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

Supplementary memorandum by South West Transport Network (RI 18A)

  Further comment has been invited, following our submission of 23 June, in the light of what has happened during the summer.

  The latest "happening" is the horrifying derailment at Hatfield. Obviously everyone will expect safety—including high quality track maintenance especially on high-speed main lines—to have absolute priority. That, and improved signalling and automatic train safety, can be expected to absorb much Railtrack investment, leaving less for new, improved and re-opened lines and inclination to aim at developments with good pay-off, like land sales and shopping at main stations.

  The ten-year public spending plan is welcome, but there is suspicion that it is too much weighted towards publicly funded roads, while expecting more than the "market" can expect from private investment in rail. Is SRA adequately funded?

  We wonder. An immediate example is the Waterloo-Exeter main line. In past BR (Government imposed) cuts it was single tracked. To provide the kind of services needed, and an alternative main line to Great Western, it needs duplicating. But "bush telegraph" indicates that Treasury influence may be encouraging sSRA to lean towards accepting 18 miles of double tracking rather than the 80 miles needed. It leans towards their "Wessex" concept rather than the major east-west thrust with InterCity services between Waterloo and Cornwall which Regional development and local economies need. We warned of this in our submission of 23 June. "Much depends on commitment to invest" we said "and by whom". WelshRail having now been established, we now are saying that London & South West Rail is what is needed.

  Our submission also mentioned "SWARMMS", a South West Government Office exercise for a "London to South West and South Multi-Modal Study" based on the Government's commitment "to having a fully integrated transport system" and will "consider all types of transport and how they relate to each other". This is now going on, conducted by Halcrow with widespread consultation. It would be a great mistake to have in place a long-term franchise which was prejudicial to the emerging outcome of this study. The sSRA "Wessex" concept, about which their revised 12 October Press Notice says "full details are expected to be announced next month", has implications which threaten to cause this mistake.

  It also threatens potential development of a Greater Bristol Metro, a concept set out in our submission to the Committee about The Proposed Urban White Paper (HC 185-11 page 43), and referred to in evidence submitted to the Sub-committee by Railtrack's Project Development Manager about Light Rapid Transit Systems (HC153 page 199). A very urgent need, affecting both the national rail network and potential local development, is quadrupling the lines between Filton Junction and Lawrence Hill. Railtrack evidence said: "If progressed, the system would represent the first significant application of the "Karlsruhe method" in Britain whereby street-running LRT vehicles shared heavy rail routes to practical and economic advantage." We added "progress requires commitment, action and above all investment, in both heavy and light rail". There is not yet sign of this being forthcoming. Much depends on who gets the South West franchise, and on what terms. We are not persuaded that SRA's present ideas are fully lined up with Government objectives.

  Our 23 June submission also made the point that the four different local authorities comprising the Bristol conurbation needed an organisation like those provided by PTEs. In the PTE areas separate management units are being created within the franchises. Something like this is needed in Bristol, the major City conurbation which missed out when PTEs were created. It ought to develop a Greater Bristol Metro, using existing tracks along with the LRT, to ease congestion and also to offer the opportunity for the needed housing development to take place within, as we have suggested, a kilometre or so of existing or potential stations on the Metro network.

  Co-ordination is also needed with commercial development. The former English Partnership, now taken over by the Regional Development Agency, have developed a major office complex alongside Temple Meads Station. But there is no reasonable connection with the station. It is an unpleasant convoluted walk. Now an agreement has been reached between the City Council and developers to produce a "New-look Broadmead". An excellent notion. But lacking in the pronouncements, which we have highlighted during consultation, is the need for access to rail.

  Walk from Temple Meads to Broadmead is now about 1.3km down a slope, across many heavily trafficked roads, all very unpleasant. Yet "as-the-crow-flies" from Platforms 1 & 3 it's about 700 metres. A pleasant walk could be created alongside and over the "floating harbour". But who would fund it? There needs to be co-ordination between the (much needed) development of Temple Meads Station, the £500m facelift for Broadmead now proposed by financial backers, and what has to be provided locally.

  The LRT "Tramlink" which Bristol City and South Gloucestershire Councils see as their top priority (finding difficulty in dealing with a fragmented rail industry) arose from an extensive housing development at Bradley Stoke which was entirely road oriented, near to junctions with M4 and M5. Much money was made by the developers. Then it was left to the local authorities to grasp the inevitable traffic problems. Even more £ms were made from the "out-of-town" Cribbs Causeway shopping development, and the intensive office developments (including for MoD) near Bristol Parkway (but without appropriate train services and local connections). All this now has to be resolved by co-ordinated transport arrangements (overcoming the congestion that has accumulated). The Sub-committee might consider how this might best be achieved. Something like a PTE?

  Much past development around urban centres (London in particular) was brought about by developing rail lines, the entrepreneurs making £ms from the surrounding land development, which paid for the lines. Can something of the sort be brought about for the kind of development needed in and around Bristol?

  And can we look forward to a rail franchise which will enhance development of the whole of the South West, extending into Cornwall? "Wessex" points to achievement of neither of these desirable objectives.

October 2000

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