Examination of Witnesses (Questions 380
WEDNESDAY 26 JUNE 2002
380. You think that passengers on the whole
would prefer reliable services, even if they were not quite as
(Mr O'Friel) Yes.
381. When you were talking about the railways,
you talked about opening lines, "Let's invest in railways",
but if I take you back to transport issues rather than purely
railways, what are the specific needs for transportation in the
north of England which you believe that the railways could be
fulfilling which they are not at the moment?
(Mr O'Friel) Of course we are primarily
concerned with the railways, but we now have a slightly wider
remit under the Transport Act to look into other things. Our concern,
I think, with the railways is to see that they provide an integrated
service with the rest of public transport and we believe that
there is enormous scope for improving the links between, say,
buses and trains, which in many cases are very poor indeed, and
also for improving links between the airports and the ferries,
both of which of course we have well in abundance in the north-west,
so those are, if you like, some of the things which are on our
(Mr Moorhouse) I think I would just add to that. I
think also railways could do quite a lot more to help people getting
to work at commuter peaks. That is when services tend to be at
their worst and that is when we could get more improvements. We
have seen an example of it with Metrolink in Manchester which
has been very successful and I think this is a way of actually
getting people out of the car and to use rail. I think quite a
lot could be done there because railways frankly have a bigger
role to play in carrying people to work and I think much more
emphasis should be placed on that.
382. If what you are saying is that services
are at their worst at peak hours, and we have heard quite a lot
about the capacity problems in the Manchester area, and I am sure
they exist elsewhere in the north, how is it possible to deliver
improved transport to work with the current system? Is it really
necessary to change it very radically to create extra capacity?
(Mr O'Friel) Well, we have already had some success
with this because we did a survey on overcrowding a couple of
years ago which led to very lengthy and detailed discussions with
First North Western which has resulted in a fair number of train
lengthenings through the additional funding from the SRA, so that
is a practical advantage that we have got.
383. One of the things, it may be a perception,
but trains seem to be shorter than they were years ago.
(Mr O'Friel) Yes, I was going on to say that, that
one of the things we have been pursuing very heavily is strengthening
particularly peak-hour trains, but there is of course a chronic
shortage of rolling stock and we feel that there is not enough
strategic thinking about, for example, what is going to happen
to Virgin carriages when all the new trains come in. The old carriages
are still there and will offer some opportunity somehow to strengthen
particularly commuter trains in the north.
Chairman: Gentlemen, you have been very helpful.
Thank you very much indeed.