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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140 - 159)




  140. That would be a new line that would be re-opened. Is that what you are saying?
  (Mr Donald) It is reinstating what is now a disused rail line.

  141. So there will not be a fight about freight paths in the normal way.
  (Mr Donald) We need to deal with someone who can hold the ring and make sure that you get both the freight and passenger aspects.

Mr Donohoe

  142. Do you think, in the wider sense, in terms of the whole question of the Transport Executive Groups that there is a problem—a challenge, in many ways—for your very future, in that the creation of the SRA is going to move matters away from you instead of towards you?
  (Mr Mulligan) In terms of light rail and in the light of the assurances we have received and are about to receive from Ministers, we have no such—

  143. "About to receive"?
  (Mr Mulligan) We had an undertaking in the Standing Committee that Ministers are going to make it clear how these powers intend to be operated. I have no reason to disbelieve ministerial promises on that subject. On the wider issue of the SRA, you, Chair, will know that we gave you fairly substantial evidence of our concerns about the role of the Strategic Rail Authority in the provision of local rail services in the course of considering the Railways Bill.

Mrs Gorman

  144. I just want to ask, because I do not know this, are all of you representing what are, basically, municipal services? For example, in Manchester, is all of your public transport municipally run?
  (Mr Mulligan) If I can speak on behalf of the group, none of the public transport in Manchester is municipally run. We own the Metrolink infrastructure but we franchise it to the private sector on a franchise of 17 years. Rail services are provided by private train operating companies and the bus services are provided by, primarily, First Group and Stagecoach but about 30 to 35 other private sector operators. We are procurers of services rather than providers.

  145. I was interested in the point (and this is my ignorance again rather than any kind of criticism) you made that one light rapid transit "thingamybob" would replace hundreds of buses.
  (Mr Mulligan) I did not say "would replace".

  146. It was something like that.
  (Mr Mulligan) What I said was that in order to replicate the benefits of light rail in terms of guided bus or bus priority, bearing in mind the capacity which is available on a light rail network, you would need to deploy many hundreds of buses in order to get that number of people moving quickly into town centres. We are talking, essentially, about a mass transit system.

  Chairman: If we can avoid going backwards as well as forwards.

  Mrs Gorman: I was just trying to visualise how you could get all that many more people on to this system as opposed to a bus system.

  Chairman: Do you have some other matter?

Mrs Gorman

  147. No, those were the main things I wanted to ask. One other thing I wanted to ask was this: there are two kinds of people using the transport system, there are the locals getting around and then there are commuters who bring their cars and leave them somewhere on the side of the road, or in a garage. Do you think there is any future in the idea of your type of light rail systems travelling out, perhaps along motorways, to outer circular routes so that commuters can come that far and then leave their cars and get on this type of system to come all the way into town? I know that might sound a bit futuristic but I was out at the Dome in the Journey sector and thought I would like to put that to you.
  (Mr Scales) On our MRT proposals we had a 1,000-space Park and Ride scheme adjacent to the M62. Our plans were for cars to come off the M62, park up and then use MRT into the city. My colleagues will probably tell you all about the various Park and Ride schemes that we have on the various networks.

  148. So you have already got that running?
  (Mr Scales) We have got Park and Ride schemes in all the country areas.


  149. I think if we can avoid going through everybody's particular Park and Ride scheme. Is there anything else?
  (Mr Scales) Just on a clarification, Chair, two of the PTEs do have ferries which we own and operate as well.

Miss McIntosh

  150. Can I just ask one general question and then a specific one on funding? If I understood the evidence correctly, both your written submissions and what you have just said today, it is almost as if there is a competition between buses and light rail. Should the two not be entirely complementary if we are going to achieve the Government's desired aim of a fully integrated transport network?
  (Mr Mulligan) I have been rattling on a great deal, I will ask Mr Rob Donald to answer.
  (Mr Donald) Yes, they should. I think the issue we have been discussing up to now, in that sense, is whether a bus solution, which is cheaper on the face of it in capital terms, can be an alternative to light rail. You are quite right, we are in the business of promoting an integrated public transport system. That is not particularly easy in some cases, but that is what we are about. I think you heard two weeks ago from the general manager of the West Midlands' Midland Metro, and he was saying to you that we have actually integrated successfully both the information and the ticketing and, indeed, the re-routing of bus services to interlink with the first Midland Metro line. I think the Chair probed the individual and said "Is that because they are all run by the same company?", and he said "Yes, they are". So, in that sense, we know how to integrate in the privatised world, and there are issues, clearly, about the Transport Bill as to whether one can achieve that integration through quality partnerships and through voluntary arrangements. I think our view is that yes, you can potentially, but there are obviously problems where actually the correct commercial reaction of a bus company may well be not to integrate with a light rail project but actually to see it as a competitive threat and, therefore, to make the normal commercial reaction, which is not to take their customers and put them on to rail. So there are issues of that sort, and we will be addressing that and looking at whether quality contracts have a part to play in ensuring that integration. Certainly there is nothing in the Bill, at the moment, for example, that will require bus operators to have integrated ticketing with light rail or, indeed, heavy rail systems.

  Chairman: Gentlemen, we have a lot of questions, can I ask you to be a tiny bit more disciplined?

Miss McIntosh

  151. Although one shudders to use the European example, in Brussels you buy a Carnet, which is ten tickets on one card and it is fully integrated, and that is how I hope we will eventually be. Towards that end, do you think it is practical and appropriate to factor in funding hypothecation from possible congestion charging and workplace parking charges?
  (Mr Mulligan) Certainly the discussions that I and colleagues have been having with DETR do anticipate the time when workplace car park charging and congestion charging will be in place. In Greater Manchester all 11 authorities are partners with Government in investigating those options, and a fair proportion in the West Midlands. I think when it comes to integrated through-ticketing, the Bill goes a certain way in delivering that in terms of ensuring bus operators collaborate. I think what we want, as a PTEG—and I am slightly straying from the subject because it is about through-ticketing per se—is to see a rather stronger provision in the Bill that all modes of public transport should be included, perhaps by regulation from the Secretary of State.

  152. Could that be achieved?
  (Mr Mulligan) We think so, yes.

Mr Forsythe

  153. I assume it takes quite a bit of planning and permission given for a light rail to be fitted. What changes do you think should be made to the Transport and Works Act procedures in order to make it easier, cheaper and quicker for promoters and objectors to put their case for and against these schemes?
  (Mr Scales) Firstly, the guidance that we have currently got was issued in 1992, so we think it is due for revision anyway, from DETR. DETR have their own target to meet, from the receipt of the public inquiry Inspector's report to actually issuing a decision, of six months. In our case for MRT they met that six months, but in other schemes we are still waiting for a decision. If I can just break it up into three areas, as far as DETR input is concerned, prior to the public inquiry, if they could formally sign off the economic appraisal before the inquiry starts and give that to the Inspector for an indication, that would help a lot. A clear policy statement from DETR in relation to the effect on bus operators' jobs would help us a lot. So would a clear policy statement on legal matters—in other words on government policy in relation to the requirement for provision of exchange land (and that is actually detailed in my evidence). As part of the process of obtaining a statement of use from appropriate local authorities should we also think about including HMRI in that, the Vehicle Inspectorate and English Heritage, so that when we actually get to the public inquiry stage those statutory bodies have already made their case in terms of the scheme itself? Also, make sure that whilst the inquiry is running, proofs of evidence that are supplied by the objectors are supplied three weeks before the inquiry starts. In our case we had huge objections from Redrow, for example, which were submitted during the inquiry, which only gave us overnight to respond. Redrow are a large organisation and they were deploying four expert witnesses, so if the guidance is three weeks before, it should be stated that that is the case. As far as the Inspector is concerned, we think it would be helpful if included with the Inspector's report there was a summary of both sides of the discussion on each point, so that DETR get a much more informed case. Also, the Inspector should instruct that inquiry discussions should be of a local nature and not try to interpret government policy, which is what happened in our case, when we went for hours and hours trying to interpret what the Government was supposed to be guiding us towards. On the day-to-day running of the inquiry we think the DETR should have an observer there, so that when they get the Inspector's Report, which can be 500 pages long, at least the DETR have got a person who has been through the inquiry and can help inform the decision. Also, when the inquiry is operating, we should be given, as promoters on this side of the table, adequate time to respond to objectors proofs of evidence. What tends to happen is you get them during the inquiry and you have got to answer them, and they can be tremendously detailed, complicated noise or emissions or whatever type arguments. You have to have time to do that. For the purposes of the Committee, Chair, I will set that down in writing and send it to the Clerk. We think it is high time that it was revised, because the guidance was issued in 1992 and we have come a long way since then.

  154. Would that not be inclined to put light rail scheme promoters off?
  (Mr Scales) No, I do not think so, because the other issue is that under the new approach to transport appraisal it is horses for courses and we have to go through a process ourselves of saying "Can we do the scheme with bus?" "Can we do it with bus-plus?" (ie, guided bus). "Can we use trolley buses, light rail or, indeed, heavy rail?" So I do not think it will put promoters off, it will make it easier for us to understand what the parameters are and to understand what the timescales are.

  155. You still have the same problem with bus routes, when a new bus route comes on stream.
  (Mr Scales) No, bus routes are not captured by the TWA unless they are guided bus routes. Colleagues have got similar schemes going through the TWA process at the moment.

  156. It is much simpler just to have a bus route, without all of that.
  (Mr Scales) That is right. You register a bus route with the Traffic Commissioner and six weeks later you can operate that route, subject to having an operator's licence and everything.

Mr Bennett

  157. Manchester's big bang. What are the advantages of it?
  (Mr Mulligan) Big bang, we term the single contract when we refer to it publically. Essentially, we have four extensions which are under development or have been developed. One is to Oldham and Rochdale in the north east of the country, one south to Manchester Airport, which is a huge economic generator and has a target of 25 per cent public transport penetration within the next few years, and one east to Ashton. If you look at the schemes individually, you will find that the aggregate of the capital costs is some 10 to 15 per cent less than if schemes were to be done separately. This arises in terms of civil engineering. If you let one single contract, one of the major problems that a civil engineer has is the availability of possessions (as they are called) that they can move around—material, people, etc. The real, substantial savings arise on the scale of the order of trams that you can make, however. If I order five or six trams then the likelihood is that the supplier is going to charge of the order of £1.5 million per tram. If you order 50, the likelihood is you will be charged a unit cost of about £1 million per tram because, obviously, the supplier has to set up a special line in the factory, rejig it and so on. If you can look at somebody like Ansaldo in Italy, it produces something like 400 trams a year. They get very excited when the order is 50, 60 or 70 trams, but they are rather less enthusiastic by an order of about five.


  158. I wonder why!
  (Mr Mulligan) We also think that in terms of the private sector they have seen the major success of Metrolink Phase 1—and, in fact, they contributed over £100 million of the £160 million towards Phase 2—and that the benefits in the individual scheme would generate a concession value, but for the three schemes the whole is greater than the sum of the parts—if I can get the quote right—and we think that will be quite substantial. We see a major effect on the reduction in car trips on the completed network of about 10 million trips per annum. Car kilometres, we think, will fall by about 50 million per year and the Gross Domestic Product will increase. This is the subject of research by the Centre of Economic and Business Research, which is a very respectable body and, in fact, has been used by the Government. Their research shows that the benefits to the Greater Manchester economy will be of the order of £170 million per annum, and I am quite happy, through you, Chair, to release that evidence to the Committee. Putting aside construction jobs, 6,000 permanent jobs would be created.

  159. Outside construction?
  (Mr Mulligan) Outside construction, within the conurbation, as a result of increased economic activity in Greater Manchester. So there are all of those things, combined with the fact that whilst the gross capital cost is of the order of £500 million we think we can secure some £250 million from the private sector from developers and from saved public expenditure elsewhere.

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