Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220
MONDAY 27 NOVEMBER 2000
220. That means yes, I think, does it not? Do
you have figures of the number of occasions when trains deliberately
ran past stations?
(Mr Jenner) Yes, we do.
221. It would be helpful if we could have that
(Mr Jenner) I should add, if they do it deliberately
it can be the subject of enforcement proceedings by us.
222. Deliberately, that implies that sometimes
they do not do it deliberately, they do it accidentally. Do we
have trains up and down the country which are accidentally running
past stations at which they are meant to be stopping? I find that
very surprising. Is that what you meant to say? What is the alternative
to deliberately running by them?
(Mr Jenner) It will be picked up in the monitoring
regime. It will be the subject of enforcement proceedings if it
breaches a particular benchmark.
223. Suppose the rule is 20 occasions, you can
run past that 19 times and nothing happens. So, if you are behind
and you are coming to the end of your benchmark measuring period
you know you can save time by running past all of these stations
and nothing happens. That is a bit soft, is it not?
(Mr Jenner) In replacement franchising we are tightening
up on these benchmarks.
224. Will it be the case for every occasion
when somebody deliberately goes past a station?
(Mr Jenner) It will depend on the benchmarks. The
new benchmarks will be subject to negotiation.
225. The benchmarks for deliberately running
past a station will be higher than zero. You are prepared in constructing
this system of letting contracts to allow people running trains
to carry passengers beyond the station for which they have paid
and there is no sanction on them?
(Mr Jenner) If we feel they are doing it deliberately
then we have other options under the franchise agreement, which
may lead to them being in breach and, in serious cases, may lead
to it being terminated.
226. How could they be doing it other than deliberately?
Putting it another way, they must be doing it accidentally, and
I find that quite horrifying as well. Is there a third way between
deliberately and accidentally?
(Mr Jenner) There have been occasions when drivers
do forget to stop at stations.
Mr Davidson: Okay, I understand there will always
be occasion for human error.
Chairman: Can we have a note on the instances,
the stations, the benchmark you use and the instances of enforcement
as well, please.
227. I am going to be brief because most of
the questions I want to ask have already been asked. It is roundabout
that time of year when my constituents are likely to make their
annual journey, if they are able, by train. I am anticipating
some letters in January, a flood of letters, on a couple of matters
which have been referred to, to which I have not heard satisfactory
answers, so I am going to draw you back to them. The first one
is overcrowding. The definition in paragraph 3.7, which says,
if I heard Mr Jenner correctly, "A train is not really overcrowded
until there are more than 28 passengers per carriage standing
for more than 20 minutes", he said that was something dating
back to British Rail days, giving each passenger, he thought,
0.55 square metres of space. I thought one of the purposes of
privatisation was not only to get some more money into investing
in railways but to improve standards, so how has it improved in
terms of overcrowding if we are still sticking with the British
(Mr Grant) The way it will be improved is to provide
more capacity. In the franchise replacement, as I explained earlier,
one of the elements will be the train plan and how they are going
to provide that capacity and how that matches up with forecasts
and our forecasts on what the growth will be. How it is going
to be improved is providing more capacity, and that involves major
infrastructure. It involves more trains and longer, and so that
is how it will be improved.
228. I want to come back to that then, picking
up on what you said to Mr Davidson, how do you know if a train
is currently overcrowded?
(Mr Grant) There are measures on the number of people
being carried on trains. Also on a number of trains coming forward
there will be a mechanism to physically weigh the train and that
will give you an idea of how many people are on the train.
229. Currently it is quite difficult to check
how many trains are overcrowded. We heard the difficulties a moment
ago on this question of whether or not it has safety implications.
I am talking about enforcement and penalty issues for existing
franchises. How do you know how many trains are overcrowded?
(Mr Grant) They are physically measured. People are
counted. They do a passenger count on the London commuters every
230. That is a sample.
(Mr Grant) It is a sample.
231. From that are you able to extrapolate
(Mr Grant) We have identified the worst overcrowding,
and you will see that in the Report.
232. The East Coast Mainline, on which many
of my constituents will travelas I did until recentlycannot
be overcrowded, can it?
(Mr Grant) I do not understand the question.
233. An East Coast Mainline train cannot be
overcrowded because there are no national measures of overcrowding.
Overcrowding is only something which applies to commuter trains,
is it not?
(Mr Grant) The overcrowding count is on commuter trains.
234. The operator on the East Coast Mainline
does not have to worry too much roundabout Christmas time because
they cannot actually be accused of running overcrowded trains?
(Mr Grant) They certainly will be accused of not providing
a decent service. On any system you cannot design the system just
235. Designing the system is a point I want
to come on to in a second. I am a bit worried that when I reply
to letters in the spring that people will complain that over the
Christmas period the trains that they were on were overcrowded,
and I have to say to them, well, actually, they were not because
East Coast Mainline trains, not being commuter trains, are not
subject to the same regulations as commuter trains in the South
(Mr Grant) New franchise agreements will be looking
at the train plans being put forward and the growth figures and,
of course, we will be trying to make sure that there is adequate
capacity for the growth that they envisage.
236. I abandoned the rail network about three
weeks ago at 1 o' clock in the morning at Durham Station, and
I have flown most recently. I am not particularly happy, although
I understand why they are there, with all the checks that I need
to get through in order to get on an aeroplane, it is actually
not as convenient for me as travelling by train, but I am not
willing to take that risk. I am just wondering in this age of
electronics why is it that we cannot monitor the number of people
that need to use trains at particular times and, perhaps, make
sure that we are not selling more seats than there are on those
trains. They manage it on aeroplanes, do they not?
(Mr Grant) Clearly you cannot stand on an aeroplane.
As far as the train operating companies are concerned they are
encouraging people to book a seat when they book a ticket.
237. What is extremely frustrating, as you well
know, is getting on a train from Kings Cross to Newcastle Central,
in my case, and not knowing, for example, which train I am going
to be on and not booking a seatperhaps I should doonly
to find a whole carriage of seats are booked and then discover
that for more than half of them nobody bothers to turn up. It
does not seem to me that there is very much incentive for people
to book seats or not to book seats. Is it part of the Strategic
Rail Authority remit to suggest ways forward on matters such as
(Mr Grant) We will be taking a much more proactive
approach going forward. As I mentioned earlier, we have organised
the shadow SRA to be delivery-focused. We will be paying a great
deal more attention on franchise management and having a lot more
discussions with the train operating companies on what we believe
they need to do, not just in terms of enforcement, and this is
the contract, but in terms of practical suggestions of how better
they may run things. We are not looking entirely to rely on the
contract. We want to be proactive and put forward good ideas.
238. We are pleased to hear that. We have more
people using trains, which is very good news, indeed, we have
commitments about more new carriages and investment in future,
that is fine, it is the case that some companies have reduced
and do reduce the size of their train fleets. Mr Steinberg referred
earlier to windfall profits because the reality is that if you
run fewer trains and there are more passengers you can make bigger
profits, can you not?
(Mr Grant) I think you will find that most train operating
companies today are running many more trains than the minimum
amount they have to run. In future excess profits will be an opportunity
to claw back.
239. Taken overall I am sure that is true. One
does read and hear of reports where individual trains arrive and
they are smaller than people had anticipated, therefore, they
(Mr Grant) Yes.