Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120
WEDNESDAY 26 JANUARY 2000
120. Mr Donald, would you like to say something?
(Mr Donald) Thank you, Chair, yes. In the West Midlands
we have been developing for some years now what we call the bus
showcase network, which is upgrading all aspects of the bus service.
121. A what showcase?
(Mr Donald) A bus showcase. That improves all aspects
of the bus passenger experiencereal-time information at
the bus stop, shelters, docking facilities, bus priorities along
the whole route, and indeed brand new buses that are low-floor,
etc, and customer-care trained driversnearly everything
you can think of in bringing together best practice in terms of
bus travel quality. Whilst that has been greatly successful in
terms of driving up patronage on these bus services, and, indeed,
the modernised bus corridors themselves20 to 30 per cent
increases have been achievedvery little of that has actually
come from cars; you are talking about relatively negligible numbers,
1 or 2 per cent, coming out of their cars and into that quality
bus service. If we contrast that with Midland Metro, which is
only recently opened and, therefore, early days, already 15 per
cent of the passengers on the Midland Metro system that runs between
Wolverhampton and Birmingham have been attracted out of their
cars. So I think that is the evidence we have got. As Mr Mulligan
said, we have got to go through this exercise, showing that this
product is a more cost-effective product than what appeared, on
the face of it, to be cheaper alternatives. Therefore, that is
what the evidence told us beforehand, and now the practice is
telling us that as well.
122. Could I press you a little more on this
passenger modal switch, or shift? When Mr Mulligan was talking
the word he used was "reckon" about 2.5 million, which
suggests it was a bit of a guess.
(Mr Mulligan) No, it was based on studies undertaken.
123. Those were the words you used. I would
like you to be a bit more specific. I think you said about 20
(Mr Mulligan) Yes.
124. Mr Donald, I think you said about 15 per
cent. What I am interested in is the model split, or transfer,
between pedestrian, car and bus. Could you give us some ideain
the passengers you anticipated or the passengers you have actually
gotof how many of those came from pedestrian, how many
came from car and, more importantly, how many transferred from
(Mr Mulligan) I can give you, through you, Chair,
statistics relating to Phase 1 of Manchester Metrolink. We estimate
80 per cent of the trips transferred from existing public transport,
which is a relatively high proportion. However, if you recall,
what was involved was a conversion of two existing railway lines,
therefore we had a passenger base to begin with. I said about
20 per cent, but if I can correct myself, about 19 per cent were
conversions from car to Metrolink and about 1 per cent for pedestrians.
125. So that I do not misunderstand this, something
like 80 per cent of the passengers that you attracted came from
existing public transport.
(Mr Mulligan) That is correct, but I would just, again,
stress, that in terms of the evaluation by the Treasury, which
is extremely stringent, the passengers are far more likely, because
of a fixed rail system like this, to stay with it, in terms of
reliability and punctuality.
(Mr Donald) The early West Midlands experience is
that 2 per cent came from walk or cycle and just under 25 per
cent were actually generatedthey were trips that previously
were not made at all. In terms, therefore, of the public transport
share, that is of the order of 55 per cent
of the numbers were travelling on buses.
(Mr Wicks) For completeness, I will give
you the South Yorkshire picture. As I indicated, 22 per cent of
the passengers (this is the September 1999 picture on the Sheffield
system) were former car drivers or passengers, 57 per cent came
from bus, 10 per cent came from other modes, which is basically
walking and cycling and another 10 per cent were people who had
not made trips before.
126. Have you got any figures that are different
(Mr Scales) Through you, Chair, we were predicting
16 per cent for our MRT scheme, and to do that we did a lot of
stated preference surveys so we had a whole wadge of information
that I would gladly share with the Committee, together with a
road map so you do not have to read all of it. We are taking 16
per cent from cars.
(Mr Mulligan) Chair, would it be helpful if we collated
Chairman: That would be very helpful.
127. I realise this is complicated, and an update
would be useful, but just taking your responses at face value
you can see the point that I want to make to you: that it appears,
with this considerable investmentand you remember there
were difficulties of timescale and all the rest of it, which we
accept and understanda reasonable proposition that the
majority of the passengers you have attracted or anticipated,
or both, have transferred from existing public transport facilities.
Would you say that is a fair point?
(Mr Mulligan) I would say the statistics bear that
interpretation. Through you, Chair, I would qualify it by saying
that if you look at the Manchester Metrolink when it was a British
Rail line to Altrincham, it was carrying something of the order
of 7 million passengers a year. We are now carrying something
of the order of 14 million passengers a year, which means there
is far more intensive use by existing public transport users because
of the attractiveness of the system as well as major modal switch.
128. I used to work in public transport; I am
not an expert like yourselves but I think I know a little about
it. However, the point that interests me, certainly, and, I am
sure, the Committee, is that the Government is seeking to promote
a transport policy that actually attracts people from their cars.
What you seem to have achieved is attracting people from buses.
I am going to be kicked if I labour this, and I do understand
it is complicated, but it seems to me from the answers you have
given and the reaction you give that that is a fair proposition,
albeit a general one.
(Mr Mulligan) Can I make just one comment, through
you, Chair, and other colleagues may wish to comment. There is
an assumption that, which is one that I debate quite frequently
with bus operators in Greater Manchester, that there is a finite
public transport market. There is no such thing. If Metrolink
demonstrates anything it is that given the opportunity to traveland
I mentioned demand forecasters earlier and the errors they had
made in patterns for people's behaviourthere is no such
thing as a finite travel demand for public transport. Give the
people the opportunity to use bus, guided bus, light railprovided
the market niche is rightthey will choose to use public
transport over their other modes of transport. Therefore, it is
correct to say that 80 per cent have come from public transport,
but at the same time the generation of extra patronage on Metrolink,
in my opinion, generates business for other modes such as rail,
where there is interchange, and bus as well. So I can see, over
time, that the whole of the public transport business, which is
what we are in, will generate additional patronage over and above,
because we are targeting market segments and types of market which
have not been targeted before.
Chairman: I do not want this to become a debate.
129. You have said you are going to collate
this data for us, and I am very grateful for that, but I wonder
if you would also let us have copies of cost-benefit analysis
that you have done.
(Mr Mulligan) Certainly.
130. Perhaps you would comment a little on that
now. The schemes that were described largely share roads with
motorcars. Am I correct in that?
(Mr Mulligan) Light rail schemes can either be converted
railway lines or they can be segregated on the highway.
131. The Sheffield scheme is sharing roads.
(Mr Mulligan) Yes.
132. Under those circumstances, the cost of
putting in priority bus lanes and buying buses is so low compared
with the cost of your schemes that I just find it incredible to
believe that you can really do a cost-benefit analysis and come
out ahead of it with your scheme.
(Mr Mulligan) Through you, Chair, the DETR and the
Treasury are not softies, believe me, when it comes to public
expenditure of this order.
133. Perhaps not if there are marginal seats
(Mr Mulligan) In Manchester there are not many marginal
seats involved. The point I am making is that
134. I do not think the Treasury is too good
on the concept of marginal seats, but I am glad to hear your assurance
that I am wrong.
(Mr Mulligan) In terms of cost-benefit analysis we
must demonstrate, to the Treasury's satisfaction, that we have
examined all viable alternatives. Those alternatives are bus priority,
as you mention, they are guided bus or any other system which
the Treasury and the DETR want us to compare with. I can let this
Committee have statistics which demonstrate that in terms of social
cost-benefit relationships on all the schemes that we are currently
promoting in Greater Manchester, those schemes come out better
than the alternatives, and very shortly I expect to get confirmation
from DETR and Treasury that they accept that case. Without going
into the technicalities of social cost-benefit analysisand
of course we do not rule out guided bus and we do not rule out
bus priority, we think it has an important role to playthe
two main issues which we have to address are the numbers of people
who need to be carried on a mass transit system and the capacity
which exists. This is the thing that tends to favour light rail
over bus. You are quite right that a bus is cheap, relatively,
to a tram, but in terms of the number of people it can move and
the volumes it can move in, say, one hour in the peak period,
you would be talking about hundreds of buses being required to
replace one tram. That is, essentially, why the cost-benefit analyses,
which are carefully scrutinised, are showing the results which
135. The whole concept of light rapid transit
systems, as far as I was concerned, was to take traffic off the
road. However, on the basis of what you are saying, you are saying
they are actually generating additional journeys because they
are so good, and they are going to places that they were not before.
That seems to fail the test that led to their introduction in
the first place, does it not? Secondly, we heard evidence last
week, when we were round and about, that there had been identification
of this snobbishness attached to the whole question of being on
a bus; that if you go on a bus you are not a business person,
or whatever else. Is there anything in that?
(Mr Mulligan) I will pass this on to colleagues, but
one of the things we wanted to comment on is the fact that in
current evaluation methodology regeneration is not taken into
account. If you look at extensions in Greater Manchester, the
airport extension will serve one of the most socially excluded
and largest estates in the county, which is Wythenshawe. The East
Manchester extension will go through a very heavily run-down area
and require a regeneration in East Manchester. These are not just
schemes for the well-off. One of the things that we are determined
to do in the network with light rail schemes is that if you take
places like Oldham, with very high unemployment levels in the
inner borough wards and so on, a lot of the problems that these
people have is getting about. It is strange, but it is true, that
if you look at Wythenshawe, which is directly on the doorstep
of Manchester Airport, access from Wythenshawe to the airport
is rather more difficult than it is from the more affluent areas
of Altrincham and Hale. So the elements of snobbishness
136. You have got the wrong point. He is asking
you whether or not you can get the business people, the middle-classes,
off the roads and onto buses. You are getting it quite the wrong
way round, if you do not mind my interfering.
(Mr Mulligan) I think we do get motorists
Chairman: I think Mr Mulligan was clear.
137. He was answering the opposite question,
(Mr Mulligan) I will put it two ways. The objectives
of any light rail scheme have got to be to serve the economy (and
we have done work in Greater Manchester which shows that Gross
Domestic Product will increase quite sharply as a result of Metrolink
extensions); to deal with the problems of congestion; to serve
the environment, in terms of pollution and in terms of the effect
of congestion of people's lives and, also, to tackle major problems
of social exclusion. To that extent we want to provide a system
which is not only attractive to the existing car owner but also
serves to regenerate areas of the county which are desperately
in need of regeneration as a consequence of industries which have
declined over the past ten years.
138. Can I turn to another aspect which has
been identified as a problem, which is the creation of the Strategic
Rail Authority, and ask you what you think your future is?
(Mr Mulligan) We have had detailed discussions, Chair,
with officials from the DETR. You will recall that when we gave
evidence on the Railways Bill we were concerned that the powers
granted to the Strategic Rail Authority on the interpretation
of the clauses in the Bill would have, effectively, allowed them
to take over Metrolink or light rail schemes in the metropolitan
counties. Subsequently, the officials have made it quite clear
that that is not the intention; the intention is, I think, quite
sensible, and that is that the Strategic Rail Authority may find
it opportune in certain parts of the country, where you have a
very heavy loss-making railway, to convert it to light rail, rather
in the manner of our Oldham and Rochdale extension, where the
station has moved away from the epicentre of the town centre activity.
We understand that there will be no change in the relationship
between the DETR and the metropolitan counties over light rail
schemes, and, further, that Ministers are going to clarify this
in the Standing Committee on the Bill.
139. Therefore, you do not see the possibility
of the whole question of light railway being overwhelmed by those
with a heavy rail interest?
(Mr Mulligan) I would say that my fears, and those
of my colleagues, have been very substantially allayed by the
officials within DETR and the ministerial statement which is promised.
(Mr Donald) If I can just add a more positive point
to that as well, in the West Midlands we are looking at track
sharing, and we see an opportunity for re-opening a line for freight.
In that sense I think we welcome a body coming in that is going
to have that strategic and long-term view about how one develops
all aspects of rail.
1 Note by Witness: Taking into account the
15 per cent transfer from car already mentioned. Back