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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220 - 239)



Mrs Gorman

  220. The comparison is between people getting into cars in traffic jams all the way up to London and especially through London and taking your route instead, and that route for a commuter in the rush hour is pretty slow going anyway, so I was thinking of it more in competition with people bringing cars in because one of the things we are trying to do in London is to reduce that. That is my comparison. Your colleague is dying to say something.
  (Dr Quarmby) I was going to add to what Richard Smith had been saying there. It seems to me there are two things that determine whether you have a fully fledged rail system like the national rail network, or indeed something like the Underground, or a light rail: it is a combination of the distances you are travelling, and the intensity of demand on the corridor. Light rail is best suited, as Richard was saying, for distances up to about 15 or 20 kilometres and where stations are quite closely spaced to give people final access to where they want to go and where the volume of traffic is not more than 6,000 to 10,000 people per hour. The kind of situation that is being referred to by Mrs Gorman is generally more suited to the national rail network where you have got longer distances coming in from the M25 where you have got very heavy flows of people and where ideally you should have a high performing rail system which we do have on many corridors into London.

  Mr Bennett: If I could pursue this question that Mr Stevenson started with, this comparison between bus and light rail. Is it not totally unfair that almost all the comparisons are being made between new light rail and old buses which are erratic, slow, have ancient ticketing systems, cold, dirty?

  Chairman: Otherwise ideal!

  Mr Bennett: Take Blackpool trams. Compared to a bus service apart from the view there is not much to recommend the trams in Blackpool.


  221. There used to be but there ain't any more.
  (Mr Smith) We absolutely agree that the comparison must be in the continuum and that you look at high quality bus services giving a high level of priorities. Light rapid transit tends to be interpreted as light rail but Millennium Transit is deliberately designed to be in that gap, a guided busway with very high levels of priority and we are very keen to see a real trial of a network of that kind because we believe there will be a rather stronger case than many, many, many accept and that that can actually perform in the same league as tram systems. And you are absolutely right that we need to understand whether that kind of system really can deliver and we have not got one in the United Kingdom at the moment.

Mr Bennett

  222. So the Millennium system coming late is a bit of a disaster. Why is it that it is the Railway Inspectorate that is checking it out rather than anybody else?
  (Mr Smith) The Railway Inspectorate has to check it out because that is its statutory role. We have not handed it over to the Railway Inspectorate to check out because we know that it is not yet ready. We will hand it over to them to check once we are confident they will say yes to it.

  223. Can these new light rapid transit systems work unless we have some traffic restraining measures? Effectively in Docklands the River is a very effective traffic restraining measure, is it not.
  (Dr Quarmby) Certainly any traffic restraint, whether it is a natural one like a river, or control on parking in a city centre, will generate more travel on a light rail system like the DLR or any other. But there are certain intrinsic features of a light rail system, whether it is one that is totally segregated or one that is partly street running like a tram, which I believe will tend to attract more people to that than to the equivalent bus system, even if it is a segregated busway. These are things which I know the Committee is quite familiar with from the visits that you have made, such as the reliability of travel, the quality of the product, the quality of the ride, and indeed the sense of permanence in the infrastructure and the system which give a different image to it. These factors also tend to attract more people to using rail.

  224. This controversy about the 3.9 million new homes in the South East. A fair number of them are going to go into the Thames Gateway side of London?
  (Dr Quarmby) Yes.

  225. Also they ought to be of a much higher density than has been done in suburbia?
  (Dr Quarmby) Indeed.

  226. Therefore it ought to make sense for a light rail system to go out there. How far are you looking to go out?
  (Dr Quarmby) There is plenty of scope for further housing in many parts of the eastern area of Docklands and we hope very much that those will help to meet the new targets of housing because the light rail system is there and being extended and there is the land and there is the opportunity.


  227. Some of those middle class ghettos behind their electronically-controlled doors are not going to fight their way onto your Docklands Light Railway.
  (Dr Quarmby) Chairman, we have all sorts of conditions of people using the DLR.

  228. You are not listening me. We are asking you if there are extended housing areas, are you looking at whether you can provide them with a service?
  (Mr Brown) The one we are looking at specifically is London City airport and making that route go through those areas with benefits to local people who are going to live there.

  229. Would that not make your system rather longer than the optimum size that we were told about.
  (Mr Brown) It is on the edge of that optimum size but it is 22 minutes to the centre of London, which is about the most competitive.

  230. I think the areas Mr Bennett was talking about are not just where there is an obvious economic driver at the end of the line, and City airport is not only that but it should have been connected a long time ago, what about the other areas where no such link exists?
  (Mr Brown) The choices made by the developers are to go for high density or low density, high density based on public transport or low density based on one or more cars. In this corridor although it is limited by the destination which is London City airport, we are looking with the developers, and it is all about planning with the developers, for a low amount of cars and a high density of housing which makes the railway viable and makes to go beyond the airport viable.
  (Mr Smith) We are very keen to work with local authorities and developers and our emphasis is very much when you are planning a development plan the public transport, whether it is bus or light rail or anything else. If you take Millennium Transit if we extend into Waterfront Transit we will see that as a key link for Woolwich for those people who want to travel into central London as an interchange. They will not necessarily travel all the way on our system but we are very keen to encourage and that new housing is high density near to good public transport access and that good public transport access is planned from day one rather than an after thought. It has got to be part of the plan.

  231. And you are getting a good response?
  (Mr Willis) We are working very closely with Thames Gateway Partnership in terms of trying to understand the land use.

  232. That is careful use of English. I said are you getting a good response?
  (Dr Quarmby) We are, Chairman!
  (Mr Willis) We are looking at a wide range of options including Intermediate Modes and looking at the DLR possibly going under the River at Woolwich.

  233. Funding?
  (Mr Willis) The three intermediate modes in Thamesmead, Barking and Romford are all designed to serve development areas. What we put on the ground comes down to essentially the layout of the developments but particularly the density of developments. At the moment, particularly in the Barking Reach areas and parts of Thamesmead, we do not think that the densities are high enough to justify the high investment of light rail.

  234. Is that a part of your formula because presumably what you are doing is an economic model that says the formula must be X.
  (Mr Willis) In terms of houses per acre I do not think I have got a number off the top of my head.
  (Dr Quarmby) We can do you a note.

  235. That would be helpful. Dr Quarmby, do you have a different view on this?
  (Dr Quarmby) I would not say different views but we do have practical evidence as the DLR of working closely with developers in the areas surrounding our stations to support them in their planning applications with the local boroughs and in enabling easy access to the stations from the development.

  Chairman: I do not think we are arguing against that. Mr Stevenson?

Mr Stevenson

  236. I have two or three questions on the housing densities you talked about in terms of the viability of the transport facility you referred to. Those higher density public transport potential options versus the lower density car options, is that a density based on the provision of light rail transport?
  (Mr Smith) Not necessarily. If you were putting the density in to get people into central London then you clearly have to find a way of getting them all the way into central London. That may be a good bus service to the nearest underground station.

  237. That clearly is the kernel of my question because the impression is that all you have got in mind is light rail which, by definition, can be more expensive than alternatives. So therefore my next question is what bus, either bus lane facility or guided bus facility, are you looking at in terms of the developments you can see in the foreseeable future?
  (Mr Kinnock) If we take the Barking and Romford scheme, which is one of our intermediate schemes that we are looking at at the moment, it is not at all clear that we will conclude that it should be a light rail scheme. It might well be a guided bus scheme.

  238. How many schemes are you looking at?
  (Mr Smith) We are currently looking at those four areas as specific major schemes.

  239. And one you are not sure about?
  (Mr Smith) We are still looking at all of them for what mode we use.

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