Supplementary memorandum submitted by
Strategic Rail Authority (PAC 2000-2001/52)
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The market for franchises developed as the process
of privatisation progressed. Accordingly, there were fewer bidders
and less competitive bids for the first few franchises. Also,
initial estimates of revenue growth were lower than began actually
to be achieved and reflected in later franchise bids.
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It is for the train operating companies and
Railtrack to maintain the rail system as a safe and secure means
of transport,meeting safety criteria drawn up by the Health and
Safety Executive's (HSE's) Railway Inspectorate (HMRI). All rolling
stock is designed to run safely even when full loaded. Passenger
loading does not affect a train's stopping performance or its
structural strength; doors on trains are also designed to cope
with crush loading. There is accordingly no statutory safety limit
on the numbers of passengers that can be carried on trains.
It is certainly true that the more heavily laden
the train, the greater number of passengers who would be at risk
in the event of an accident. Nevertheless, there is no evidence
to suggest that overcrowding on trains is dangerous or actually
causes accidents or that the net level of risk to an individual
standing in an "overcrowed" train is any greater than
that presented to a person standing in a train that is not overcrowded.
The comfort levels of crowding are the SRA's
responsibility. We have three mechanisms within Franchise Agreements
to deal with this. All are based around planning to prevent general
overcrowding; it is extremely difficult to prevent localised overcrowding
on a day to day basis. This is because we have a walk-on ticketing
requirement with largely unrestricted access to trains (unlike
many European railways where, especially on long distance routes,
tickets have to be pre-booked and access is refused without a
reservation). It is also because day to day peturbation in timekeeping
and irregular failures to provide the full train capacity cause
localised overcrowding on individual trains and/or routes.
Our mechanisms are:
i. General Requirement to plan to prevent
overcrowding (Clause 6.1 of the FA)
This is mainly applicable to longer distance,
InterCity services. The train operator must use all reasonable
endeavours to ensure that sufficient capacity is provided to carry,
without overcrowding, all passengers intending to travel on such
train and holding a valid ticket. We require that train operators
should plan for passengers to have the expectation of a seat for
a journey of 20 minutes or more. There are occasions where this
may not happen. Usually, this occurs when (a) the train is not
the full-planned length; (b) train services have been disrupted
and the train is carrying an unexpectedly high number of passengers;
and (c) an unforeseen demand has arisen for train services. Train
operators on longer distance routes operate reservation systems
to ensure passengers may have the opportunity of a seat. On the
most popular trains where seat reservation is recommended or compulsory,
reservations are provided free of charge. Passengers are advised
about busy services and are asked to reserve seats in advance
if they can. The train operator still has to cater for walk-on
passengers who may wish to travel without pre-booking.
Where overcrowding is identified we ask the
train operator to demonstrate to us that it is taking appropriate
action to remedy the problem.
ii. Specific PSR capacity requirements
The train operator must provide a minimum number
of seats on nominated trains or flows, often at stated times of
the day. This tends to be used on commuter services outside the
London area and on InterCity services used for commuting purposes.
It is also used by Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive
(GMPTE) for all their commuter services.
iii. Passengers in Excess of Capacity (PIXC)
Used for the 10 London commuter TOCs, Scotrail
services to the north of Edinburgh and on all PTE commuter services
except GMPTE. PIXC applies to peak services only. The train operators
must count demand, predict future demand, then plan to provide
adequate train services and capacity to meet this demand. For
journeys of over 20 minutes the train operator must plan to provide
passengers with a seat. Journeys of 20 minutes or less may be
catered for by seats or standing space but standing must not,
on average be above the PIXC values. These are currently based
on standing densities of 0.55m2 per person. The PIXC measure is
a development of work formerly carried out by British Railways
Board (BRB), and our current PIXC level is slightly below (ie
less crowded) than the BRB equivalent. PIXC is an average, and
there will be high peak spikes but we also require the train operator
to ensure that crowding is not unduly concentrated on any particular
service or route. The train operator submits a train plan to us
for each timetable and we check this for acceptability.
When a train plan is approved we incentivise
delivery of capacity for PIXC train operators through the Short
Formation Incentive Payment (SFIP) regime. All such services are
monitored and failure to provide capacity on any train incurs
a monetary penalty. In the year to March 2000, train operators
paid £3,486,000 under the SFIP regime. There are also Capacity
Thresholds within the Franchise Agreement that apply to all services
covered by ii and iii. Again, all are monitored. There are three
levels of failure to provide, Call-In, Breach and Default.
Demand for rail travel has substantially exceeded
expectations prevalent at the time of the initial franchises being
let. One of the main issues driving re-franchising is the need
for greater investment to provide enhanced capacity to meet growing
future demand. The new template franchise agreement strengthens
our requirements in three key ways:
a. More train counts
Hitherto we could require up to two programmes
of passenger counts each year. We have raised this to four. Behind
this we are pursuing a strong policy of getting train operators
to change from manual count techniques (effectively a snapshot
process) to installing and using on-train electronic passenger
count systems, ensuring continuous monitoring. Our reasons for
this and the approach we are taking were outlined to the NAO last
year and endorsed by them in their report.
b. Stronger General Count Requirement
The present requirement does not ensure overcrowding
is always detected early enough. We will in future require train
operators to have arrangements to monitor for possible overcrowding
at all times and to be able to demonstrate to use they have done
so and have active measures to reasonably deal with such crowding
as soon as it is detected.
c. Possible Tighter PIXC Requirements
We are actively considering the scope for tighter
PIXC requirements ie a more generous space allowance for commuters.
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SSRA has in place an enforcement regime in respect
of Cancellations which includes trains that run through stations
The Cancellations regime effectively sets a
limit on the number of trains that fail to call at all the stations
they are timetabled to call at. This includes trains that do not
run at all, terminate before the end of their booked route, start
at points other than their booked start point (where this leads
to stations being missed) or miss out a station for any other
reason. In addition trains that run very late (generally one or
two hours late depending on the route) are labelled as "Cancelled"
as from the point of view of most passengers, they are so late
that they have effectively been cancelled.
Operators face three levels of enforcement if
they Cancel too many trains.
The lowest level of enforcement involves the
operator being required to attend a meeting (called in) to explain
their performancethere "Call-ins" can be deemed
to be a breach, the next level up in the enforcement regime. Breach
is hit either through three call-ins or going through the breach
level of Cancellations. When it does either of these it can be
required to pay a form of compensationan example might
be the passenger dividend extracted from Chiltern which included
improvements to the passenger's charter and extension of the performance
incentive regime to cover all services.
The final level of enforcement is Default and
it would occur when very high levels of Cancellations were taking
place. At Default SSRA has the power to terminate the contract
with the operator.
Enforcement thresholds were set on the basis
of historic performance.
Most Cancellations are caused by trains that
start after their booked origin, stop before their booked destination,
or are diverted by an alternative route and miss a station. It
is rarer for trains to pass through a station and not stop; but
the SSRA still has access to the enforcement powers described
We do not have a break down of the number of
trains that run through stations deliberately (though we believe
that they make up a very small proportion of trains). We do have
the number of Cancelled trains (under the definition give above).
In the year (17 October 1999-14 October 2000) there were 156,064
trains in this categorythis is out of 5,979,944 trains
planned and represents 2.61 per cent of the trains planned. Of
these we know that 81,584 either did not run at all or did complete
less than 50 per cent of their journey.
We also publicly report train performance through
the public performance measure. This gives the performance of
each operator in terms of trains arriving at their final destination.
In doing this we concentrate on trains arriving at their destination
within a specified marginnormally 4 minutes 59 seconds,
but 9 minutes 59 seconds in the case of the former InterCity services.
A train that has missed a station is not shown as arriving within
this margineven where it has arrived exactly on time or
early. The logic behind this is that a train that has missed a
station may well have inconvenienced some passengers even if it
The existing Franchise Agreement (dating from
the mid 1990's) imposes a reasonable endeavours obligation on
the operator to attempt to run the timetable. This means that
even if it is below the enforcement threshold for Cancellations
it cannot simply decide to miss stations without good reason.
Looking to the future, the revised franchise
agreement will see tightening of the thresholds for Cancellationsreducing
the operator's ability to miss stations without the prospect of
The franchise agreement will also bring in contractual
sanctions for the PPM for the first time.
18 December 2000