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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360 - 374)



  360. Who polices that at present?
  (Mr Knapp) Well, it would be Railtrack and the infrastructure companies themselves would be policing that, so far as individuals are concerned.

  361. Would you think there may well be a need for the regulator to take a role of that nature?
  (Mr Knapp) I keep coming back to the same point. We have to create a core professional work force at the centre. The heart of the railway is Railtrack. I do not think anybody would disagree that whatever they do radiates out. If you get that core established then you can really get to grips with the sort of situation you are talking about.


  362. I want to just ask you one or two very brief questions at the end of your evidence, Mr Knapp. Are you aware that Railtrack are very anxious to reduce the number of maintenance companies?
  (Mr Knapp) Well, I do not know what that would achieve.

  363. Are you aware that is their intention?
  (Mr Knapp) I was not directly aware of that, no.

  364. Are you aware that many of the contracts that are handed out to various firms are, apparently, simply moving round the countryside, in other words, they will lose one in one region, but simply find another contract in another part of the country?
  (Mr Knapp) I am very much aware of that, because some of our members are in on their fifth employer in five years.

  365. Do you think that contributes to the stability of the work force or the quality of the work that the maintain is involved in?
  (Mr Knapp) I think it mitigates against it, because you have all the uncertainty of the work force moving to four different employers in the space of four or five years, and all the pressures that may be brought on them by a new employer in respect of all that. Again, I think I mentioned this earlier this afternoon, senior management in the companies are spending a huge amount of time trying to retain these contracts. As you say, Chair, they lose one in the Midland Mainline and they get one somewhere else, and that is what is going on.

  366. On the figures on investment, the Government says the estimates it has made of the private sector investment and of the 10 year plan are robust. Do you think that that is misplaced?
  (Mr Knapp) I think it is to a degree, in the sense that 60 per cent of the private investment is designed to come from increased revenue. As I pointed out earlier, if the economy is doing well, the revenue is doing well, so you have to ask that kind of question. I think your point about it is that I would assume that the public investment is linked to private investment. So you have a kind of nationwide PPP, if you like, probably the biggest one yet. The other question I would ask is, when will it start and how will it start? If the public investment is linked to the private investment, that is a big question.

  367. Are you saying that the public funds that have been allocated to the 10 year plan are sufficient or not?
  (Mr Knapp) We welcome the funds.

  368. I am not arguing that. Is the amount big enough or not?
  (Mr Knapp) I think it is big enough, yes, but I am raising practical questions about achieving it.

  369. The Rail Regulator did a review recently about Railtrack's access charges. Do you really think that that has addressed the fundamentally flawed nature of the financial and regulatory structures of the railway or not?
  (Mr Knapp) No, I do not think so. As I said earlier, I have a lot of respect for the current Regulator and his efforts.

  370. You do not think he is being too soft on Railtrack?
  (Mr Knapp) No, I do not think he is being soft on Railtrack, but that is not the problem, the problem is that this is only tinkering with the structure that failed us and we have to grasp the nettle and change it.

  371. Do you think Railtrack can achieve efficiency savings of 3.1?
  (Mr Knapp) I think it will be doubtful.

  372. So the Regulator could really have changed the structure of Railtrack, could he not, when he was looking to do a periodic review and he did not do so?
  (Mr Knapp) No. Well, I think that is the basic problem that we face.

  373. Tell me, supposing we did? We have been asked in different forms before, but I would like to know. Do you think that the situation in relation to maintenance would change if Railtrack was forced to bring back in-house not only the services of maintenance, but also the supervision, as long as there was independent safety authority?
  (Mr Knapp) Yes, that would be a big step in the right direction, but with a public stake alongside that.

  374. Mr Knapp, you have been extremely helpful this afternoon. We are very grateful to you. We wish you very well and we are very grateful to you for coming.
  (Mr Knapp) Thank you very much.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 27 April 2001