Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witnesses (Questions 1 - 19)



Mr Maxton

  1. Mr Tunnicliffe, could I welcome you yet again to this Committee. You will be deeply sorry to know that the Chairman, Mr Kaufman, is unfortunately detained in Manchester. He will be here later, but I am chairing the Committee in the meantime. Mr Tunnicliffe, would you like firstly to introduce your colleagues and if you have an opening statement, we would be glad to hear it and then we will ask questions on it.
  (Mr Tunnicliffe) Thank you very much, Chairman. My name is Denis Tunnicliffe and I am the Chief Executive of London Transport and the Chairman of London Underground Limited. On my right is Mr Derek Smith. He is the Managing Director of London Underground Limited. On my further right is Mr Richard Smith who is the Director of Transport Strategy for London Transport and in that role he has a responsibility for multi-modal matters, ticketing, contingency plans. On my left is Clive Hodson. He is the Managing Director of London Transport Buses and is responsible for the bus provision and for our river activities. Thank you for inviting me to make an opening statement. I do not have very much to add to our written evidence, except insomuch as it is now later and I have further information on the opening of the Jubilee Line Extension. As you will know, we have opened the Jubilee Line Extension from Stratford through to Waterloo and we are stopping at all stations, except Southwark. There are four areas that we need to tackle to complete the full opening of the line. The first is the day-to-day reliability of the service. All features of the line are performing well. In early weeks there were some delays related to the staff learning the new procedures and there were significant delays relating to the fragile nature of the signalling system. We are working hard on making the signalling system more robust by a series of upgrades and perhaps one of the most important upgrades will be completed this weekend. We would expect to have a reasonably robust system in place by the Millennium. The next key objective is to run the railway in commercial service from Stratford all the way through past Green Park to Stanmore. Our target to achieve that is the end of this month. However, there are a number of hurdles to overcome before that can be done and it may be delayed for a few days, but it should certainly take place in the early part of November. That will of course achieve the lion's share of the transport objectives of the line. The remaining stations will be Southwark and Westminster. Southwark, we would hope to open to commercial service in the first half of November and we are reasonably confident about that. Westminster is proving more difficult. We are trying to achieve an opening in November, but the essential strategy to achieve the completion of Westminster was to direct additional resources released from the rest of the line and see an acceleration in performance, particularly in the electrical areas, including fire systems and lighting systems. As yet, we have not seen as much of an improvement in performance in those areas as we would have hoped and, therefore, we are not as confident as we would like to be that we will make that late November target. We will be doing all we can to achieve the earliest possible opening of Westminster and we are certainly doing our best to open it for the Millennium.

Mr Fearn

  2. Good morning. When you last appeared before us, Mr Tunnicliffe, on the 22nd November 1998, I think it was, you did state then that the final phase of the Jubilee Line Extension would be completed fully by the end of this month. Now, from your opening statement, it appears that there are further troubles and that this is not going to happen. You mentioned November and of course later for Westminster station, so there is not going to be a full service operating by the end of the month as you promised. Is that right?
  (Mr Tunnicliffe) That is correct.

  3. Is that because of other troubles with the work force?
  (Mr Tunnicliffe) In these final two stations, we have certainly had productivity problems with the electrical work force and, as you know, the AEEU had some quite significant problems, internal problems, from which we suffered. We had, I think, two or three one-day stoppages, but it also had an overall effect on the general enthusiasm of the electrical work force.

  4. Are there any troubles at the moment?
  (Mr Tunnicliffe) There are no industrial relations troubles at the moment, but the productivity of the electrical work force is not what we would wish for or had expected.

  5. And looking to the future when the line is up and running and the Dome is in being and fully operative, what would happen if something went wrong within the year 2000, if something happened to the line again? If it failed to operate, how would people get to the Dome and what contingency plans have you got for that?
  (Mr Tunnicliffe) In a sense I think you linked the two ideas together, so I will just firstly assure you that when the line fully opens, its maintenance will be the responsibility of a different work force from the work force which essentially built it and that work force is in place through a series of maintenance contracts and that work force will be wholly able to react quickly to any problems that may emerge. I would now like to turn to Richard Smith who is responsible for the development of our contingency plans.
  (Mr Richard Smith) If we look at the failures we have had so far, very rarely did we have no Jubilee Line, but too frequently still we have one half or the other either side of the Dome not operating, so we have a control process which is making sure that, whether coming to or going from the Dome, we are informing our passengers and national rail passengers as early as possible what services are available. It may be that we are directing people to Stratford rather than Waterloo, for example, but very rarely have we not had either one part or the other of the Jubilee Line open and the Jubilee Line either way has adequate capacity to carry people to and from the Dome. However, clearly there may be, and our forecasts say it will happen very occasionally, but there may be occasions when, for example, North Greenwich itself is closed. We have laid on a contingency bus fleet which will be sitting, waiting to be brought into action, and it is worth emphasising that they will complement all of the other modes, the river services, the Millennium Transit to Charlton, the links to Greenwich and DLR from Greenwich. We have a fleet that will be there ready to get people away if there is a problem at the Dome itself or indeed to get people to the Dome if there is a problem on the way. Clearly we cannot sensibly provide the capacity of the Jubilee Line sitting, waiting in a car park, so there will be extended delays for people. We are confident that we can get people to and from safely and adequately. One of the things that we will be revisiting in literally the weeks ahead in the light of the reliability of the line, because at the moment we are only planning on the basis of single-event days at the Dome, and when there are two-event days at the Dome, because people will be there later in the evening, we need to ask, "Have we got adequate contingency?", and we will be revisiting that to see whether we should have more buses sitting, waiting, and hopefully never to be used, but to make sure that if in the event they are, we are able to get people to and from safely, so there is a contingency plan. They are detailed processes and we have done detailed planning and desktop exercises to make sure that the information gets through to the people in the right place and in a timely way before they are three-quarters of the way there and stuck somewhere where they would rather not be.

  6. I have a final question on river transport actually. Have we now got a combined ticket for the river transport and the Dome and if so, how are they going to be sold or are they being sold at present?
  (Mr Richard Smith) We do not have quite that. What we do have, and I have a few copies here and it is mentioned in the leaflet I can give you, we have produced a Millennium Card, as we have described it, which includes all of London Transport services, the Docklands Light Railway, and all of the Connex services from Central London, and it includes a concession on the river services for £3.50 per person, adult, so that will give a concession to river service users. It is not wholly included, but it gives you a cheaper trip on the river services than otherwise would be available.

  7. So they have to pay more for that?
  (Mr Richard Smith) They are having to pay a supplement for the river service if they want to use it.

  8. Do we know how much that is?
  (Mr Hodson) On the shuttle between the Dome and Greenwich Pier, the normal adult fare would be £1.90, and the discounted fare for that ticket will be 60 pence. For a child, the normal fare would have been £1 and with that discounted card, the fare will be 30 pence. On the Millennium Express from Waterloo/Blackfriars to the Dome, the fare offered by City Cruises, normally the adult single would be £6.75 and at the discounted fare it will be £4.75. For a child, the normal fare is £4 and that will then be £3. An adult return is £8.40 and the discounted fare is £7.40. A child return is £5.20 and the discounted fare is £4.70.

  9. So before you actually get to the Dome and pay to go in, you are paying about £5 or £6?
  (Mr Tunnicliffe) Only if you use the river, but the essence of the river service is that with the trip itself you are partly buying in an additional increment of entertainment, whereas if you are going by the tube, we are providing pure transport.

  Mr Wyatt: There is no entertainment on the tube!

Ms Ward

  10. Mr Tunnicliffe, I think now you have appeared before this Committee three times, or this is your third occasion, if I remember correctly. On each occasion you have tried to instil confidence in the opening of the Jubilee Line and on each occasion you have failed because you have given us dates that have not actually materialised. You appear before us again today and have told us once more that you are, in your words, reasonably confident that you will open Southwark in the first half of November and not as confident that you will open Westminster by the end of November, and that is despite the fact that you gave us an assurance in the past that it would all be completed by October this year. Why should we believe you now when you have not been able to convince us in the past?
  (Mr Tunnicliffe) I have no reason to know why you should believe me now other than the extent to which parts of the railway have opened and it would seem reasonably logical to look at the rate at which they have opened and to conclude that the rest of it is likely to open in a reasonably soon timescale.

  11. Reasonably soon? Can we take that as being definitely before the Millennium?
  (Mr Tunnicliffe) The number of agencies involved in opening a railway and the number of systems to be approved means that there are always degrees of risk against any timescale, as I know to my personal cost. We have high confidence about through-running and we have high confidence about Southwark and, as I have explained, Westminster is more complex, there is more to be done and we are less confident about Westminster.

  12. The problems that you are facing now, were these problems that you foresaw a year ago?
  (Mr Tunnicliffe) Yes, I think they were, but there were many more problems a year ago. Perhaps the best way of describing it is that the problems that we face now tend to be about sheer volume of activity which is foreseeable which we have done before, processes we have done before and hence in a sense processes we can be confident will be successfully executed, but still there is clearly a degree of a question mark over when. When I was here a year ago we still had quite a wide range, I think if you look back at the evidence, of technical challenges. All the difficult technical challenges have been overcome and we have no big issues that are going to stop us. We believed at that time that we would solve all the big issues and that has turned out to be true and we have solved all the big issues, but we still have more volume and less performance than we predicted.

  13. I would have thought it was reasonable to have taken a certain amount of these technical problems into account in the last few months and to have assumed that you would have been able to overcome these in time to open earlier than we believe that you may open. What other budget changes have been made because of this overrun? How much are you now over budget?
  (Mr Tunnicliffe) I believe the last time I was here I said in today's money that the budget was £2.1 billion. I will have to check that. We presently estimate the final cost will be £3.5 billion, but that continues to be an estimate. Some of it will be as a result of opening later. Most of it is a better understanding of the claims that our contractors are making. I believe when I was here last time I said £3.2 billion.

  14. Would it be possible for you to provide maybe in confidence to this Committee a breakdown of where that over-budget has come from, whether it is contractors' claims or whether it is because of the delay in opening?
  (Mr Tunnicliffe) I could certainly, under the two heads of claims and delay, assign roughly the additional £300 million. I cannot do it now, but I can certainly do a note to that effect.

Mr Wyatt

  15. I would like to ask a question about the river passenger service and the legacy. Could you tell us where we are with the completion of Blackfriars Pier?
  (Mr Hodson) The pier is currently under construction and we hope that it will be completed by the end of December.

  16. By the end of December?
  (Mr Hodson) Yes.

  17. In your evidence before you have said the end of November.
  (Mr Hodson) We believe it will be towards the end of December.

  18. So that may not open as well, is what you are saying?
  (Mr Hodson) I have no reason to suspect that it will not open. It should be open.

  19. What is the delay then? What is the month delay since you last gave evidence?
  (Mr Hodson) Now the work is being executed, there are some piling difficulties at Blackfriars which we are talking to the contractors about.

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