Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 315-319)




  315. Gentlemen, I apologise for keeping you waiting. You have been extremely patient. Would you like to tell us your names?

  (Mr Francis) Madam Chairman, I am Stewart Francis, the Chairman of the Rail Passengers Council; and you have not delayed me nearly as much as I have been delayed over the last year, on some trains.

  316. Well, I was going to say, as always, it is the passenger who is the last, I am afraid even in our Committee. Sir?
  (Mr Smith) Madam Chairman, my name is Anthony Smith. I am the National Director of the Rail Passengers Council.

  Chairman: I am going to ask Mr Bennett to kick off.

Andrew Bennett

  317. Do you really understand what the Government's proposals are for Railtrack's successors, and, if so, do you approve of them?
  (Mr Francis) A full understanding, I am not sure if anyone has a full understanding, because I think that probably the statements that we have heard thus far chart a course, state a vision, and I think that is probably the role of Government, to do that, in other words, I think, now, that there are others who can bring ideas in to make this work. The latter part of your question, do we approve; yes, we do, because we think that it is an opportunity to—

  318. How can you approve of something that you do not fully understand?
  (Mr Francis) In a sense, it cannot be anything worse than what passengers have been through for the last six years; so, on that basis, I suppose that we have got half a chance. I think that what went wrong after privatisation is that balance was lost, in terms of the public interest in what the railways are actually for, not just taking passengers and freight from A to B, but for good social and economic reasons to underpin the development of the country's economy and social and environmental ideals. So I think that we lost the balance. And I think what this gives us is an opportunity to restore a proper balance between the public and private sector.

  319. And you think that the rules, if you like, the licensing and everything else, that was there for Railtrack, transferred to the new body is still going to be satisfactory?
  (Mr Francis) I am not sure if it will all be transferred to a new body. I think the jury is out on the question of whether there should be a single regulator. I am not an economist, I am here to represent passengers; my concerns would be to understand the requirement for continued independent regulation. I and our Council have not made up our minds on this issue, until we fully understand what that means for passengers.

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