Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 320 - 339)



  320. Do you consult with the train operating companies?
  (Mr Steer) The train operating companies and Railtrack with SRA have been involved in trying to find the best solution to this problem.

  321. You are absolutely certain that you have taken them all on board and discussed every avenue?
  (Mr Steer) I am certainly content that all of the parties have been involved in reaching that conclusion.

  Dr Pugh

  322. Can I take you to your relationship with the Public Transport Executive. They were quite optimistic last week in their hopes of extending networks by incremental improvements. Do you see yourselves as having a role there regarding that and promoting that?

  (Mr Steer) What we believe is that the relationship with the PTEs is extremely important. It is important because it is an expertise which is there and on the ground and the SRA is based in London; so we do need to work in partnership—

  323. Really, what I am asking is, are you optimistic? Are you presiding over a system where you are trying to make what is there work well or are you hopeful of extending networks with incremental improvements?
  (Mr Steer) Yes, we do believe that there are really some quite exciting opportunities. They may require the PTEs along with the SRA sitting down together and looking at different ways of doing things.

  324. When you get interconnections that involve a number of PTEs, as the extension of Merseyrail at the Burscough Curves that will link to Preston and beyond, do you see yourselves as having a role there in trying to broker such arrangements?
  (Mr Steer) If we believe they produce real benefits, then certainly.

  325. When it comes to the timetable of inter-urban and long distance services, is that your role?
  (Mr Steer) Yes. The SRA will be publishing for consultation a strategy on capacity utilisation where the trade-offs and choices and how you fit trains of differing types, as you ask, together will be looked at, we believe, in a much more sensible forward planning environment than the current arrangements accommodate.

  326. How is it decided as to who will call the shots?
  (Mr Steer) The proposal is that we will set out some guiding principles and we will work with the train operators. I am trying to establish a forward plan for the key routes and it will be a forward plan which is in the best public interests. We see it as our job to set that. It may not be in the best interests of an individual train operating company. If necessary, we may have to negotiate with them if they had a right to run a train and we are asking them not to run it, in best overall interests, we may have to end up in that position. We think this is going to a very important new policy tool to get the best use out of the network we already have.

  Andrew Bennett

  327. You seem to think that the West Coast mainline upgrade was for the benefit of the north. I thought it was for the benefit of the people in London who would be able to come up to the north. What is the deadline for the finish and how much is it going to cost?

  (Mr Steer) The project, as you may know, is being reviewed again. The most recent facts I can give you are that the most recent review has identified that the costs are primarily around renewals; they always were but those costs have not gone down—in fact, on the face of it, it looks like they are going up—and there is a risk that the renewals element of the project, which is actually the bigger element, may take longer than was previously expected. The upgrade element, which is largely about introducing faster and more services, I would be optimistic of retaining a timescale certainly within the phase 2 timescale, which was 2005.

  328. Two of my constituents will be watching this on television; can we have some dates?
  (Mr Steer) I do not have a definitive date at this juncture.

  329. Do you have any costs that you can give?
  (Mr Steer) I do not have definitive costs either, I am afraid.

  330. Can you tell me what the difference is between renewal and enhancement.
  (Mr Steer) The West Coast has assets which are so old that they simply have to be taken out of service and replaced. That is a renewal. An enhancement is where, instead of doing that kind of action or indeed taking out non life expired assets, you replace them with something that will give a higher capability.

  331. So, if you had a piece of track which originally would produce, I suppose, 70 or 80 miles an hour quite safely, and you are now intending it to be almost twice that speed or not quite, is that a renewal or a replacement?
  (Mr Steer) It is an enhancement. It is an enhancement which has the great benefit that, if you did not do it, you would have the cost of replacing the asset anyway.

  332. Finally, you have not really convinced me and I do not suppose anyone else on the Committee that you quite understand the problems in Manchester. Could you explain to me how we are going to get this 15 minute/four trains an hour service between Leeds and Manchester without getting rid of the local commuter services.
  (Mr Steer) It is going to be achieved in practice by changing the times of trains, quite simply.

  333. Have you travelled recently on that piece of line from Stalybridge to Manchester?
  (Mr Steer) I did about a year ago.

  334. On that, there are about five commuter stations.
  (Mr Steer) Yes.

  335. So, to get from Stalybridge into the centre of Manchester, it takes around about 20 minutes. How can a 15 minute service get past those local trains?
  (Mr Steer) It cannot; it is a double track railway for the key sections. So, it is a matter of timing the fast and the slow trains in such a way that they can fit in and we are confident that that can be done.

  Andrew Bennet: And you can do it in that sort of timescale?


  336. Do you have an expanding hour at your disposal, Mr Steer?

  (Mr Steer) No, but we are confident that that service frequency can be accommodated.

  Andrew Bennett

  337. How long will people have to get on the train at Fairfield, for example? They will have to get on the train in about 10 seconds.

  (Mr Steer) No. This is—


  338. Open the door and dive in!

  (Mr Steer) No. There are rigorous standards applied to stopping times at stations.

  Andrew Bennett

  339. What will it cost to put that back between Stalybridge and the centre of Manchester to four tracks as it used to be?

  (Mr Steer) Much more than you or I would like to hear bearing in mind —

  Andrew Bennet: I would just like to hear a figure!


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