Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
TUESDAY 20 NOVEMBER 2001
60. Is half a million about the right price
for the Chairman of the SRA?
(Mr Brown) I am sure Mr Bowker and his civil servants
will have the appropriate protocols in place.
61. In the brief description you gave of the
investment plans I did not hear any mention of improving access
for disabled people or making the rolling stock which is going
to be purchased more disabled friendly. Do you have any plans
for that sort of investment?
(Mr Gibb) May I touch on the immediate? We are constantly
looking at plans to improve disabled access, indeed only yesterday
I was with Mr Williams at a meeting in Abergavenny where we were
discussing the access to one of the stations with a scheme we
were hoping to be able to do within a few months. It is a constant
ongoing business. We have obviously inherited a Victorian infrastructure,
in this case with a listed footbridge, which is very difficult
to make any more user friendly. We are working on that on a constant
basis. In terms of our package for the future ...
(Mr Pheasey) I did refer earlier to something in the
region of £19 million as what would be likely to be needed
at stations. Most of the trains make reasonable provision. They
can all take someone with a wheelchair. The issue actually is
the step up from the platform because some platformscertainly
some of them in the Isle of Anglesey for instanceare extremely
low. They would be a bit difficult to rebuild. That is an issue
I know Railtrack was looking at jointly with the SRA and struggling
to find a way of financing that. In terms of the rest of the work
for a station, I was actually surprised, when I did a review of
this, at the number of stations which actually were already accessible.
It is nothing like the fact that they are all not accessible and
lots needs to be done. We have to draw a balance between the number
of people who use the station already and in Wales some of them
are very, very small numbers and it is a bit difficult to spend
half a million pounds on a footbridge with ramps when very few
people use the station. A balance has to be struck and that is
why I referred earlier to reasonable provision. Our proposals
and we would want to discuss with the SRA the mechanism for funding
it, would make reasonable provision.
62. Would anybody confined to a wheelchair have
to travel in the goods van?
(Mr Gibb) No, not on the type of trains we operate
on our normal daily service. We have wheelchair ramps on all our
trains and there is a disabled space on all the modern trains
63. What if there are two people in wheelchairs?
(Mr Gibb) We have sufficient space to accommodate
more than one on most types of trains.
64. We are in grave danger of getting to the
terminus on time. Would you like to make a statement before we
wind up? Is there anything we have missed?
(Mr Gibb) Thank you, Mr Chairman, members of the Committee,
ladies and gentlemen, for having us. On behalf of Wales &
Borders and National Express Group, we have been very pleased
to give evidence this morning and we hope that our written evidence
and the answers to your questions have further enlightened your
understanding of our operation. We believe that the new Wales
& Borders train operating company and its predecessors provide
a good service to the communities they serve, as do the other
eight train operating companies in National Express Group. We
acknowledge that there is more to do in the wider rail network
and we shall play our full part in this. We seek to offer value
for money services, high standards of safety and genuine customer
service. The events following last year's tragic Hatfield accident
have set the industry back and we look forward to continuing to
recover customer confidence and lost patronage and indeed stakeholder
confidence. The rail industry faces large and complex problems
that no one party can sort out on their own. Looking ahead we
anticipate the Strategic Rail Authority's strategic plan due later
this month outlining the way ahead for the industry, be it through
two-year extensions or through recommencing of the franchising
process. The key issues now surround certainty around our future
funding and planning and for myself and colleagues to focus on
the daily task of running a safe and reliable railway.
Chairman: Thank you very much. A good way to
wind up. We have arrived at the station early. I hope this bodes
well for the franchise. Thank you very much.