Examination of Witnesses (Questions 400
WEDNESDAY 15 NOVEMBER 2000
400. How far have commuters suffered in the
last three or four weeks? Do you have any measure of how much
(Mr Mulligan) The suffering has been quite considerable.
Speaking of our own experience today, I think all three of us
took about five hours to get from the North down to London.
401. You are not commuting, I know come down
here fairly frequently, what about the people making that two,
three or five mile journey within Greater Manchester or in the
other areas that you represent?
(Mr Mulligan) My colleagues must speak for their own
areas, in Greater Manchester there has not been a level of disruption
which is equivalent to the longer distances, because the problems
have been rather less than on the long distance services to London.
(Mr Preston) Northern Spirit services have suffered
greatly in West Yorkshire. There was no service at all for much
of last week and the week before on the Airedale and Wharfdale
line and there were no directservices between Leeds and York.
It was absolute chaos in terms of people simply not being able
to turn up and rely upon the train being there. I think the other
thing that we have to get right is how we inform passengers about
disruptions and how we keep them informed, maybe 24 hours in advance,
and the alternatives we offer to them. I do not think we responded
as an industry in the way that we should have done.
402. You paid grants for some of those services,
are you going to get the grant money back and how are passengers
going to be compensated to try and re-establish some loyalty to
(Mr Preston) What I have asked for in West Yorkshire
is for a full analysis of why trains were cancelled over that
period. I think a number of operating companies maybe took opportunities
to put things right, maybe get trains maintained that otherwise
would have missed maintenance schedules. I am not entirely sure
all trains cancelled could be put down to weather. There will
be force majeure events and the operator will be treated
as if those trains operated.
403. You are asking the right questions.
(Mr Scales) We had a landslide on the City Line which
closed the City Line for a couple of weeks. We did suffer a lot
of problems on the electrical system. Because we take revenue
risk on both franchises, any fines we levy go to the Treasury
ultimately. We do not have a mechanism to re-circulate any monies
back. All three of us do have passengers' charters that operate
in our counties. If certain criteria are met there are reimbursement
mechanisms for the passenger. They have suffered a lot over the
last few weeks, particularly with unreliability and punctuality
404. You have all mentioned the franchises and
the fact they were renewed, would this have been an opportunity
to change the way the system worked in relation to some of your
(Mr Mulligan) I think in terms of replacement franchising
we welcome the long period of the franchise because it is likely
to generate more capital from the private sector into the networks.
One of the concerns that all three of us have in the North is
with the Trans-Pennine Express. I have already referred to the
problems in and around Manchester in capacity terms and the West
Coast Mainline arriving there. The sine qua non of getting
those services inalthough one applauds the idea of express
services from the Hull through to Liverpool and Manchester, and
so onwhere they integrate with local commuter networks
is absolutely essential in the investment in Greater Manchester.
405. The criteria ought to be investment, safety
(Mr Mulligan) Investment, safety and integration.
The Trans-Pennine Express will not be successful unless there
is appropriate investment to expand capacity, because there will
be a direct conflict with commuter services and no party will
be well served.
406. You will not mind me saying, these are
real fears that you have raised before as a Group and you will
remember we incorporated your views into one of our previous Reports.
What I ask you to tell me, finally, is what has been the response,
firstly, of the shadow Strategic Rail Authority to your fears
and, secondly, what has been the Government's response?
(Mr Mulligan) In terms of the shadow Strategic Rail
Authority they now acknowledge, after a little while, there needs
to be major investment in and round Greater Manchester which affects
all three of us in our own particular area, or five of the six
Passenger Transport Executives. The imponderable at the moment
is both the timing and the expenditure and the investments which
will take place from Railtrack and were that money will come from,
whether it will be public or private sources, we do not know that.
407. You do think that the Strategic Rail Authority
have taken your arguments on board?
(Mr Mulligan) Yes, I think they understood
408. What about the Government?
(Mr Mulligan) In terms of our argument about the local
transport plan, the Government is inclined to put the money through
the rail passenger partnership and we find that strange in light
of the fact that the local transport plan is the vehicle for delivering
integrated public transport in the United Kingdom, and has been
formally adopted as such.
Chairman: Thank you very much. That has been
Mr Donohoe: I was going to say to the Chairman
that my question had been asked but I would only be following
a trend that started today in the House
Chairman: That is an in-joke, you will see the
point of it in the papers tomorrow.
409. What is your view of Railtrack's sudden
surge of maintenance over the last few weeks? Do you think that
was just a panic? Could you also tell me if you as an organisation
are given what the projected maintenance of the track within your
areas are going to be over the next five years or do you have
an idea as to what expenditure there is going to be by Railtrack?
(Mr Mulligan) I am not in a position
to know whether Railtrack have panicked or not. I am in a position
to say from a personal capacity that this is the first time, in
my experience, in my entire life, the entire railway system has
been virtually out of commission for a period of time. You may
make of that what you want. In terms of our own areas, I can only
speak for Greater Manchester, there are clearly maintenance issues
to be addressed. They do not appear to be as severe in Greater
Manchester as in other places.
410. What about future maintenanceyou
must get taken into the confidence of Railtrackis that
expenditure going to grow at a rate proportionally over the next
(Mr Mulligan) I have not had such specific assurance,
but I hope so.
411. Do you know the programme of maintenance
expenditure in your area over the next two or three years?
(Mr Mulligan) No, I do not.
412. Do you not think you should?
(Mr Mulligan) I think there should be more transparency.
(Mr Scales) In the Northwest zone we have had three
zone directors in the last three years. By the time we educate
one, so he knows what we are about, they move him somewhere else.
Chairman: Perhaps you are acting as an extension
of the training system, Mr Scales? Thank you very much for coming.