Examination of Witnesses (Questions 320
WEDNESDAY 26 JUNE 2002
320. Do you consult with the train operating
(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.
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
(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
(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,
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
(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.
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 downin fact, on the face of it, it looks
like they are going upand 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
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
(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
336. Do you have an expanding hour at your disposal,
(Mr Steer) No, but we are confident that
that service frequency can be accommodated.
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.
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!