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


Memorandum by the Chartered Institute of Transport in the UK (CIT UK) (RES 3)

REGIONAL EUROSTAR SERVICES

INTRODUCTION

  The Chartered Institute of Transport in the UK (CIT UK) welcomes the Sub Committee's inquiry into the failure to provide the regional Eurostar services. CIT UK recognises that the services in question are relatively few within the total Eurostar service from London, and that the economic results of the main Eurostar services to date have placed a question mark over the viability of the regional services. However, the current lack of commitment to operation of these trains risks undermining some economic initiatives in the midland and northern parts of Great Britain, and it poses serious questions over the ability of Government to fully implement the policies proposed in their recent transport White Paper.

THE KEY EVENTS

  British Rail proposed a basic level of regional Eurostar services in 1989, as part of the package of international passenger services to use the Channel Tunnel, drawn up UK under Section 40 of the Channel Tunnel Act 1987 [Ref 1]. These were set out in a comprehensive programme of consultations carried out with regional interests throughout Great Britain. During the consultations a number of organisations expressed the view that the level of Eurostar services north of London should be much higher than these proposals, and this was set out in the report on the consultations prepared by the institute of British Geographers [Ref 2]. In a commentary on this report British Rail rejected the requests for enhanced service levels, largely on the premise that the services they had offered would provide adequately for regional needs [Ref 3].

  Subsequently British Rail placed orders for seven "Regional" Eurostar sets and also set in hand work to improve the infrastructure where necessary for their operation. The seven sets were delivered in 1997. Much of the infrastructure has been modified where necessary for their operation of the proposed services.

REASONS FOR CIT UK CONCERN

  CIT UK is very concerned at the decision by Eurostar, as successor to British Rail, not to operate these services. There are three reasons for this.

  1. In the absence of any committed national or regional transport strategies within which firmly based decisions could be taken, the consultation on the Section 40 process offered the only apparent process for establishing a comprehensive picture of demand and needs for Channel Tunnel services. Along with other bodies—local authorities, commerce and industry, community associations—CIT UK committed considerable time and effort to preparing detailed statements. While the Institute did not necessarily expect all its proposals to be adopted, they did presume that at least the basic level of services proposed by British Rail would be provided; as did most consultees. Statements made by Government and British Rail during the consultations implied that this would be the case.

  2. Over the last decade local authorities and commercial bodies, including regional consortia/conferences, have needed to take many decisions in which rail services through the Channel Tunnel form an element. Again the lack of any committed national or regional transport strategies on which to base such decisions meant that available indications had to be used, and generally it was assumed that at least the basic level of services proposed by British Rail would be provided. The failure to provide this may have seriously undermined regional and local decision making in some cases.

  3. This has considerable relevance for implementation of the transport White Paper published this year [Ref 4]. Implementation of this will be based in large part on processes which are not formally established by statute. In particular there currently exists no national guidelines or framework for the "local transport plans" which local authorities will prepare, even though these form a major factor for implementing the White Paper. Their development should eventually be subject of normal statute, and the intended Commission for Integrated Transport may well take on their supervision and guidance. However, a major role will continue to be played by partnerships and consultative relationship, and these can only form a sound basis for integrated progress if Government commit themselves to implementing policy intentions for which they have stated their support.

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

  Under the Channel Tunnel Act 1986 Section 40, British Rail made clear proposals for a basic level of regional Eurostar services but so far they and their successors have failed to implement these services, despite making the necessary investment. In response to the Act British Rail also carried out comprehensive regional consultations which focused aspirations for higher levels of services. In consequence regional planning and business strategies which in part depended on these services have been disappointed.

  Furthermore confidence in such informal non-statutory processes as a basis for policy implementation has been undermined. In the view of CIT UK, this poses fundamental questions over the Government's ability to implement its transport White Paper of which so much is expected, largely through such an informal approach rather than through statutory and other firm commitments.

  CIT UK recommends that:

    —  Government should take urgent steps, in liaison with European Passenger Services and other relevant organisations, to ensure an early start of the regional Eurostar services proposed by British Rail in 1989 and for which the investment has been made.

    —  In the light of this issue Government should study urgently the need for formal statutory commitments to implement its White Paper and should in particular consider what value can be placed on consultations without a mechanism to put their findings into effect.

10 November 1998

REFERENCES

  1. British Rail [1989] International Rail Services for the United Kingdom British Rail, London

2. Institute of British Geographers [1989] Report on Process on Regional Consultation Institute of British Geographers, London

  3. British Rail [1989] British Rail, London Commentary on the Report on Process on Regional Consultation British Rail, London

  4. Department of the Environment, Transport & the Regions [1998] A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone Department of the Environment, Transport & the Regions, London



 
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