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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-79)



Mr Donohoe

  60. You said as part of that statement that in the old BR days you would not give over the four tracks you would only give over two. What has changed and made that no longer possible?
  (Mr Green) The safety culture is much tougher now, so it is much harder to do the engineering work whilst a train is passing you only a few feet on the other side. That is the biggest reason.


  61. That is probably one of the most difficult things that you have said today that we will find it possible to accept. Are you really telling us that there is now a tougher safety regime than there was under the old BR?
  (Mr Green) Yes and I think the Railtrack witnesses who are following me will confirm that. There are firm rules now on health and safety, on what work can be done and what work cannot be done. That is a serious issue.

Mr Bennett

  62. It used to be possible to go to London via Sheffield via Manchester. Why would it not be possible during the weekend working to have a reliable and reasonably fast service from Manchester either into Sheffield or to the edge of Sheffield and then down to St Pancras?
  (Mr Green) That is one thing we are looking at for next year.

  63. Why was it not looked at this year?
  (Mr Green) Because there was not enough time, there are not enough drivers, there are not enough slots on the routes. Who is going to take their trains off so we can come on their routes will become a big issue?

  64. What about bringing the trains down from Glasgow via Birmingham and into Paddington?
  (Mr Green) Yes, we are looking at Paddington and Birmingham.

  65. But for next year not this year.
  (Mr Green) Yes. Remembering that for every single coach I use which is in action on Sunday it is very unlikely we are going to be able to find that spare capacity on that scale on all the other routes out of London.

Mrs Ellman

  66. What journey times can we look forward to from Liverpool to London and from Manchester to London?
  (Mr Green) When they have finished the work?

  67. Tell me how the journey times are going to be reduced.
  (Mr Green) We are aiming for two hours and ten minutes to Liverpool.

  68. From when?
  (Mr Green) May 2004.

  69. Is that a promise?
  (Mr Green) In between we can accelerate it. We get there in steps.

  70. Have Railtrack agreed to pay you compensation for failing to prepare the line for high speed?
  (Mr Green) This is the subject of a huge negotiation which is going on at present.

  Chairman: Does that mean no?

Mrs Ellman

  71. Are you able to tell us the outcome?
  (Mr Green) It is a positive negotiation and there will be an outcome which will leave one able to continue with the scheme, which is what we want.


  72. So you are going to compensate all those passengers who find themselves wandering around the whole of Middle England every weekend until December.
  (Mr Green) Yes, and part of the cost of the engineering is that compensation.

Mrs Ellman

  73. Do you think it is satisfactory that travellers from Liverpool to London cannot get to London before the afternoon unless they pay a minimum of £161?
  (Mr Green) On our fare structures?

  74. On your fare structures where you have been increasing open fares Liverpool to London in the morning, in some cases by 84 per cent, some by 67 per cent. Do you think that kind of increase is compatible with helping to regenerate the city?
  (Mr Green) What we have not been able to do is find a solution where we can ease that situation and still afford to buy the new trains. We just need the income which comes from that fare structure to buy the new trains. We are trapped as much as anyone else.

  75. So the reason for that fare structure is to pay for new trains.
  (Mr Green) Yes. You have £600 million worth of new trains on the West Coast and it is being paid for by the users.


  76. There have been some fairly hefty increases in those fares which are not capped have there not?
  (Mr Green) In the full open fares, yes; they went up by five per cent in May. The Savers which are capped went up 0.7 per cent and the Virgin Value has not gone up for three years.

  77. Some of the others have gone up more than five per cent. Do you honestly, seriously think passengers are going to go on paying consistently higher fares for a worse service?
  (Mr Green) We are in a trap. The only way we are going to get new trains is by getting the income. So the new trains have started running, we have five on the rails now and two are now running between Manchester and Stafford on testing, from November they come into service and then people will start seeing value for money.

Dr Pugh

  78. In terms of the unit cost for a passenger travelling down, what percentage of the fare price is actually profit, in this case re-invested profit but it is profit for Virgin?
  (Mr Green) At the moment?

  79. Yes.
  (Mr Green) In the last year we registered we made a loss.

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