Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200 - 219)



  200. Off-peak-ish?
  (Mr Grant) Off-peak-ish, travelling a bit before and a bit after the peak.

  201. It is certainly not the intention to price people off by raising it?
  (Mr Grant) That is certainly not the intention, no, that is right.

  202. That cuts off a whole line I was going to follow up. In terms of overcrowding can I go back to this question of what people think they are buying. Perhaps I naively assume that when I travel by rail, and I travel long distances rather than travelling short journeys, it is reasonable for people travelling, say, from Glasgow or Edinburgh to assume that when they are buying a ticket what they are buying is a seat and the ability to travel in comfort.
  (Mr Grant) Mr Jenner will give you the exact conditions of carriage. Today I think when people book their ticket they book a seat, they reserve a seat, because there is generally no reservation fee, so they expect to get the two together. I think the conditions of carriage are slightly different.
  (Mr Jenner) Legally there is no guarantee of a seat.

  203. I do not want lawyer-speak, I want a bit of honesty, if you understand the distinction between these two terms. I understand that it might be acceptable to have people standing on a 15 minute journey but do you regard it as acceptable to have the capacity on the Glasgow to London line to include a considerable number of people standing all the time? Is that the basis on which your plans are being drawn up and the capacity calculated?
  (Mr Grant) I cannot give you an exact answer, maybe we can come back and answer this. On the East Coast Main Line franchise I would look for the train plan to include a considerable increase in capacity. We would also expect to see that the train operating companies would make sure that their pricing allowed for seating.

  204. This is a somewhat circuitous route. What I am asking you is is your plan for running such as the Glasgow-London, Edinburgh-London, on the basis that people are going to have to stand for that journey? It is a yes or no question. You are either planning for people to have to stand or you are not planning for people to have to stand.
  (Mr Grant) I cannot answer the question directly, I have not got the information.

  205. If you have not got the information just now that implies there is an answer, so presumably you can let me have that answer subsequently. You can understand why we are concerned. When you are calculating overcrowding, there are obviously degrees of overcrowding and presumably there is a planned overcrowding so to speak. Presumably there are safety limits in carriages. Do you involve yourself at all in calculating what the safety limits for particular carriages are and in policing those limits?
  (Mr Grant) That is a matter for the Health and Safety Executive, the actual issue of people standing and safety limits. Going forward, what we are encouraging, and you will have seen it in the report, is a more accurate measure of how many people are on the train.

  206. If a train is being overfilled beyond the safety limits, would that incur fines?
  (Mr Grant) Not as it currently stands, no.

  207. You get penalised for being late but you do not get penalised for being dangerously overfull.
  (Mr Grant) I am not sure that it is dangerous because if it was dangerous the HSE would not allow it.

  208. How many times have you seen men or women from the HSE on the trains?
  (Mr Grant) I cannot answer that.

  209. I do not know of any specific example where the HSE Inspectorate have taken people off a train because they reckoned the carriage was overfull. Is that correct?
  (Mr Grant) I agree with you, not to my knowledge.

  210. So, in fact, there is no sanction applied about having a train and there is no policing, no monitoring, that it is overfull on the basis of safety, so there is no incentive of any sort for companies not to just ram-jam people in beyond safety limits?
  (Mr Grant) There are incentives because we do the passenger count and when we find overcrowding then we ask the train company to provide us with a plan of how they are going to address that overcrowding.

  211. That will terrify them, will it not?
  (Mr Grant) It has produced results and the report recognises that.

  212. So on how many occasions has there been dangerous overcrowding of trains? You obviously know this because you have taken steps as a result of that. On how many occasions has that taken place?
  (Mr Grant) I just have to check the figures.

  213. If you have got figures, unless you have got them to hand, the list of occasions that they have been dangerously overcrowded—
  (Mr Grant) Sorry, dangerously overcrowded is not a classification because dangerously overcrowded, as you put it, would be a matter for the HSE.

  214. And the HSE in turn do not monitor that and do not put people off trains to stop them being dangerous, so you do not know.
  (Mr Grant) We know how many people, through our passenger counts, are on the trains. In future we will have a more accurate picture through the weighing machines.

  215. It is possible for you, by your overcrowding figures, to assess how many people go by train and you will have in the structure presumably somewhere what the limits are for the HSE about overcrowding. Have you not compared these to see whether or not there were any occasions when they were dangerously overcrowded?
  (Mr Grant) I am not sure that there are HSE limits on train overcrowding.

  216. You told me that there were and that was the point I was making earlier on, whether or not trains were overfull to a dangerous level, and you indicated that was an issue for the HSE.
  (Mr Grant) The number of people and whether it is dangerous is a matter for the HSE.

  217. Right, and they do not tell you what the level is, that is a secret figure, is it?
  (Mr Grant) I do not know the answer to that but we can certainly look at it.

  Chairman: We will have a note on it telling us (1) whether they check it and (2) what the levels are and (3) what the inspection figure is[3].

Mr Davidson

  218. Can I ask you specifically how many rail companies have been fined for overcrowding and who are the worst offenders? If that information is available then it might be helpful to have it as a note rather than taking up time to read it out. I wonder if I could just turn to the point that Mr Jenner made in response to Mr Love that did surprise me rather. We were discussing the question of trains missing stations to make up time and I think your answer, which was rather surprising, was that you have heard it happens. I am somewhat surprised because I would have thought that was something you would actually monitor in some way. Do you rely simply on anecdote to hear when those sorts of things occur or is there some sort of monitoring system? Is there a rule that says trains that sell tickets to stations should not run past them?
  (Mr Jenner) They should not do. It does get picked up in our monitoring system. If they do it enough they will be penalised in the incentive regime.

  219. If they do it enough. So you can get away with a fair number of running past stations but you only get penalised if you do it beyond a certain level. That seems a bit soft, does it not?
  (Mr Jenner) It depends on the particular regime and where they are in relation to the benchmark.

3   Note: See Evidence, Appendix 1, page 24. (PAC 2000-2001/52). Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 18 July 2001