Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60 - 79)



  60. You quoted the Germans, and I know there are doubts in Germany about the quality of the system, which you seemingly do not share, but the fact is they have an integrated structure, do they not? They are about to go down the route of copying our fragmentation but at the moment they are, you say, better and they do not share our structural break up.
  (Mr Grant) I was not commenting on the structure, I was commenting on the wheel/rail interface.

  61. Incentives, as the Chairman pointed out, do not seem to make much difference, they would sooner pay fines than worry about the small incentive they get to improve their service. How far would the proposal of a meaningful law of corporate manslaughter focus attention, do you think? Do you think it would be good for managerial single-mindedness?
  (Mr Grant) It would certainly focus the attention of people who are making the judgments about rails.

  62. More than they are focused at the moment? At the moment they must be at the highest they have ever been.
  (Mr Grant) I find that quite a difficult question to answer myself, other than from a personal point of view. I have no experience.

  63. Put it another way, since at the moment they are under enormous pressure, do you think they might have addressed these issues earlier had there been such a law that was meaningful in the way it would be applied?
  (Mr Grant) I do not know if they would have applied them earlier but, again, from a personal point of view it certainly would focus your mind if you are responsible for checking those railway tracks.

  64. We are hearing about the problem of passing red lights and so on, I do not know whether that is within your area or not, but I seem to recollect just after privatisation the operating companies sacked a very large number of drivers. Does this mean that they are now having to operate with less experienced drivers, some of whom would not be as well acquainted with the hazards of the system?
  (Mr Grant) I think by the fact that there are a lot more trains running today, there are a lot more drivers obviously who are going to be recently trained.

  65. Pity that they sacked them in the first place then.
  (Mr Grant) But that training programme is one approved by the safety authorities, so one has to believe that it is adequate and, therefore, they are safe to drive trains.

  66. We all know when we learn to drive that we pass our test at a certain stage but it is a different matter from being absolutely, instinctively responsible. One's reactions are not as finely tuned when you are starting out.
  (Mr Grant) I think that could work both ways. You can be more alert when you start and less alert later.

  67. Switching quickly for a second. In Transport 2010, looking at the next ten years, we are told that there is to be an increase in public spending, an increase of £26 billion of spend in rail over that time by the public, and there is to be a total spending of £34 billion by the operators, by the industry, in private investment. As part of Transport 2010 the increase, this is £26 billion over and above the money that was already allotted for public contribution, how much extra have the companies put into 2010?
  (Mr Grant) I will answer the question generally and Mr McGann will give you more detail. Clearly the position on the ten year plan is that some £60 billion is scheduled for railways, of which 49 is in fact investment and 11 is public resource.

  68. Eleven is?
  (Mr Grant) Public resource spend.

  69. A £26 billion increase in public spending on the railway. How do you get that down to 11?
  (Mr Grant) On the public investment side there is a figure of 14.7 - this is in table two of the ten year plan—public investment of 14.7 on railways, private investment of 34.3, totalling 49, and public resource spend of 11.3, totalling 60.4.

  Mr Williams: Thank you.

Mr Burns

  70. Mr Grant, I would like to go back to compensation for a minute, please. I think I was right in hearing you say that under the existing franchises compensation is paid if a train is an hour or more late. Under the next wave of franchising you expect some changes in the tightening up of the timescale, and you gave an example of Chiltern Railways where 30 minutes is suggested. Firstly, is 30 minutes even a fairly lax benchmark?
  (Mr Grant) I suppose, first of all, it depends on the length of the journey.

  71. Does it?
  (Mr Grant) If I was expecting a journey of 15 minutes and it took me 45 I would feel much more aggrieved than if I had a journey of ten hours and I arrived in ten and a half hours.

  72. Really! Do you use the train?
  (Mr Grant) I travel on Connex.

  73. Does it not irritate you if you are half an hour late or an hour late at the start of your journey, regardless of whether it is a short, medium or long journey?
  (Mr Grant) Starting the journey or the total journey time?

  74. Starting it. If you start it late you are irritated, and if you then catch-up time and get to your destination on time you will be cheered up by the end of the journey. If you start late and then arrive at the other end late, regardless of how long the journey is, you will be fairly irritated, will you not?
  (Mr Grant) Disappointed and probably irritated as well. I do think that the 30 minutes figure is one that is deliverable. If we go for shorter times then it would be much more difficult to administer. There has to be some leeway in that system. I think moving from an hour to 30 minutes is a step in the right direction.

  75. In a way that is the point, you said that 30 minutes is probably deliverable, surely if you made it tighter, with penalties for the company if they did not deliver, that would concentrate their mind more to enhance and improve their service, would it not?
  (Mr Grant) We are mixing up two areas here, compensation for the passenger is one area but the incentive payments for the train operating company is measured on a five minute's scale for the non-Intercity and ten minutes for the Intercity.

  76. I am thinking more of the individual passenger who directly suffers from the delays. I was just suggesting that—which I do not think you are going to agree to—that an hour is very lax and half an hour is not that much of a better deal.
  (Mr Grant) I suppose the question is, where do you stop? Is it two minutes, is it ten minutes, is it 30 minutes? It has been an hour, it has been an hour for a number of years.

  77. That does not mean to say that it was right.
  (Mr Grant) I did not say it was right. At the same time going to 30 minutes is a step in the right direction. We felt that was the appropriate timescale to put compensation to.

  78. How is the compensation paid? Is it always financial compensation or can it be an extension of a season ticket or a free journey?
  (Mr Grant) As a general rule it depends whether the train operating company have what we call voided a date and, therefore, the season ticket holder will get an extra day. In individual cases it can be vouchers and in future it will be cash or an alternative of cash or a voucher.

  79. Do you mean a voucher that has the same journey again free of charge?
  (Mr Jenner) It can be put to future travel on that railway company.

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