Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140-152)|
WEDNESDAY 19 JUNE 2002
140. How does Railtrack react to local improvements
you want to make? Are they supportive?
(Mr Mulligan) To be blunt, for the last 18 months
to two years Railtrack have been extremely difficult to deal with.
Apart from going into administration, they had major signalling
work. Essentially we have found it extremely difficult to get
schemes off the ground, even though the Passenger Transport Executive
have paid the lion's share. I can quote two immediately. In 1998
we said that we would pay for the upgrade of Ashton railway station.
It is still not built. On an original estimate of £200,000
my authority is now faced with a bill of just over £1 million.
I do not have long enough to tell the Committee about the ins
and out of the negotiations over Stockport, which is a major regional
station in the North-West of England, in getting any improvement
141. They have done some painting. Do not be
(Mr Mulligan) I think you would agree that it is still
less than satisfactory.
142. What improvement should be made to the
Strategic Rail Authority's Rail Passenger Partnership Scheme?
(Mr Wicks) The RPP scheme is beginning to work well.
There are problems with it. We have had two successes. We have
had to step in at Sheffield station and the PTE has actually had
to carry out the work on the station through an RPP bid because
Railtrack will not actually take the risk of carrying out the
work itself. That has taken a lot of work to do, but we are now
getting quite a positive dialogue from the SRA on RPP schemes
and they are willing to look at quite major improvements. Hopefully
if we are successful with that, it will be something like a £40
million scheme, of which about one third will come through the
RPP partnership. There are other frustrations. Linking back to
your earlier point, one of the main regional priorities in Yorkshire
and Humberside is a reasonable train service between Leeds and
Sheffield. It currently takes you about one hour 20 minutes and
stops everywhere on the way. The two PTEs jointly put together
an RPP bid over two years ago for that. That has been put on hold
until franchising is resolved. That could be quite a long wait
before that bid is actually dealt with. In general, the RPP will
deal with some of the infrastructure and service-related issues,
providedand even on Leeds-Sheffield it is an issuethere
is the capacity there. What it cannot address is some of the major
investment which is needed in capacity improvements.
143. Does Railtrack give sufficient priority
to Rail Passenger Partnership Schemes?
(Mr Preston) We have had quite a simple example recently
with an RPP bid to facilitate electric rolling stock from East
Doncaster; slightly longer in length. We needed a bid for the
cost of extending four platforms. We were quoted a 12-week period
and a £60,000 cost.
144. You asked for gold plating, literally.
(Mr Preston) Yes, it must have been in the spec somewhere.
It is an issue. There are some really excellent staff in Railtrack
and I am not saying that just because they are sitting behind
me. There is a massive job to do to get that kind of can-do culture.
145. There was a time when PTEs used to lobby
for re-openings and line enhancements. Now there is more talk
about filling in the gaps with rail-bus links. Do you share that
perception of the future role of PTEs, that they basically have
to fill in the gaps with rail-bus links and administer those rather
than work towards line re-openings and extensions of the network?
(Mr Preston) No, we do not share that view at all.
We have very ambitious 20-year rail plans in each of our areas.
We are very clear about the kind of developments we need to see
in our regions. We take both a regional and a local perspective.
146. Whose responsibility is the rail-bus link,
for example? Is it yours?
(Mr Preston) We are in a very good position in metropolitan
areas that we can, because we have input to both the bus strategy
and the rail specification, facilitate bus and rail integration.
147. While we are on metropolitan areas, do
you think Merseyside PTE have made the right move in trying to
fund themselves if not to run themselves a quality rail franchise?
Do you think they are competent and capable of doing it?
(Mr Preston) I think there is a degree of jealousy
that the rest of us have not yet achieved that, yes.
Chairman: At least they have not suggested you
need a face lift like Mr Dowd.
148. Given the capacity problems you described
in your opening remarks, I assume you must have had a fairly sizeable
increase in the number of services on the network in recent years.
(Mr Mulligan) The network has grown in recent years
in terms of patrons, particularly from Trans-Pennine. The point
was acknowledged as long ago as 1997 when the Government's White
Paper was published, that there was a major problem around the
Piccadilly hub. If memory serves, it was number one priority for
Government attention. That attention has not been forthcoming
and my great fear is that with the enhancement being talked about
on CrossCountry in terms of Trans-Pennine Express, we shall not
be able to cope with that capacity and the casualty could well
be local rail services which naturally is of great concern to
my members. In terms of the region, there is also a great concern
that we have the M6 and unless we want it to turn into a 12-lane
highway both ways, the M60 which is suffering severe congestion
and the M62, these rail problems have to be solved and we really
need even to be involved in feasibility studies with the SRA at
this point about getting these things built.
149. Given how long it takes to do these things,
would there be the option for example to take additional lines
and put them as part of the Metrolink network? How viable is it
to take it into Piccadilly?
(Mr Mulligan) That is a very sensible concept. If
you look at what passengers want, when we had the Altrincham and
Bury lines as heavy rail, they carried about 7.5 million passengers
a year. Since conversion to Metrolink, there are about 14 or 15
million passengers a year. The answer is not rocket science: frequency,
accessibility, reliability. There are certain lines in Greater
Manchester, for example the Marple line, where we do see the possibility
of relieving pressure on Piccadilly by conversion to Light Rapid
Transit, which will have inestimable benefits for the passengers
but we foresee will also lose some of that in the absence of the
150. Would it be possible to create enough capacity
at Piccadilly and in the Piccadilly hub to make a real impact
on the problem and allow the franchise growth of Trans-Pennine
and so forth and by taking a number of lines out? How many lines
would you be able to take out? You mentioned Marple, but are there
(Mr Mulligan) Very few; it would be purely palliative.
151. Has Greater Manchester not been bedevilled
by grand schemes which everyone dreams about and which never get
built, things like the slave lane flyover, those sort of things.
Would it not be better to concentrate on a few very small things
which would improve matters? Mr Green earlier told us that if
you actually got all the different franchises to co-operate you
could get some extra capacity. Then to come up with one or two
small schemes, perhaps getting some of the Leeds and Sheffield
trains back to platforms 1, 2 and 3 at Piccadilly, would cut down
some of the congestion.
(Mr Mulligan) Yes.
152. If you are whingeing about Ashton and how
long it has taken Railtrack to come up with the improvements there,
you have actually taken over 12 years, have you not, to come up
with the promises which were made to Parliament to put the extra
stations on the line from Stockport going to Chester?
(Mr Mulligan) I take notice of that and shall write
Chairman: Gentlemen, you have been very tolerant.
Thank you very much indeed for your, as always, very useful and