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

Memorandum by South West Transport Network (RI 18)

   The Railway Development Society Severnside and South West branches would like to make the following comments to the committee about renewal, maintenance and the development of the national rail network.

  We are very concerned about the lack of maintenance in day to day operations of Railtrack Great Western Zone Stations since the regeneration of these stations were carried out. It would appear to both the Railway Development Society and Transport 2000 that there needs to be a tightening of the financial conditions to protect investment of taxpayers money invested in station regeneration programmes and a duty placed on leasees to clean and maintain station buildings. For example repairs are needed on stations such as Clifton Down and Montpelier on the Severn Beach Line which are covered in graffiti and broken glass in the waiting shelter making these stations unsafe at night. Other stations in Great Western Zone Railtrack in poor condition leased to Wales and the West Passenger Trains at Bruton covered in graffiti on the footbridge with details of illegal drugs, Nailsea and Backwell with graffiti covered waiting shelters and Worle Parkway with broken glass shelters. The Plymouth area stations are also in a poor state of repairs. There does not appear to be an effective station maintenance regulator function in provision in terms of finance and lease enforcement to protect taxpayers investment through access charges.

  With regards to refranchising there still appears to be the lack of a strategy with the shadow Strategic Rail authority for the franchise area based in the eight English Regional Transport Strategies. For instance in the South West of England if a new rail franchise area is to be developed based on the local services around Bristol, including the Bristol Temple Meads Severn Beach Line via Clifton Down and Avonmouth to link this service to a new passenger service between Avonmouth and Yate via Filton Junction and Bristol Temple Meads to Portishead and Wapping Wharf, then maintenance faculties will be required at Bristol, Bath Road. At present Railtrack appears to be removing the network from this depot without any closure order from the Secretary of State for Transport despite Bristol City Council and the three other unitary authorities who appealed the previous regulator John Swift's decision to close Bath Road Depot. This decision took no account of the needs of an expanding South West Railway or a new light rail system for Bristol being promoted by Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council using the Railtrack route between Bristol Temple Meads, Lawrence Hill, Stapleton Road, Filton Abbey Wood and Bradley Stoke.

  There is a need for the Government to fully address a properly funded rail network of regional and local train networks under British Rail operations. It cost £84 million a year to operate Wales and the West Passengers Trains area and maintain stations and infrastructure. Under Prism Rail this has been reduced to 38 million in the final year of the franchise with the resulting cut backs in passenger services between Bristol Temple Meads, Weston Super Mare and Taunton, Bristol Temple Meads, Bath Spa, Bradford on Avon, Trowbridge, Westbury, Warminster and Frome and local services between Gloucester, Cheltenham and Worcester Shrub Hill at peak times. With subsidy cuts in the PSR the station cleaning and maintenance has been cut back to essential maintenance only. Wales and the West Passenger Trains are trading at a ten million loss at present. The Regional Transport strategy needs addressing. A ten year regional expenditure plan on the Regional Rail network branch line investment such as Exeter to Barnstaple with extensions to Okehampton and Bideford leading to expansion. The Taunton to Minehead route with the train taking traffic away from the A39 to A358 Taunton to Minehead road especially in summer with the holiday camp. Again there needs to be funding plans for the upgrade of the London Paddington, Bath Spa, Bristol Temple Meads, Exeter St Davids, Plymouth, Penzance main line with electrification scheme and 140 mph trains. Similarly the London Waterloo, Salisbury, Yeovil Junction, Exeter Central route needs upgrading and reinvestment via Okehampton, Tavistock to Plymouth as part of the Salisbury Exeter Lineside consortium scheme.

  Railtrack needs to invest in station facilities and a bus rail interchange, improved walking, cycling and park and ride stations such as Worle Parkway at Weston Super Mare. The government will need to make major investment in both the heavy and light rail network via the strategic rail authority plus schemes like ultra light rail schemes between Wapping Wharf and Ashton Gate Park and Ride. The rail freight network needs upgrading to WW Gauge and to be linked to ports such as Bristol Portbury Dock, Portland Harbour etc. Access charges need to be reviewed for rail freight in view of the government plans to bring the 44 ton lorries on trunk roads.

June 2000

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