Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120
WEDNESDAY 31 JANUARY 2001
MR C AUSTIN,
MR G WOODROFFE,
MS D RICHARDS
MR R WIGHTMAN
120. I am not really your problem. I spend all
my time studying transport and I travel all the time.
(Mr Dean) I would not disagree. We do have a number
of initiatives but we need to address some people who do not use
public transport at all and are not used to looking for timetables
and we need to make it as user friendly as we can. Another thing
we are doing is improving our internet information. If you have
somebody who is very technical but does not travel by train
121. I do not think many pensioners actually
use the internet.
(Mr Dean) We use a range of media. It is not just
the internet. We do leafleting and all sorts of copy.
122. Does the rail industry give top priority
to station access by pedestrians or by car?
(Mr Dean) Our policy is to try to give priority to
everybody because it is truly multi-modal. In the past the emphasis
was very much on car access and that was not necessarily the right
way forward. To go totally to pedestrian and cycle access without
any access for cars would not be the right image for an integrated
transport jigsaw. What we try to do is have an holistic approach
to our traffic management planning stations. What you often find
is that a lot of forecourts do actually have quite a bit of room
to do good schemes. The good thing about pedestrian access is
that it does not necessarily require an awful lot of space. It
is just a question of looking at it comprehensively from the beginning
of the planning process and organising it properly so you can
develop schemes where everybody is happy. Sometimes in particular
areas it can be a bit of a challenge and you do have tradeoffs
where you have to make a choice. I should say for the majority
of schemes you can try to keep everybody happy.
123. I want to put a question to the FirstGroup
people because you do buses as well as trains, do you not? How
much attention do you pay to the desire of passengers or potential
passengers to be picked up closer to their homes, that is to say
a more flexible pickup policy, which does operate in other parts
of the world?
(Mr Dean) One of the things we are looking at at the
moment is demand-responsive transport, which is the idea that
you have flexible services which can go off the line of route,
so they can go closer to where people might want to pick up a
bus service. The technology is starting to emerge in a cost-effective
way and it is something we are looking at. We actually have a
bid in at the moment for rural bus challenge funding from the
Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, for
a scheme in Cornwall which we are doing with Cornwall County Council.
We are also working with a supplier and Essex County Council on
the possibilities in that part of the world. It is something we
are looking at. You will remember as well that one of the things
after deregulation of bus services was a sudden spread of minibus
services, smaller buses, which did mean that they were able to
access roads which larger buses were not able to.
124. They did not last very long, did they?
(Mr Dean) The buses have got a bit bigger now, but
that is mainly because the passenger capacity was exceeded because
they were so popular.
Mrs Dunwoody: Say that again. They were so popular
you do not use them any more.
125. You simply have to use bigger buses because
they were popular.
(Mr Dean) The buses were very popular so the inability
of the buses to take those people, but you will find we still
have smaller vehicles than the conventional large vehicles which
run on the major corridors which still do go into the housing
estates and housing areas in a way which larger buses cannot do.
126. Do you have any obstacles to that? Are
you able to go down whichever streets you want to, or do you have
to spend years wrangling with a local council about whether you
can do that?
(Mr Dean) Nothing stops us from doing that, but good
practice is that you would consult with residents and the local
authority if you were planning to go down a road which had not
been served by buses before. Sometimes it is not received very
well. The local authority can impose a traffic order banning buses
from a particular road if it wanted to do so, but the route we
normally go down is to consult and talk to people about it.
127. How compatible is pedestrianisation of
the town centres with bus access? Is it really possible to have
buses going down the same street with pedestrians walking with
no other traffic?
(Mr Dean) We think so. We think good bus access to
town and city centres is actually essential, not just for our
business but also meeting local and central government policy
objectives. If we want to make public transport more attractive
there is no point dropping people off a mile from where they really
want to be. We think bus access to town centres is very important.
We think it can be achieved and it is things like good design.
For example, if you are designing a pedestrian priority area with
bus access, it is making sure you know what the pedestrian desire
lines are so that you do not design something which pedestrians
do not like and which tempt them to cross in dangerous areas.
It is also things like training of our staff to make them aware
of what to look out for in pedestrian areas. In addition, procedures
such as headlights being turned on to warn people of buses coming
into the central area. There are some very good examples. The
other area which is very important is that if you have buses in
the town centre, then it helps in terms of having a presence at
night time. If you have total pedestrianisation, when the shops
shut there is nobody there. If you have buses running through
the city centre and you still have people waiting for buses as
well, it all acts as a deterrent to people who might be up to
128. People are talking about pedestrianising
Trafalgar Square and Whitehall. Could you really envisage that
having the impact of producing a nice attractive pedestrianised
area if buses were still to run through Trafalgar Square and down
(Mr Dean) It depends upon the extent. If it is total
pedestrianisation, where all four sides of Trafalgar Square are
banned to all traffic, speaking off the cuff I am sure we would
have a bit of a problem with that. That would damage our services.
If you are talking of pedestrianising one side of Trafalgar Square
and putting in bus priority on the approach roads, then I believe
the feeling, certainly from London Transport, is that that can
be accommodated in terms of making sure that it does not affect
the reliability of buses. It is all down to good design. It takes
a lot of thought.
129. You as a company clearly understand the
theory but if I as a passenger want to be dropped off nearer to
my home than a mile away, why can you not just arrange for your
bus driver to accept that request from the passenger and do it,
or are you doing it?
(Mr Dean) It depends upon the service. We are looking
at services where we are looking to make them more flexible. If
you have a fixed route service, that is based on a schedule and
the schedule is a legal requirement in terms of drivers' hours.
If we asked a driver to drive somebody off their line of route
so it took ten minutes more, if the driver was close to his limit
in terms of drivers' hours for the day, then that could cause
a problem. It is necessary to look at what the market is. If people
do want to access their homes or wherever they are going a lot
better, then the technology is available now and let us see how
we can exploit it with another type of bus service.
130. If your scheme is going to be successful,
what chance is there of your buses, particularly in York, actually
reaching a station on time? Are you actually able to say what
proportion of your budget every year is spent on the safety and
security issues like lighting and CCTV?
(Mr Dean) I shall have to get back to you with a note
on your last point. I cannot tell you now but I can certainly
get back to you on that. Reliability is a key issue. We think
we work very hard to achieve that, but it is something we need
to achieve in partnership because we do not own the highway. Some
local authorities are prepared to give us a significant amount
of bus priority and that has an impact. In other places, for whatever
reason, the highway authority finds it difficult and that means
it does cause problems in terms of reliability of our services.
We can do things to try to address that. We put extra buses in
the schedule so that if it takes longer we maintain the frequency,
even though there is a cost to us for that. We have done that
in Bristol. We are always looking at ways of trying to manage
congestion, but the best way to do it is to manage it in partnership
with the highway authority. If we get real priority then we can
deliver on reliability, as you have heard from Oxford. There is
significant bus priority there and there is a figure of something
like 80 per cent passenger growth over the last ten years in the
number of bus passengers. It does have an impact.
131. The balance between the objective of letting
people walk to stations and engineering priorities within Railtrack.
Are you satisfied that sometimes actual engineering decisions
do not make it harder for people to walk to railway stations?
(Ms Richards) I am not aware of any conflicts.
132. If I look at the West Coast Main Line alterations
which have been made, in one or two places, it does appear that
access to stations is being made harder in order to achieve engineering
successes. How does this work within the board? Who makes the
(Ms Richards) I am not familiar with the example you
have given there. We would have to come back to you on that point.
I am not aware of any conflicts which would exist between an engineering
operation and an access to a station unless it was on a temporary
basis to facilitate those engineering works.
Chairman: I shall leave that at that point.
Thank you very much for your evidence.