, we think
that is enough to sustain the starting of the services now. As
to what exact fares should be charged, you have Virgin Trains
32. We know what we are going to ask other
(Councillor Stacey) We do not necessarily have
the technical models available in detail to say whether it should
be £66 or £73 I am afraid. If you are looking for an
order of magnitude, that is the sort of thing I should have thought.
33. Do you not think a direct service from
and to Heathrow would be attractive to some people outside London?
(Councillor Stacey) It will be attractive to some
people who can get to Heathrow. I do have to say that for many
people getting to Heathrow is a great effort in itself and the
way of getting there, if you are coming from somewhere in the
regions, is either by road, whether it is by carand that
of course is how Heathrow airport makes a lot of its money, by
charging people for parking cars when they get the planeor
by coach which is long, slow and difficult quite often, or indeed
flying there. I do not think people fly there to get onward air
journeys. I do not think anyone really is going to fly to Heathrow
to then get the train. The other problem with it
34. Large numbers of people fly to Charles
de Gaulle in order to get the three railways systems which are
directly based within the main terminal. Why should this kind
of service if it were offered at Heathrow be any different?
(Councillor Stacey) If you are flying to Charles
de Gaulle to get a train perhaps on to Lyons, by flying you have
made your decision. We come back to time savings and resource
availability and so on. You have made your large bit of your journey
first and then you make your small connection afterwards, exactly
the same as if you were going to get on the RER at Charles de
Gaulle to go into the centre of Paris. I am not sure that you
would make a short plane journey to take a long train journey.
35. It is said that there are difficulties
as far as security is concerned, for instance immigration and
passport services and so forth which would have to be looked after
if we were coming down from Glasgow or Manchester of Birmingham
or whatever on the Eurostar. Are you quite happy that all of those
things would be in place in whatever station if someone went along
to catch the Eurostar?
(Councillor Stacey) There are a couple of issues
to do with security. One of them is hopefully that thanks to the
Good Friday agreement some of the security concerns are partially
36. I am not referring to that. I am referring
to passport control, immigration, which you normally have to go
through and if you are going to go through it at different points
on the line then you would have to ensure that people are not
getting on, say in Glasgow, and getting off again. That sort of
thing. I am not suggesting they would get off. In order to get
from part of the United Kingdom to another part of Europe you
have to have your passport, go through immigration. That all has
to be done wherever you board the train.
(Councillor Stacey) Yes, it will have to be done
and it was always envisaged that would have to be done. When using
the train you can do it two ways. The French tend to do it on
the train. In Britain we tend to do it at Waterloo but we also
do it at Ashford and we will have to do it at Stratford and Ebbsfleet.
The system has to be there to work wherever someone is getting
on. There was provision originally for it to be done on-train
with special coaches and so on.
37. Do you think those things are in place?
(Councillor Stacey) They must be in place at Ashford.
Ask the people who operate the trains. How do they deal with it
at Ashford, how are they going to deal with it at the new stations
on the high-speed link.
38. I understand that but you are suggesting,
you are here putting a case. I am meeting your suggestions that
it would be a great benefit for your particular part of the country
if you had a direct link into the high-speed link. What provision
has been made or looked at for those circumstances?
(Councillor Stacey) The provision would be the
same as for the existing service at Ashford as I understand it.
It would be no different.
39. You have not looked at it.
(Councillor Stacey) We have not seen that there
is a need to look at it because it is being successfully operated
Mr Forsythe: With
all due respect, that is not operating from the other parts you
are making a case for.