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

Memorandum by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (RI 23)


  This memorandum sets out the response of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions to the Transport Sub-committee's request of 9 June for information relating to the maintenance, renewal and enhancement of the national rail network. It addresses those matters which the Sub-committee has indicated it intends to consider prior to the summer recess. The Department understands that the Sub-committee will request a further memorandum during the summer.


  At the National Rail Summit in May, the Deputy Prime Minister highlighted investment as the key to ensuring a safe, modern and efficient railway and to winning more passengers and freight on to it. The Government is committed to working closely with the Office of the Rail Regulator, the shadow Strategic Rail Authority, Railtrack and train operators, to rebuild public confidence in the railway through improved performance and service, and to implement a strategy to create a system where today's highest standards are tomorrow's norm, encouraging more people to use rail from choice. The Government's vision is of a virtuous circle of growth, rising revenue, more investment and further growth.


  Under the structure of the privatised railway industry enshrined in the Railways Act 1993, Railtrack has sole responsibility for the procurement and delivery of investment in the national rail network. In successive Network Management Statements, in annual reports, and more recently in exchanges with the Rail Regulator in the context of the periodic review, Railtrack has set out its investment expenditure since privatisation. The picture is one of successive increases from less than £1 billion in 1986-87 to over £2 billion (including CTRL) in 1999-2000, as shown in Figure 1 below:

  But the Government believes increased investment will be required in the future to meet growing demand, and to meet the needs and expectations of the public and the industry.


  These increasing investment levels have been against a backdrop of diminishing public sector support, as shown in Figure 2 below. The Government's Ten Year Plan for Transport will set out a vision where increased levels of public subsidy will help lever-in additional private investment.

Figure 2: Government subsidy 1986-87 to 1999-2000 at 1999-2000 prices


  Figure 3 below shows that safety on the railways, in terms of significant train accidents per million train miles run, has improved significantly since the mid-1980s. The Government will continue to work with the industry to ensure this trend continues.


  The Railways Act 1993 established the Office of the Rail Regulator as the body responsible for protecting the interests of rail users, promoting the use and development of the railway, and promoting efficiency, economy and competition. The Rail Regulator is appointed by the Secretary of State but is independent. Last year the Government appointed Tom Winsor as the Rail Regulator, and the Government looks to him to ensure that Railtrack delivers on its licence requirements and investment plans.

  The Department understands that the Sub-committee has requested a memorandum from the Regulator, and will be taking oral evidence from him. It is for the Regulator to give evidence on the past performance of Railtrack and the role of his own office in overseeing that performance.

July 2000

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