Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80
MONDAY 27 NOVEMBER 2000
80. With the company, not on that particular
(Mr Grant) On any journey.
81. Are you sure? I am just speaking as an aggrieved
individual. I once went on a journey to Norwich from Liverpool
Street where the train was held up for just over an hour during
the course of the journey. They were very good, they handed out
leaflets to us on the train and if you filled them in you would
get compensation. When the compensation came back it was a free
ticket from Liverpool Street to Norwich. As I have only been to
Norwich once by train from Liverpool Street and have no known
knowledge I am going again, it seemed rather a Pyrrhic victory
because I have not been able to benefit from it. It just seems
to me rather unfair on passengers if they are going to get a benefit-in-kind
they are never going to use.
(Mr Grant) That is why on the franchise replacement
we are saying it should be cash.
82. Should be or will be?
(Mr Grant) On the heads we have agreed so far it is
83. Are you anticipating that on all of the
other heads they too will be cash?
(Mr Grant) We do.
84. That problem will be eliminated. Good. With
regard to compensation are there different schemes for season
ticket holders and people who do not have season tickets? Certainly
it would seem to me, if press reports are accurate, certainly
on the line into Essex, if you have a season ticket there is the
no problem in that they are going to have the life of their season
ticket extended, but if you purchase a one-off cash ticket to
go up and down to London there seems to be some question mark
over whether you are going to get compensation?
(Mr Grant) The press comment has been round this particular
period, period eight, where there has been considerable disruption,
and in some cases season ticket holders are getting up to four
weeks free travel in the future. The difficulties have been on
individual tickets, where they will get a refund provided, as
I said earlier, they can show proof of travel as opposed to proof
85. If they bought the ticket with cash
(Mr Grant) If they bought the ticket with cash there
needs to be some evidence they made the journey, otherwise it
is open to abuse.
86. As a matter of interest, if you go from
Chelmsford to Liverpool Street and you buy a ticket at the station
with cash, what evidence do you have that you have made that journey
because as you have to get out of both stations the machine that
you walk through to get out of the platform swallows up the ticket?
(Mr Grant) We have had a number of discussions with
the Association of Train Operating Companies and the individual
train operators and the sort of idea that people were talking
about was a letter to say you travelled that journey.
87. From the passenger?
(Mr Grant) From the passenger, maybe substantiated
by some other evidence.
(Mr Grant) If you travel to work on that day and you
used an individual ticket your employer might be able to say,
"Yes, they travelled to work." What we are trying to
do is trying to protect the position that this is just not open
to wide scale abuse. We are trying to get the balance right between
accepting that passengers will not have kept tickets but at the
same time not having thousands of letters where people are claiming
for journeys they did not make.
89. I appreciate your desire not to open the
floodgates to potential abuse, I just cannot see in reality how
a system is going to work that will be fair to those people who
have genuinely bought a ticket if they do not have a ticket. If
you say, if they write a letter saying they made the journey,
which you did at one point, if that became known the world and
his wife could write letters. Again, logically, if an employer
says, "Joe Smith turned up to work today and he lives 30
miles away and he usually comes by train", that is not definitive
proof that he came by train on that day. I am just concerned that
in seeking to protect the system from abuse, which is quite right,
that you will penalise genuine passengers who may have used the
train and will be denied compensation. It just seems slightly
unsatisfactory that long before the current problems there were
not some systems in place to help genuine travellers who suffered
from a particularly poor service, within the definition of that
poor service, because they are going to find it remarkably difficult
to prove they made the journey and get the compensation, to which
they are legitimately entitled.
(Mr Grant) In the normal course of events the train
operating company will insist on seeing the ticket.
90. You cannot do that if you are travelling
from certain areas where the tickets are collected by a machine
before you are physically allowed to leave the platform.
(Mr Grant) There are alternative exits where there
is somebody stationed and you can walk out of the side gate. I
see people using them all of the time.
91. Let me explain something to you, about 8,000
commuters in a two hour period come from Chelmsford to Liverpool
Street, plus all of the other passengers on the other platforms
that use the exits, I will tell you now that there is no way that
they could queue up and ask some official to allow them through
those gates so they can keep their tickets, because the sheer
numbers at that time of day are just not feasible to allow such
a system. I do not suppose that the staff at Liverpool Street
would tolerate that sort of system either.
(Mr Grant) I suspect at the time you are talking about
the majority are season tickets anyway, so we have a far smaller
proportion at that time.
92. It may be a smaller proportion but it is
still people, and people who might be entitled compensation who,
because of the way the regime works, are not likely to be able
to get it because they cannot prove that they made the journey,
through no fault of their own.
(Mr Grant) They can keep their tickets.
93. I have just explained to you they cannot
keep their tickets if the only way they can get off the station
is through a machine that swallows it up, unless we take your
suggestion, which is a member of staff prepared to open the emergency
gates. If you have hundreds of people for a two hour period trying
to do that then I do not think it will work. It just seems rather
unsatisfactory to me that there is no other way in which a system
can be devised to help people who are entitled to compensation
to actually receive it. Can I briefly turn to the question of
prices. I notice reading the report that it seems that the number
of complaints about the level of prices is relatively small compared
to other complaints against the rail services. Do you think that
might be because people are not prepared to complain that much
because they feel totally impotent and it is going to get them
nowhere, so why waste the effort? As a constituency MP with a
large commuting population, particularly roundabout the turn of
the year when the season ticket prices come into force, I get
a substantial number of letters from irate constituents who are
less than happy that even if the price has gone up by less than
the rate of inflation, given the amount they are paying each year,
the price seems to make a noticeable difference to them.
(Mr Grant) One of the areas that we have asked passengers'
views on, and is contained in this On Track document, is their
view on prices. It is an issue as far as passengers are concerned
in terms of value-for-money. I am not sure how that is reflected
in the complaints side, but it was certainly highlighted in the
performance figures in the 20,000 sample.
94. I see between 1997/98 and 2001/02 the Government
has a target to increase rail passenger use up by 15 per cent.
Up until recently it became quite clear this target was going
to be reached. Do you still think, in the light of what has happened
over the last few weeks, and what, presumably, is going to continue
into the new year at some point that that target will still be
reached? Secondly, do you think that the 15 per centif
you disregarded what has just happened, because obviously when
the target was set nobody knew we were going to have these problemstarget
was a realistic target or a soft target that was fairly easily
(Mr Grant) Pre-Hatfield there was a belief that that
target would be achieved. I think post-Hatfield it is very difficult
to judge today whether that target will be achieved or not. It
is easy to have hindsight and say it was easy, but at the time
I am sure that people thought it was a tough target and realistic.
I do not have a view from when that target was set. It would have
been achieved pre-Hatfield, post-Hatfield I could not say.
Mr Burns: Thank you very much.
95. I did not particularly want to go down the
route of compensation but it just occurred to me when you were
talking to Mr Burns that you said the tickets could be retained
and he was trying to say they could not be. It occurred to me
why could they not issue a chit saying "this train is one
hour late" signed by the guard?
(Mr Grant) I think for the practical reasons of how
many people there would be on the trains.
(Mr Grant) For the practical reason in Mr Burns' example
of how many people would be on the train, for the guard to actually
issue that document would be quite time consuming.
97. Would it? I would like to ask a few questions
about the forthcoming new franchises, which is pretty important.
From reading the report I got the impression that the present
franchises were very, very lax and the targets were very easy
to achieve, they did not seem to stretch the holders to provide
better services. In the franchises there also appeared to be lots
of loopholes which actually allowed the franchise holders to basically
get away with murder, if you like, to achieve very, very simple
targets, to under-perform and yet still profit. How are you going
to change these franchises when you issue new ones? How are you
going to make it more difficult for them to achieve their targets?
How are you going to give them tougher benchmarks and targets
(Mr Grant) I will give you a brief answer and then
Mr Jenner can go into a bit more detail. The existing franchises
were broadly based on the level and quality of services that were
provided at the end of BR and the time of franchising. The contractual
obligations in respect of frequency and standards and punctuality
depended really on the service at that particular time, so they
did vary across the piece. Fares were regulated and, again, that
was carried forward in franchise replacement. Passenger growth
has exceeded expectations. Going forward we will be setting tougher
benchmarks and we will be looking for continued improvement. There
will be review periods. We are looking for changes over the life
of the franchise year on year and they are contained in the new
franchises going forward.
98. It is okay saying that but you have not
(Mr Grant) If Mr Jenner can go into the details.
(Mr Jenner) Would you like to finish?
99. No, go on.
(Mr Jenner) The performance target will be substantially