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

Examination of Witness (Questions 100 - 119)



  100. I am surprised that a cost benefit analysis is not in place at this stage. When would you expect something like that to be completed given the detailed discussions which are taking place in other organisations such as local authorities?
  (Mr Steer) I am hopeful that the cost benefit case will be developed in the not too distant future. I cannot give you a precise date for that. It is certainly true that a great deal of detailed planning work into the project is going on, some of it in consultation with local authorities.


  101. You did say you were going to publish a freight strategy. Have you done so?
  (Mr Steer) The freight strategy was published in 2001.

  102. Then you said you were going to do regional freight strategies. Where are they?
  (Mr Steer) Indeed. We decided that the best way to make available the regional freight strategies, three of which have been developed, is as part of the overall strategic plan, which is updated annually. Those will appear within that document in January next year.

  103. So when EWS say you are not spending enough money on it are they being unfair?
  (Mr Steer) Not enough money on . . .?

  104. On the whole development of your freight studies. How many people do you have on your freight team?
  (Mr Steer) The SRA has a very well established and thriving freight team.

  105. Of what size?
  (Mr Steer) It is a freight team of around 30 people.

  106. What size are the teams dealing with the passenger transport operations?
  (Mr Steer) The team which deals with the passenger franchises is a larger team of over 100 people.

  107. So EWS might have some reason to suspect you are not putting the same effort into freight as you are into passengers.
  (Mr Steer) If they measured it on a headcount basis they would be being naive. We have a different relationship with our passenger train operators, with whom we have a contractual relationship, than we have with the freight operators, where we have forward planning, a role in relation to grants and so forth. I should be surprised if EWS do not believe that SRA puts a great deal of effort into rail freight.

  108. So we can expect to see the rest of the regional freight strategies before very long.
  (Mr Steer) We are developing them on a programme of priorities.

  109. So what are your immediate priorities?
  (Mr Steer) Our early priority is the South East, West Midlands and North West where we see the biggest issues in relation to freight routing, freight terminals.

  110. When can we expect that to be set out.
  (Mr Steer) The conclusions of those studies will be incorporated within the wider strategic plan.

  111. Yes, but you said this would be part of your reporting machinery every year as you upgrade the ordinary Strategic Rail Authority documents. What year are we talking about? This year, next year, five years?
  (Mr Steer) In January, in three months' time the findings from those regional freight strategies we have completed will be incorporated into that document. Having them incorporated there is extremely helpful because as freestanding documents it is hard for people to understand how they interrelate with anything else that is being proposed for the rail network. As you know, it is a multi-user network, freight and passenger, so issues and choices about freight terminals in the North West for example, interact with other decisions which have been taken on the network.

  112. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister agreed with the planning inspector that the siting of the freight exchange at Colnbrook on green belt land was unsuitable but there had been a planning application supported by the Strategic Rail Authority. Do you think there is going to be any other suitable site to the west of London for a rail freight terminal?
  (Mr Steer) We felt that was the best site that we were aware of for a terminal in that area.

  113. So the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister consulted you before they took their decision, did they?
  (Mr Steer) I think the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister took account of the representations we had made to the inquiry, which I would imagine is the correct thing for that Office.

  114. If you do not build any new rail freight interchanges how are you going to get your 80 per cent growth in freight?
  (Mr Steer) I accept the question. We need more rail freight terminals and in that particular part of the country, we believed, along with the developer who put forward the site and argued convincingly in the inquiry, that there was no better site for that.

  115. What did the Strategic Rail Authority do when the decision was taken? Did you go back to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and explain the implications of the decision?
  (Mr Steer) We have made it very clear what we believe the implications of that decision will be, that it is going to make it harder for us to achieve the rail freight growth targets in exactly the way you described.

  116. Did you make the strong argument on the environmental advantages of moving freight off road onto railways?
  (Mr Steer) Oh, yes.

  117. With some force?
  (Mr Steer) I believe so. We have a freight team within the SRA which is not at all shy in making clearly known to the outside world what the virtues of rail freight are.

  118. Is this decision going to be taken as a precedent for other similar planning applications elsewhere in the United Kingdom or not?
  (Mr Steer) There is always a risk that planning decisions of this nature will deter those who would otherwise come forward and promote new rail freight terminals. The SRA is extremely active in the marketplace trying to ensure that does not happen.

Clive Efford

  119. The South East England Regional Assembly has told us that you did not consult with them over the access to Hastings scheme. Why were they not consulted?
  (Mr Steer) I find that slightly hard to follow. The SRA was involved in the access to Hastings multi-modal study and has taken the conclusions and is working hard to see which of them can be implemented. I am sorry, I cannot comment on why the SEERA were not consulted.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 27 November 2002