Memorandum by the Institute of Logistics
and Transport (RI 19)
1.1 The Institute of Logistics and Transport
is the UK's professional body for the transport industry, with
some 23,000 members. The Institute welcomes the opportunity to
give evidence to the Committee in their inquiry.
1.2 The Institute offers its observations
in accordance with the subheadings set out in the Committee's
2.1 The longevity of railway infrastructure
assets has always caused problems in definitions; for instance,
with plain track renewals, the rails might be expected to last
for 25 years and concrete sleepers for 50. This puts some premium
on ensuring that the track support systems and drainage are renewed,
or at least given special attention, simultaneously. It is also
a good opportunity to renew any cabling required. Generally, points
and crossings will last for a lesser time, because of the wear
and tear which they experience.
2.2 Whenever maintenance renewals fall due,
every attempt should be made to upgrade the facility being replaced.
By this method, the East Coast Main Line has been modernised progressively
over many years, whereas the West Coast was allowed to languish.
Before any significant renewals take place, all parties involved
should be consulted to ensure that a rational investment in modern
facilities is provided.
2.3 Over such lengthy periods, technology
may well advance, and business needs may change. Maintenance becomes
renewal or investment, especially if specifications are upgraded.
A section of line designed for 75 mph running may be upgraded
for 90 mph operations and this might mean, for instance, easing
some curvature and rebuilding a series of overbridges. Signals
will need to be repositioned and protection systems upgraded.
It may also be an opportunity to strengthen substructures to accommodate
higher axle loads.
2.4 The Institute would draw two conclusions:
Measurement of what Railtrack are
actually achieving, solely in terms of asset health, is not a
The time scales of achievement, or
non-achievement, may be elongated.
2.5 This impacts directly upon future network
needs. If a major expansion of capacity is required, to the extent
that junctions have to be remodelled in their entirety, two tracks
need to become four, and land has to be acquired, there are a
number of hurdles. Not the least of these is the time for local
consultation. There is also likely to be a need to secure authorisation
under the Transport & Works Act 1992, and the uncertain timescale
with which this is associated.
2.6 Rail is the backbone of an integrated
transport system; to that extent, future investment programmes
need to consider the wider context of other transport modes. There
are opportunities to improve the integration with bus, tram, metro
etc, and for pursuing park-and-ride or kiss-and-ride schemes.
There are further opportunities in respect of closer relationships
with land use planners and developers.
2.7 When major works are contemplated, there
is considerable advantage in undertaking as much other work as
is needed at the same time. This will minimise the service disruption
which takes place, and benefits passenger and freight customers,
and the industry, alike.
3. THE ADEQUACY
3.1 The National Audit Office report concludes
that there are shortcomings in the way in which the Office of
the Rail Regulator has monitored Railtrack's performance. The
circumstances under which the arrangement was set up were somewhat
different from those pertaining today, and substantial changes
are proposed in the present Transport Bill to overcome perceived
3.2 The National Audit Office report on
Railtrack concentrates on the spending by the Company on maintenance
and renewal. However, spending is one thing, but its effectiveness
is another. Good maintenance requires the right amount of appropriate
attention being given to the right asset at the right time, to
keep it in full working order. It follows that maintenance carried
out solely on a time basis (for example) may be giving unnecessary
attention to some assets and not enough to others. This results
in the failure, for instance, of point motors. If these are in
a key position, such as at a diverging main line junction, the
effects on rail traffic are likely to be far more disruptive than
if they give access to rolling stock stabling sidings.
3.3. The Institute would support a move
which prioritised maintenance towards areas where high performance
brings the most rewards for the railway and its customers alike.
This is not to suggest that other areas should be neglected, but
that work here should be prioritised so as to get the best possible
value for money.
3.4 The above suggests that expenditure
is only one criterion, and that an output measure such as the
time lost by trains over a period, due to a specified range of
failures, might have benefits. However, this would be applicable
to maintenance needs, rather than wholesale renewals. The latter,
if not carried out, are likely to lead to a long term deterioration
of performance over a period of time.
3.5 The Institute would also wish to address
the problem of risk. In the contractual railway which we now have,
the responsibility for delays to train services is apportioned,
and associated with a financial penalty. Thus, if a major engineering
possession for asset renewal over-runs, and the railway is handed
back for normal operation two hours late, the TOCs have a redress
3.6 The result is that all concerned with
undertaking the work are conservative in their estimation of the
time it will take, to avoid "getting it wrong". In such
work, the unforeseen is always possible, and delays then ensue.
Nevertheless, the odds are that all will go according to plan
and the work is ready to be handed back well before the contract
3.7 The difficulty here is that less is
accomplished than might have reasonably been possible in the time
allotted. Additional work might then be the subject of an engineering
possession on a separate occasion, to be associated again with
replacement bus services and all the other adjustments to services
3.8 Even so, it is in everybody's interests
that the number of possessions be limited, to reduce costs but
also so that the railway can remain open for traffic for as many
hours as possible.
3.9 The whole area concerns the sharing
and containment of risk. While a TOC is obviously concerned that
the railway should be open for the Company to be able to fulfil
its service obligations, there is at least a case for sharing
the time-based risks which are inherent in all engineering work.
This then leads into the topic of the volume of resource committed
to the work (and the associated costs), the overall time taken,
and how that affects the risk profile.
3.10 The Institute would caution against
a too prescriptive view being taken by the Office of the Rail
Regulator on the performance measures that are appropriate in
maintenance and renewal. The Institute suggests that the amount
of time during which the network is (or is not) available for
traffic is another valuable measure.
3.11 The Institute understands that Railtrack
is keen to bring in new contractors to provide competition for
the existing experienced contractors, with a view to bringing
down the cost of renewals.
3.12 The Institute feels that Railtrack
needs to ensure that they assist new contractors with a "transfer
4. WHAT ROLE
4.1 Train Operating Companies (TOCs) are
major users of the network, and they are the principal direct
beneficiaries from the network. If the maintenance of that network
is defective, to the extent that limitations on its use such as
speed restrictions have to be imposed, it is the TOCs and their
customers who suffer. In extremis, this may mean that the TOCs
are unable to fulfil franchise commitments in terms of timekeeping
etc. Similar problems apply to freight companies.
4.2 TOCs are thus potential investors in
the network, for which they pay access charges to Railtrack. The
lead time of projects is getting even longer, because of the number
of players involved and the complexities of financing them. However,
it is necessary for the TOCs to obtain a return for any moneys
which they are prepared to commit. This may take a few years from
the date of project completion, quite apart from the period from
conception of the idea, feasibility studies, planning and design,
and execution of the works.
4.3 It follows that such schemes, if they
are to be financed (or partially financed) by TOCs, are unlikely
to be carried out if the franchise has only a short time left
to run. While the problem can be addressed to some considerable
extent by making franchise periods longer, there will always be
an end date.
4.4 The likely outcome thus appears to be
substantial, if not extravagant, commitments made as part of the
franchise bidding process, and much early activity if the would-be
franchisee is successful. This is then followed by a long period
of consolidation and minimal change, with the franchisee reaping
the benefits of the work undertaken. (It is assumed that an agreement
with Railtrack on future track access charges is made, to the
extent that the works are financed by a TOC).
4.5 The larger the scheme, the more problematic
the arrangements become. If a TOC finances a scheme, it is not
unreasonable for that company to expect to be the major beneficiary.
4.6 The Institute sees the following problems
The investment scheme is likely to
be in the railway itself, but while it may benefit TOC `A' it
may be of little benefit at all (or even a disbenefit) to TOC
`B'. Re-configuring a main line for express passenger work may
act against the interests of operators of suburban services, local
services and freight.
Similarly, if making the best use
of an upgraded line means that all trains using it need to have
high performance rolling stock, this effectively excludes open
access operators from competing with the incumbents.
4.7 The extent of larger investment schemes
which develop the network, in terms of providing new links where
none exist presently, may be such that they cannot be completed
and provide a return in anything like what up to now has been
considered a suitable franchise period. This raises the question
of who should plan, finance, execute and operate them, and the
position of the shadow Strategic Rail Authority (sSRA).
4.8 The National Railways system is open
to all traffic. There are relatively few groups of suburban lines
and a few rural lines, which are presently used only by passenger
traffic. It is assumed, however, that any new line(s) which might
be built will be connected to the national system.
4.9 This requires a certain continuity of
standards, most obviously on methods of operation including safety,
but also on physical constraints. Britain differs from most European
countries in two such respects:
The structure gauge, which is far
more restrictive in Britain than in continental Europe, and limits
the height and width of the trains which can be allowed to pass.
The incidence of high level platforms,
which is a limitation on train width dimensions for nearly one
metre above rail level.
Less problematic are differences in signalling
and train control systems, and types of electrification.
4.10 These are matters which concern also
Her Majesty's Railway Inspectorate (HMRI), who also need to participate
in such decisions.
4.11 The Institute feels that the sSRA/HMRI
need to be involved in the setting of standards in a developing
railway network, to ensure interoperability within Britain and
with a view to more commonality with the rest of Europe in the
5. IN ADDITION,
5.1 One of the few changes brought about
in the initial round of franchising concerned what is now Anglia
Railways, where an InterCity service was combined with local services
operated formerly by Regional Railways Central. This has led to
a more direct involvement between the two; many passengers, it
is understood, use one to access the other.
5.2 In the Institute's opinion, where there
is substantial interchange between two disparate services of this
nature, common ownership is advantageous to passengers. A similar
arrangement to Anglia Railways might be considered, for instance,
between the present First Great Western and Wales & West/Cardiff
5.3 Whilst there is no overwhelming logic
in the present franchise boundaries (which were established accounting
units from the BR days), there is equally no reason for changing
them for change's sake. Overall, they hang together remarkably
well, and there is an element of inter-dependency. Creating a
Wales franchise, merely because Scotland has one, is not in itself
a good reason. The characteristics of North Wales, Central Wales
and the Cardiff Valleys are very different, whilst any linkage
between these elements has to include the line via Shrewsbury
and Hereford, most of which is in England.
5.4 Above all, the sSRA's main concern must
be to ensure the integrity of the National Rail Network.
5.5 The Institute suggests that the yardstick
for establishing franchise boundaries should be what makes the
most practicable group of services to be both marketed and operated.
5.6 Another group of services, which might
be managed more productively as a single unit, is those east and
west of the Pennines. There is no InterCity operation over any
of this corridor, though such services were provided between Newcastle
and Liverpool via Huddersfield until the 1980s. This would offer
a more cohesive operation; as it is, trains carrying Merseytravel
livery can be seen in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, on a regular
5.7 Trans-Pennine could be a focussed franchise
in its own right. This is an extensive service group, the principal
routes of which are outlined below:
5.8 These are important cities and towns, with substantial
opportunities for the development of a high quality and frequent
5.9 In principle, the Institute would support moves which
create geographically larger rail franchises between operators
of a similar type, especially where there are service development
5.10 There are however services for which National Railways
seem less suitable. Passenger usage from the inner London stations
of the former Network SouthEast services was consistently lower
than that of London Underground. It seems that the same is true
in the Metropolitan conurbations, where Manchester Metrolink was
reported as improving considerably on the carryings of the Bury
and Altrincham heavy rail services which it replaced.
5.11 In the six Metropolitan areas in England, and in
Strathclyde, there is also the Passenger Transport Authority/Executive
arrangement. These organisations have specific statutory duties
to exercise, and there is much to be said for giving them the
full opportunities so to do. The PTEs are not "islands"
either, with significant interests up to 25 miles beyond their
5.12 In a similar vein, it might be desirable not to
create too firm a barrier between National Railways and London
Underground services, where the latter's "sub-surface"
operations are adjacent to those of the National Railway system.
5.13 The Institute feels that franchises should be constructed
in such a manner which facilitates conversion of such services
to alternative forms of operation such as light rail, in places
where this is presently proposed and where it is supported by
local authority Local Transport Plans.
5.14 There is also the potential conflict between the
wishes of the Mayor for London and the sSRA. Railways do not respect
political boundaries, and many London commuter services operate
outside Greater London in part.
5.15 In the Institute's view, the objective in setting
up the new franchises should take into account the obtaining of
the best service possible for all the passengers, while recognising
also the wishes and needs of freight customers.