Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 380 - 383)



  380. You think that passengers on the whole would prefer reliable services, even if they were not quite as frequent?
  (Mr O'Friel) Yes.

  Chris Grayling

  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 agenda.
  (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.

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