Examination of witnesses (Questions 80
WEDNESDAY 9 DECEMBER 1998
MR W WHITEHORN
and MR M FURLONG
80. Are you saying that from Doncaster there
is a possible service into London?
(Mr Furlong) Into Paris. Yes.
81. Where is the bottleneck then? When you
get to Doncaster you then have the division to West Yorkshire
and to North Yorkshire and up to Scotland and stations beyond.
Have you done a study on both sides, both for the West Yorkshire
area and for continuing to the north?
(Mr Furlong) No. It is our intention to run the
East Coast services ultimately from Glasgow via Edinburgh and
then down the East Coast and that would certainly be our intention.
We only became aware literally this morning that there could potentially
be a serious delay on the East Coast.
82. So you are not contemplating going into
(Mr Furlong) No; that was never the agreed route
and has not been cleared by Railtrack.
83. It has not been cleared by Railtrack.
(Mr Furlong) No.
84. In the early days they were talking
of Leeds, which is the largest city in Yorkshire, population of
4.5 million people.
(Mr Furlong) Yes; certainly, yes.
85. You are saying there is no connection
from that service.
(Mr Furlong) There will not be a direct Eurostar
service from Leeds.
86. Have you made representations for that?
You say it is Railtrack which is the organisation which says that
is not viable.
(Mr Furlong) Currently the relationship is between
Eurostar UK and Railtrack. We understand that the route which
has been cleared and approved, or certainly the route which was
cleared and approved by both organisations, did not involve Leeds.
Therefore Leeds would have to be served by a feeder service.
87. Have representations been made for Leeds
to be included in the system?
(Mr Whitehorn) We certainly asked Railtrack about
Leeds and Leeds was not in the planning which had been done ever
since the 1987 Channel Tunnel Act with regard to a direct service
for a regional Eurostar. Therefore no money has been spent on
that section of the route at all.
88. Was a reason given?
(Mr Whitehorn) No, no reason was given, was it?
(Mr Furlong) No, not that I am aware.
Chairman: To upset
the people of West Yorkshire may be a highly dangerous situation.
89. Do you have an order of magnitude or
an exact price for a ticket from Paris to Manchester or Paris
(Mr Whitehorn) We have a range of ticket prices.
(Mr Furlong) Certainly there would be a number
of different classes and as with any travel organisation, airline
or railway, it would depend upon the flexibility. From Manchester,
for example, we would be looking at a headline fare of around
90. That would be what used to be called
second class, would it?
(Mr Furlong) Yes; standard.
91. If Virgin were to run the regional services,
would they be subsidised by any other part of the Virgin service?
(Mr Whitehorn) No; most definitely not. The whole
idea here is that we put together a business plan which is stand-alone
and in fact we would be paying a commercial rate to Virgin Rail,
for example, for provision of some services by it. This would
be a new stand-alone business with new management completely separate
to the existing operations of Virgin. We have identified individuals
who would work on the service as well.
92. Do you believe the public should be
at all concerned about airlines or companies which run airlines
running railways? Do you think there is a potential conflict of
(Mr Whitehorn) I do not believe there is a conflict
of interests. The whole nature of where transport has to go over
the next 15 or 20 years is to a more integrated approach to the
way which travel services are offered. One of the inheritances
of the last 25 years has been a very disintegrated system generally
of transport and our belief is that bus companies, rail companies,
airline companies will work together more and more in the future.
However, there still needs to be competition, which is a different
issue altogether to one type of operator operating another type
93. Are you concerned, because I know there
was a lot of publicity at the time British Airways won the bid
to be in the Eurostar Consortium, that they may benefit by running
the train service from creating values in extra slots at Heathrow?
(Mr Whitehorn) That is a different issue to the
issue of whether or not Heathrow trains would work. May I take
the answer in two parts? We believe that Heathrow trains to Paris
are not economically or technically viable in the medium term.
94. Not technically viable.
(Mr Whitehorn) Not technically viable either.
We believe that post-terminal five, they could be technically
viable. We believe there is a great difficulty.
95. Can you define what you mean by "technical"?
(Mr Whitehorn) What I mean by "technical"
is that in order to get Heathrow trains to work effectively out
of the current tunnel structure and current station structure
as has been set up for the Heathrow Express, which is exactly
what they would have to use, there will need to be some considerable
expenditure. On the other question, which is the question of slots,
British Airways obviously, with regard to the way they want to
develop their business at Heathrow, want more slots at Heathrow
than they currently have. Anything which they can do to get those
slots they will do. They will move services from Heathrow airport
to say Stansted airport, as they have just done with the Cyprus
route, as they did with the Inverness route a year and a half
ago, as they have done with regional routes like the Brymon Airways
routes down to Plymouth. It is in their gift through the ownership
of airlines which they took over such as DanAir and Brymon to
do that. However, with regard to the Heathrow service to Paris,
I still think that even if they were to operate a Heathrow service
to Paris in the future when it became technically viable for them
to do so, even after that date they would still operate an airline
route to Paris. They may operate it at a lower level of slots
but in the overall circumstance of what is happening with the
slot distribution at Heathrow, it is not one of the major issues.
Certainly from our point of view our concern would only be the
substitution of slots for use of train services at Heathrow, if
it were in the context of another deal whereby they were having
to give up slots, for instance the BA/American deal which we all
know about. Out of that context the answer to the question would
96. If I were cynical I would notice that
Virgin trains are short of rolling stock and reliable rolling
stock from Manchester to London. Would it not fit in neatly if
you could use one of these trains as the first train out of Manchester
each morning to London and on to Paris with 99 per cent of the
passengers getting off in London, then picking up a new set of
passengers in London, taking business away from the existing service?
(Mr Whitehorn) It would be fantastic.
97. So that is what you are trying to do.
(Mr Whitehorn) No; it is not what we are trying
98. How many people would you expect on
those trains to get off part way through the journey?
(Mr Whitehorn) None under the business plan we
put together, because we are not allowed to carry domestic passengers
on the regional Eurostars.
99. You would not be coming along in six
months' time, if you started the service, saying you were running
into a few difficulties and it would be so much easier if that
part of the package were waived?
(Mr Whitehorn) We might after three years if we
had not made the service work, but after three years we will be
replacing the entire fleet of trains on the West Coast Main Line
anyway with tilting high-speed 140-mile-per-hour trains which
will more than take care of the capacity problem. The simple situation
is this. The law does not allow the regional Eurostars if they
are to operate to carry domestic passengers. We have not based
our business plan, which Mark and the team he has been working
with have put together, on the basis of carrying domestic passengers.
If this Committee were to think that domestic passengers would
be a good idea and the Deputy Prime Minister and DETR and the
Immigration Service and Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and All thought it
was a good idea, then we should be very happy to carry domestic
passengers and make use of the scarce resource of train sets in
this country because this country has a massive shortage of rolling
stock; what you say is absolutely right. This is why I believe
it is a crime that these trains are sitting virtually unused.
They are only used for the occasional filler service at the moment
from the inter-capital service from London to Paris. What you
say in principle is something we should be interested in but we
are not basing our business plan on it because we believe it is
again going to be very difficult within any medium timeframe to
persuade Immigration Service and others to carry domestic passengers.