Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360
WEDNESDAY 15 NOVEMBER 2000
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
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
(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
(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
(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
(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.