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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200 - 208)



  200. Are you confident London Underground is going to be able to keep the quality of skill to stand up to the companies who are going to be doing the work?
  (Mr Strzelecki) I am very confident that, if we can create the climate where the railway is being improved and the service it provides to the public is improved, and the tube is not subject to constant criticism, people of good quality will be prepared and willing and able to work in the underground, and that is the kind of dynamic we need to create here with the PPP.

  201. One of the problems at the moment is lack of capacity at peak times, is it not; and you could argue that some of the trains are certainly not really safe, with the number of passengers they are carrying at peak periods? Is there going to be some way of enforcing an improvement in peak performance on the companies?
  (Mr Strzelecki) First of all, I would have to say that we have been running very crowded peak period trains for donkeys years, decades and decades and decades.

  202. I am not disputing that. The question is, are they safe?
  (Mr Strzelecki) I am sorry, Mr Bennett, but I must challenge your assertion that it is not safe, they are safe and they will continue to be safe. And, to answer the second part of your question, about more peak period capacity, yes, the PPP contracts require the upgrades that were talked about earlier, and they introduce new capacity, insofar as technology will allow, and that takes time because they are major investments.

  203. So, the new capacity, is that going to involve the same levels of overcrowding that there are at the present moment?
  (Mr Strzelecki) Martin or Derek may have a view on this as well, but my view is that, because the demand for travel in London overall is at saturation, particularly in peak periods, any capacity we provide, increased capacity, will fill up; that is the nature of mass transit systems.

  204. Finally, two questions about risk. Supposing there is a major incident, that means that one of the big interchanges on the underground is out of action for six months, or something like that, who carries the risk on that?
  (Mr Strzelecki) It would depend; you say a major interchange out of action. If it was out of action because, for example, a lot of the escalators were broken down and therefore we could not safely operate that station, London Underground, the public sector operating company, would shut that station, because it was not safe to operate, and the financial penalties, which would be very significant indeed, would be carried by the private sector infrastructure company responsible for the maintenance and improvement of that station.

  205. Now what about one of the tunnels under the river, supposing there were major problems with water coming in; how would you apportion who was responsible for that?
  (Mr Strzelecki) I need to check with Martin, because that is not specifically a safety issue.
  (Mr Callaghan) I think the answer is, it would depend entirely on what caused the problem. If it is caused by failure of the maintenance of that tunnel, it is exactly the same situation that Mike just described; if it is something completely unexpected then the answer is that, effectively, we stop paying the Infraco for delivering that performance.

  206. But that is too simply black and white, is it not, that it is unexpected or it is a failure of maintenance? There will be a substantial grey area in that; who is responsible for arbitrating on that grey area?
  (Mr Callaghan) There is a process for determining that.


  207. I just want to let you go, but I want one question answered. If one of the bids does not prove value for money, what are you going to do then?
  (Mr Smith) We will not accept it, and we will inform Government accordingly. We are committed to going forward only if this passes the two tests, safety and value for money.

  208. Even though we are, quite clearly, not sure what value for money is going to be?
  (Mr Smith) We believe that we can assess value for money sufficiently, and that others will be able to look at what we have done.

  Chairman: It is lovely to meet optimists, Mr Smith. Thank you very much.

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Prepared 21 December 2001