Examination of Witnesses (Questions 346
WEDNESDAY 26 JUNE 2002
346. Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am sorry to have
kept you waiting. Welcome and can I ask you to identify yourselves.
(Mr Beale) My name is Jim Beale and I
am Chairman of the Committee which covers the north east of England.
On my right is my Secretary, Ernie Preston. On my left is Brendan
O'Friel who is my opposite number on the other side of the Pennines,
Chairman of North Western, and his Secretary, John Moorhouse.
347. Do you have a joint few words to tell us,
(Mr Beale) We are prepared jointly to answer questions
although I think they will be of particular application to the
north east and others to the north west.
348. Are the current indicators of train operators'
performances sufficiently focused on the need of the passengers?
(Mr Beale) I think our answer has to
be that they are improving but very gradually. We carry out surveys
at stations, as you perhaps are aware, of passengers every year
and of course we also have the complaints information which comes
in to us and we can measure these things on a trend basis. The
impression, barring of course the recent circumstances at Arriva
Trains Northern, is that things are gradually getting better.
There are however one or two blips.
349. Do you have any estimate of the number
of passengers who have switched permanently to other forms of
transport as a result of the poor services that we have received
in the north east?
(Mr Beale) I am sorry, I am not aware of any such
350. So your research does not go into that
kind of detail?
(Mr Beale) It does not go into that, no.
351. Why is that? This is passenger service,
is it not?
(Mr Beale) It is, indeed.
352. If they were passengers on trains and they
have left to go to other forms of transport, does that not concern
(Mr Beale) It is a matter of grave concern to us,
but the surveys we are doing are amongst current passengers, not
potential passengers or past passengers.
353. You say you have a grave concern about
losing passengers from railways yet you do not appear to be doing
anything about it.
(Mr Beale) We do not know how many people are not
now using rail who previously were.
354. So you have this grave concern but you
do not appear to be doing anything about it. Why is that? Why
are you not trying to attract passengers back onto the railways?
I am concerned about the north east and that is where my constituents
ask for a service and there are passengers who have moved off
to the private car in particular.
(Mr Beale) We are aware of that.
355. What are you doing to get them back onto
(Mr Beale) We have initiated a project which we are
calling the great car commuter challenge where we actually have
volunteers to use the train in place of their car for a period
of weeks. This is centred round Leeds. It has, I have to be totally
honest and admit, been, sabotaged is not quite the word, but the
effect of the industrial action of Arriva Trains Northern has
made it difficult for us to interpret results. The object of this
is to see if there is some way of attracting to the rail system
people who are using their cars for commuting and, if this is
sufficiently encouraging when we see the results, we intend to
expand on it.
356. What representations have you made to the
SRA or to the people on the franchises about the improvement of
services in stations, particularly Wakefield?
(Mr Beale) We are constantly making representations
to the train operating companies. Specifically about Wakefield,
may I turn to my secretary because I think he probably has more
357. Mr Preston, do you have anything to say
(Mr Preston) Not about Wakefield, but
to say that
358. My question was about Wakefield.
(Mr Preston) In terms of stations, the
Committee members and its staff are carrying out an inspection
of all the stations within its area. It started off in the north
east and it is now picking up on stations in West Yorkshire and
that is expanding, but I think you have to appreciate that we
only have limited resources to do this. The members are part time
and it only has a small staff. Wakefield will eventually be done
as will all the other stations.
359. We were advised two years ago that, when
Leeds Station was completed, Wakefield would follow on. Were you
not aware of that advice?
(Mr Preston) Not in terms of an upgrade. Wakefield
was mentioned at one stage as an aspiration, I think it was by
GNER, to improve the station at Wakefield Westgate.