Memorandum by the Railway Development
Society (RI 10)
RDS is a national independent body. We campaign
for better rail services with the aim of allowing passenger and
freight to transfer from road to rail. We have a central office
in London and we lobby on national rail issues supported by specialist
groups in rail policy and promotion. We have a network of about
100 local branches and user groups for passenger and freight.
There is a wealth of local knowledge and practical experience
to inform the points we are making.
We welcome the much improved positive environment
for rail investment, as evidenced by:
greatly improved Railtrack Network
Management Statement (NMS)
rival proposals for East Coast passenger
revived Central Railway proposals
for new freight route
However, there are serious concerns about the
present direction which we think ought to receive priority attention
from the Government.
It is very clear to us from our discussions
with Railtrack senior management that funding from private sources
is far short of what is needed to finance the infrastructure upgrading
detailed in their NMS. In other words private finance on its own
will not deliver the track and route capacity needed to bring
about a major modal shift from road to rail as envisaged by the
Government in their 1998 Transport White Paper.
We think that a major injection of new money
from the Treasury is essential to augment additional private finance.
This should start well before the next General Election and be
linked to the Government's 10 year transport plan expected to
be announced in July. As an immediate first step the Treasury
should plough all premiums paid by the profitable TOCs back into
The issue of financing for rail infrastructure
investment schemes needs to be addressed urgently along with protection
of land assets and disused routes. Leaving matters to be resolved
largely by the industry in the private sector is not sufficient
and fail to generate enough investment either in new infrastructure,
electrification or reopenings. Some Government policies as set
out in the Transport White Paper will not happen because they
are not in the commercial interests of the industry.
As part of this the Government should provide
infrastructure support to the railways to enable them to compete
with 44-tonne lorries which the Government has recently allowed
and financed the upgrading of the road network to take them.
The Government should make extra efforts to
facilitate the use of EU money for Britain's railways.
Access charges by Railtrack should be reviewed
for reopened lines and stations. The expected high level of these
charges is inhibiting reopenings that could well have occurred
under British Rail when costs were lower, for example Ivanhoe
lineLeicester to Burton.
AUTHORITY (SRA) AND
The SRA should have a strategic vision for the
whole Rail Network and its potential for expansion. So far they
have tended to be reactive to proposals rather than proactive
in expressing transport requirements. The new Authority has not
yet shown that it is fulfilling expectations in this respect.
We are concerned that promoters of schemes such
as the East Coast passenger upgrades and the Central Railway proposals
for a new freight route seem to be working in isolation to tackle
specific problems or needs they have identified. There is a crying
need to take an overview of new capacity requirements for the
network as a whole.
Railtrack NMS begins to do this for the short
to medium term requirements, but not for the major long-term projects.
The rail industry is looking to the SRA to provide the strategic
vision that UK rail needs, and RDS believes that the SRA should
be the guiding force behind implementing these strategic decisions.
In our view some of the principles that should
guide an investment programme are:
on all three or four main intercity
routes into London the greatest congestion is at the London end
and this is where new capacity (new lines) should be provided;
other bottlenecks in major conurbations
such as Birmingham and Manchester need to be tackled urgently;
the current scheme in Leeds is a welcome start on such work;
major schemes in London are crucial
for the Capital to remain a world-class city generating wealth
for the nation. The aim should be to integrate the services of
the surface and underground systems (from the users' point of
view) to simplify and speed journeys and to relieve severe congestion.
We appreciate that some of these developments involve Transport
for London and the Greater London Authority. However they do have
a fundamental relationship with the national network so we include
During the last five years Thameslink 2000 has
progressed much too slowly and CrossRail not at all. The orbital
rail network within London needs major refurbishment and proper
integration by links such as the East London Line extension and
the Woolwich river crossing. Other gaps in the network need to
be filled by light rail or conventional rail links.
The Chelsea Hackney line is another valuable
cross-centre rail link which should be very high on the agenda.
London has one crosslink worthy of the name (Thameslink) whereas
Paris now has six which have been created over the last 15 years.
The electrification programme needs to be reactivated.
No electrification has been completed since Heathrow. No new schemes
authorised since privatisation. And, with one or two minor exceptions,
no part of the industry sees electrification as in its commercial
interest yet the case for it remains a strong one for the community
at large. We think the SRA should take the lead in recommending
which parts of the network should be electrified in the short
and long term giving due consideration to network, commercial
and environmental benefits.
Line restoration and service reopenings also
need reactivating. Station reopenings have continued thanks to
local authority sponsorship but have almost halved in number post
British Rail (14 per year down to eight per year). Line reopenings
have slowed down very much. This is because costs have somehow
greatly escalated while it seems much harder to put together agreements
in a commercial environment. Well researched schemes ranging from
Ivanhoe in Leicestershire to Alloa in Scotland have made little
Reopenings involving line restorations (as opposed
to those where the line still exists but is not in use) face even
greater hurdles. We and other groups have called for suitable
procedures for safeguarding potential routes for restoration.
We are not satisfied with the response. Indeed the programme of
"asset-stripping" by selling rail land continues uncomfortably
fast, possibly removing important options for the future.
The current land sell-offs by Rail Property
Limited are occurring before the rail industry as a whole can
plan what is needed for an improved future network. There are
sites that may have transport uses but are not yet identified
as such. There are sites that at present lack a transport bidder.
In either case they may end up with a supermarket or ill-placed
housing development built on top of them.
These land sales are preempting the completion
of processes that will determine rail development. For example,
the passenger refranchising process is in its early stages, the
Government's 10 year plan has not been announced yet; local transport
plans are only just being finalised. We urge the Government to
rethink the land sell-offs to address these issues.
Bids should be ambitious with radical ideas
for rail expansion, realistic and deliverable and able to bring
about modal shift from road. Performance track-record of present
franchises should be considered in connection with any candidate
TOC bidding for the new franchises.
Investment in rail rolling stock has recovered
from the three-year hiatus at privatisation, but there is still
insufficient spare stock available to deal with exceptional demand
or breakdowns. The period between a train operating company ordering
new stock and the stock coming into practical commercial service
has often been more than three years and must be reduced for the
benefit of long-suffering commuters and other passengers.
Lack of extra equipment means less reliable
and more overcrowded services. This makes it more difficult to
persuade new users from their cars.
We have reports from our regions which suggest
Railtrack is falling far short of fulfilling its stewardship role
for the national rail network. We have examples of the company
choosing to ignore simple low cost developments, which could greatly
improve the lot of local communities. Even more disturbing is
the total neglect of some potentially useful assets when these
do not have an immediately profitable purpose.
We quote three examples from the Midlands area
to illustrate what we mean:
1. At Leamington Spa some two to three years
ago Railtrack replaced or updated the signalling but refused to
include works to enable trains using the up bay platform four
to depart towards Kenilworth and Coventry. The signal only permits
departures towards Warwick. This seemed a very negative attitude
to operational flexibility and service development.
negative attitude to operational flexibility and
2. At Stratford-upon-Avon in 1997 Railtrack
modernised the signalling and revised the trackwork but refused
requests for a new facing crossover to be installed outside the
station to enable trains to terminate directly into platform two
or three. This would avoid double shunting moves and delays to
services when more than one train is at the station. This can
be a particular problem when say both a Birmingham and a London
train is present together at the station with a locomotive hauled
charter train and often chaos has ensued.
3. The eight-mile Round Oak-Walsall section
of the 18-mile Stourbridge-Dudley-Walsall line has lain dormant
for some five years due to repairs necessary to the Parkhead Viaduct.
Although there is strategic freight and passenger potential for
this route Railtrack has undertaken no maintenance. There has
been unauthorised removal of parts of the track and burning of
two signal boxes. We think this amounts to wanton neglect of valuable
infrastructure with considerable potential which will cost £30
million to repair.
The Government and the Nation would like to
see significant heavy and longer distance freight transferred
from road to rail for social and environmental reasons. Some parts
of the network round London and other major centres are already
full to capacity. Network expansion is needed to deal with the
bottlenecks, provide alternative routes on former rail trackbeds,
and more terminals to connect with the road network or directly
into manufacturers sites. We are very concerned indeed that existing
railway land may be sold too hastily without time for realistic
consultation with railfreight users. Again we reiterate the need
for the SRA and local authorities to work closely with the industry
looking carefully at long term strategic needs before land is
The UK rail network is experiencing a most welcome
"renaissance" in terms of increasing passenger miles
and freight tonnage. This renewed patronage must be encouraged
further by investment in the network to facilitate the accessible,
inclusive, reliable service which the British public want and
deserve. We welcome the private capital which has been injected
into the railways since privatisation. This must be complemented
by a much greater level of Government financial support to realise
the goal of major modal shift from road to rail.
We would very much welcome the opportunity to
present further evidence orally at the Palace of Westminster when
the sessions are arranged in due course.