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


Examination of witnesses (Questions 40 - 55)

WEDNESDAY 9 DECEMBER 1998

COUNCILLOR S STACEY and MR K MEDLOCK

Chairman

  40.  The point is that if domestic passengers are going occasionally to be allowed on in the way you are suggesting then frankly that would directly change the whole situation.
  (Councillor Stacey)  Sorry, yes, if it is domestic passengers. Sorry, I misunderstood the question. If it is domestic passengers, then yes, you would have to make sure in an inbound train before you let domestic passengers on everyone already on it had been checked.

Mr Olner

  41.  I can understand you not doing market research abroad but what market research have you done within the regions to warrant this service?
  (Councillor Stacey)  What we did do was we commissioned a report by the local futures group at the time when the whole link was in doubt on the regional economies north of London. That included both freight and passenger services and actually looked at the whole issue of the benefit of the link.

  42.  What I am asking is how robust the feeling is out there in the regions that they want Eurostar services.
  (Councillor Stacey)  It is very strong.

  43.  Can you prove that? Is it a hope, a wish or what? How can you prove that?
  (Councillor Stacey)  People have been supporting us.
  (Mr Hoier)  The study to which Councillor Stacey has referred was done round the country by local futures with groups from the north east, from Yorkshire, from Manchester, from Birmingham and the West Midlands. A lot of the regions were contacted. The problem we have is that there has not been a lot of primary research in this field since the 1980s-1990s to which Mr Medlock referred.

  44.  The Consortium originally did some and said they were not going to run it.
  (Mr Hoier)  Indeed, but we have been challenging the premise of the study in terms of the strength of feeling in the regions and we talked to a considerable number of organisations who are very clear that the regions very much need Eurostar services for the kind of reasoning that Councillor Stacey has been putting forward.

  45.  Are you saying they all want a postal address?
  (Mr Hoier)  The growth of the European high-speed network is a very serious and fast developing network which gives benefit to regions to be part of their broader integrated Europe. I had a fax coming in from the Manchester Chamber of Commerce and Industry and they certainly see the need of their region, the north west, as being a very well linked region within Europe. So they are very strongly in favour. Again there is Staffordshire. Just before I came out a number of people were giving me examples as to why they feel they need it in these regions. The strength of demand for Eurostar services is very strong.

  46.  What are your views on whether it would be a sensible compromise to operate a direct Eurostar from Watford? Would that suit the needs of the north west and the Midlands and the other regions?
  (Councillor Stacey)  It would be very much as a second best but certainly would not serve the needs of the east coast at all because it would not be accessible from the east coast. We see Watford as a sort of backup to the main through services so that if you have three services a day from Manchester for instance which do not quite fit, you always have the opportunity to take a service perhaps which got you to Watford and change at Watford as an additional alternative not as the prime service. In the same way—Mr Medlock talked about it—the old through linking service was not seen as very successful because it was not very well advertised anyway and was very slow and it still involved some sort of change. It would only meet part of the need of part of the regions and certainly would not deal with the east coast and the north east anyway. May I just say on the point which was made about not having the information to counter what Inter-Capital and Regional Rail are saying on tourism for example that we did only get this earlier today and it is quite clear? Would it be possible for us to do a supplementary memorandum?

Chairman

  47.  Anything you want to put into us which is factual would be warmly welcomed. The Committee are not seeking to criticise you or suggest you do not have the facilities. The point is that you are coming here to make a case to us. We need to have some evidence. We need to have some facts to go on.
  (Councillor Stacey)  Absolutely.

Mr Bennett

  48.  Would you not agree that if you asked any of your electors or my constituents whether they wanted to go to the Caribbean they would all say yes?
  (Councillor Stacey)  Yes, but then you ask them whether they can afford the air fare.

  49.  I will settle for the yes. Is not the next question, if you are asking people whether they want to go through to Paris from Manchester, to give them the alternative use of the money? Would you not agree that most of my constituents in Greater Manchester would much prefer a 100 per cent reliable service from Manchester to London than the occasional through-train to Paris? Is it not a question of priorities of investment? Would it not actually be much better for most of my constituents to have a reliable rail service to London and occasionally have to change if they wanted to go through to Paris rather than a few through trains?
  (Councillor Stacey)  It is not an alternative. These trains have already been built. Your constituents have already paid for these trains; they just cannot use them because no-one is running them. We actually believe that they can be run and indeed they should be run because they have already paid for them. They cannot suddenly say something else could be done for the money because it is spent.

  50.  The trains have been built but the running, the times, the slots on the track and everything have not been spent, have they? That is where you have priorities between the different services.
  (Councillor Stacey)  The slots have been there for a long time.

Chairman

  51.  I think if we call them train paths it might be better.
  (Councillor Stacey)  Train paths. Somewhere in my pile of papers I actually have a local train timetable in the West Midlands which shows that the 7.22 local service from Wolverhampton to Coventry via Birmingham does not call at Adderley Park and Leehall and stands at Birmingham International for some six minutes so that the ghost international train can run through. The train paths are already there.

  52.  We are happy to know that anybody looks at timetables these days.
  (Mr Medlock)  May I make one point which I think is important. I have spent many years lobbying with the West Coast Main Line 250 Campaign for a better service. I really do not want to be accused of making the fast track proposals for regional services as an alternative to my desire to have the very best domestic and continental service.

Mr Bennett

  53.  You want to have your cake and eat it.
  (Mr Medlock)  I am not sure it is a cake. I paid for that cake and Government has given a commitment, to develop rail services.

Chairman

  54.  If the taxpayers got everything they paid for many people would be a lot happier in the United Kingdom today.
  (Mr Medlock)  And I am a taxpayer.

  55.  If that is the basis of the argument perhaps we should start all this again.
  (Mr Medlock)  I think that is a very good idea.

Chairman:  We are grateful to you and your colleagues for coming. I would say that if you have any supplementary notes which you wish to put in to this Committee it would be helpful if you could give us the facts and figures on which you are doing your estimate. We understand of course that you will want to look at the existing new documents. Thank you all very much.





 
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