Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 240-259)




  240. Good afternoon, would you be kind enough to tell us who you are?
  (Mr Ludeman) My name is Keith Ludeman, I am the Chief Executive of the Go Ahead Group rail division, responsible for South Central, Thameslink and Thames Trains.

  241. You look astonishingly cheerful. Can you tell us if you want to introduce your view before we start?

  (Mr Ludeman) I am very aware that you are over-running a wee bit and perhaps you would not welcome a long statement from me. We have already presented evidence on behalf of Go Ahead so I am very happy to take questions straightaway.

  242. Do you have physical capacity constraints on the lines that you operate?
  (Mr Ludeman) All members of the committee will know that Thameslink Rail is probably the most overcrowded rail company in the country, so we certainly have problems on Thameslink. Equally on South Central if we look at the measure of PIXC, which is Passengers in Excess of Capacity, equally we have overcrowding problems in that franchise. In Thames Trains the problem is less acute. In each of the three companies I run, which are London commuter TOCs, we have overcrowding problems. We measure overcrowding by passenger loading equipment that is fitted to some of our trains that tells us automatically what the load is on each train every day of the year. We are fully aware of what trains are crowded and which ones are not.

  243. Did you fit that?
  (Mr Ludeman) We fitted it two or three years ago to Thameslink and we are rolling out across the three companies.

  244. Is it very expensive?
  (Mr Ludeman) It is quite expensive. It was something that we negotiated with the Strategic Rail Authority but we effectively paid for it.

Mrs Ellman

  245. What do you do with the information you get? Do you turf people off trains or stop them getting on?
  (Mr Ludeman) We have to remember what a train operating company does, we have a franchise agreement which is a contract between us and the Strategic Rail Authority that limits what we are able to do. We have certain obligations under that contract and we deliver those obligations. The passenger loading equipment tells us which trains are crowded and which ones are not. We implement a series of management measures that distributes crowding amongst the least crowded trains. We can do this by increasing the capacity of certain trains, by removing first class or some of first class. If you look at some of the older slam door trains we have converted part of the guard's accommodation to more seats. We look at ways in which we can adjust the train plans to match demand and capacity. We are obviously constrained by the fleet that we have, how many trains we have, the track capacity and we are constrained by the platform lengths of each of the stations on our network.

  246. You say that you are constrained by the track capacity, what can be done about that?
  (Mr Ludeman) When we were bidding for the South Central replacement franchise we offered the Strategic Rail Authority a £1 billion infrastructure upgrade that would have increased the number of trains from the coast to London by six an hour from 2008. Regrettably the Government did not believe they could afford that and that plan has been dropped. That was one way of generating additional capacity by growing the infrastructure. There is a whole range of measures that one can adopt to allow you to operate more trains. For example at Gatwick station the Gatwick Express sits on a couple of the lines for 15 minutes and that clearly blocks that line. We have put some proposals to move the Gatwick Express across to the east side of the station and allow more trains to run through that particular station. There are lots of other ideas across that network that would have grown the capacity on that very busy part of the network.

  247. What else is being done or planned on improving infrastructure capacity?
  (Mr Ludeman) Because of the financial constraints of the SRA there are no current plans specifically on South Central to grow the infrastructure, other than Thameslink 2000, which, as we know, there is no final decision yet as to whether that scheme will go ahead.

  248. What are you asking to be done? Are you still asking the Government?
  (Mr Ludeman) With our replacement franchise for South Central, which we are hoping will be signed very soon, bearing in mind we have spent three years four months negotiating it, we have a plan to introduce 736 new vehicles to that network, 602 are to replace existing trains and the other 134 are to cater for growth. That will be one way we can cater for additional demand. We will strengthen the formation of certain trains and we will have to extend some platforms, that is in our franchise replacement plan. If we sign it within the next month, which I fully expect we will, we will be able to roll that out over the months and years ahead.

  249. Where do you get the new rolling stock from?
  (Mr Ludeman) We have signed contracts with Bombardier, who are a Canadian-owned company but own a facility in Derby, who are in the process of producing the trains now. We already have 48 of these operating on the network.

  250. There is no difficulty in getting them?
  (Mr Ludeman) There is no difficulty in purchasing the trains. We have some problems as to their introduction.

  251. What are the problems?
  (Mr Ludeman) The problems are with power supply in the Southern region, it is a problem that has been known about for many years. The new trains are something like 28% heavier than the existing slam door trains and frankly it has been an issue about who is going to pay for the power supply upgrade. The initial problem was that Railtrack did not know the scope of the problem, where the power supply deficiencies were, the traction characteristics of the new trains, how much power they absorbed, what the acceleration curves were, information such as that. Which parts of the network were deficient and which parts needed investment. They were not aware of that and they were not prepared without appropriate funding to carry out a study to tell them that. It has not been until the last year and a half the SRA has stepped in, Richard Bowker personally stepped up, to authorise the study and to investigate the scope of the problem.

  252. Are you saying that new trains were ordered without the knowledge to make them effective?
  (Mr Ludeman) No. New trains were ordered in the knowledge the power supply issue would have to be resolved, the issue is about who pays for that upgrade.

  253. Who do you think should pay?
  (Mr Ludeman) The SRA should be paying for it and indeed they will be paying for it.


  254. You do not use the rolling stock operating companies, is that what you are saying?
  (Mr Ludeman) The train operating company leases trains from the rolling stock company, we pay them leasing payments and we have access to the track through a track access agreement.

Clive Efford

  255. On that point, how did you manage to purchase trains that could not run on the track?
  (Mr Ludeman) If you are buying a new train it is to a certain specification and certain regulations have demanded that these trains are configured in a different way to older trains, for example they must have power operated doors. On the existing slam door trains you open the doors manually. They must have certain crash worthy elements in their construction. The modern train, because we are very keen to improve passenger environment, has air conditioning and other aids for passenger comfort within the vehicle, and all of this means that the train is heavier and therefore more power hungry. My obligation as a train operating company owner is to buy a train which is fit-for-purpose for the future. It is the job of the infrastructure provider to provide me with access to a network that is adequate. The responsibility for upgrading the infrastructure falls to the infrastructure owner. Now that the ownership of that infrastructure has effectively moved to the Strategic Rail Authority through Network Rail, the funding for that has to come from the Government.

  256. I accept that. If the trains are not capable of running on the track surely unless that matter is sorted out there is no point in purchasing the rolling stock?
  (Mr Ludeman) They are capable of running on the track and indeed 200 can be introduced before the power supply issue kicks in. We have already introduced these new trains in Sussex, so they can be run. When you combine the new fleets of Connex South Eastern and South West Trains to the Southern region the quantum of trains is such that the current power supply, which is 11 KV, is not adequate to cope with the squadron introduction of new trains. If you look at the history of British railways this is an unusual event, where such a large number of trains is introduced over such a short period of time.

  257. Sorry to labour the point, at what stage in that process did you become aware that you could not introduce the trains across the service?
  (Mr Ludeman) We became aware that there was a power supply issue in the last couple of years. The actual nature of that power supply issue, where were the inadequacies and what was needed to be done to correct those inadequacies I still do not know personally.


  258. You still do not know! Frankly it is the element which will determine the future of your franchise, is it not?
  (Mr Ludeman) There is a group which is comprised of the Strategic Rail Authority, Railtrack and the three train operating companies affected. As data becomes available and the plan is put together in a coherent way there will be decisions made on the timing of which service group is converted and which parts of the network are upgraded. There is no doubt this will be done.

  259. You are not so impolite to ask for an accurate timetable?
  (Mr Ludeman) There is a plan being produced that shows the programme of introduction of new trains across the network. Clearly each train operating company is keen that its trains are introduced first, so somebody has to make a judgment about the timing of each service group.

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