Select Committee on Transport Written Evidence

Supplementary memorandum by the Strategic Rail Authority (OPT 17A)


  Thank you for your letter of 5 March to the Chairman who has asked me to respond to the Committee's requests for supplementary information. The Chairman will, however, be replying separately with his views on the reduction of prices in the rolling stock market (Q592-3).

  (1)  What role does the SRA play in cascading vehicles between TOCs?

  The SRA is keen to facilitate the cascade of existing rolling stock. If orders were continually placed for new rolling stock, part life rolling stock would be discarded and prices of new rolling stock would increase significantly. As part of the rolling stock strategy being developed by the SRA, cascade criteria will be developed that the TOCs will have to comply with in order to get cascade plans approved by the SRA.

  (2)  We understand the SRA has sight of agreements between TOCs and ROSCOs. Does the length of a franchise affect the leasing costs of the assets involved? To what extent, on a cost per year basis, is a short lease more expensive than a long one?

  It is not possible to determine an exact correlation between lease length and lease rental as rolling stock leasing companies take many factors into account when negotiating lease rentals and their calculations are confidential. However, generally lease rentals have fallen with increased lease length.

  (3)  Is it true the SRA has not asked TOCs for passenger counts on services other than to those into London and Edinburgh? If so, why have you not asked for information across the network?

  It is not true. Aside from receiving regular count information as part of the management of commuter services in London and Edinburgh, the SRA has asked for and received counts for a wide variety of other rail services. There can be a considerable cost to operators in obtaining count data using the present manual count methods and it may take time to arrange, so the SRA does not make a blanket request for data it may not use. Instead, we target our requests to areas of possible concern to us.

  We want to be able to measure train usage more regularly but in an affordable and reliable manner. We now actively seek a proportion of new or refurbished trains to be fitted with electronic on-board automatic count equipment. This provides a continual stream of count data back to a base location, where it can be summarised. The intent is for both operators and ourselves to be better informed through a constant sampling of passenger loads across the network as these new or refurbished trains are introduced. It will take years for this to have full effect but we already have some useful early results from some Thameslink trains.

  (4)  Can you provide information on the project plan for ERTMs when it is completed?

  National implementation of ERTMs is intended to follow the completion of a development phase that would involve a series of test and trials using test tracks, integration facilities, non-invasive trials and full operational use in early deployment schemes. These trials are currently scheduled to complete in 2008 and should provide evidence, experience and greater cost certainty on the suitability of ERTMs for national implementation in the UK. Until this phase can be completed, the final costs of implementation cannot be defined. However, early indication is provided as part of the EPT April 2002 report that has recently been reviewed by the HSE. National implementation of ERTMs was assessed to be in the order of £3 billion but would also require a number of technical issues to be addressed.

  The HSE recognised that ERTMs is not available as a commercially accepted product and therefore advised the Secretary of State to direct the SRA to form a single national programme for ERTMS development. Work to form this single programme is underway and is expected to produce an update report in the coming months that will provide a more accurate reflection of the state of European development, a revised test and trials strategy with greater emphasis of multi-supplier trials at Old Dalby and any impact these might have on the UK implementation schedule and costs.

  (5)  Can the SRA provide information on the costs of platform lengthening?

  Costs will depend on site conditions at each location. They are high, reflecting the difficulties of making changes on an operational railway—possession costs, costs of protection and the need to minimise disruption to passengers. An evaluation of proposals to extend platforms by two-car length to accommodate growth reveals an average cost per platform extension of £1 million.

  (6)  When you appeared before the Committee in November you said the SRA would be publishing a booklet on its investment criteria. The Committee would appreciate copies of that booklet, if it has appeared.

  Copies are enclosed.

  I confirm that in due course we will also provide information, subject to commercial confidentiality, on our input to the Regulator's Interim Review of Access Charges.

James Watson

28 April 2003

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