Select Committee on Transport Fourth Report

1. Introduction

1. The former Transport Sub-committee of the Transport, Local Government and the Regions Committee began its inquiry into Railways in the North of England in June 2002. The inquiry was unfortunately interrupted by the reorganisation of Select Committees to reflect changes in the machinery of Government in July 2002. The Transport, Local Government and the Regions Committee and its Sub-committees were replaced with two separate Committees shadowing the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Department for Transport. The Transport Committee was unable to begin taking evidence until October last year. Our completion of this inquiry has been delayed by major reports on Urban Congestion Schemes[1] and Multi-Modal Studies[2] and evidence gathering on further topics, but our predecessors' work uncovered issues which we consider too important to be left unfinished. There have also been recent developments which we felt should be taken into account.[3]

2. In the course of the inquiry the Transport Sub-committee took oral evidence from Arriva Trains Northern, Virgin Rail Group, and GNER; the Passenger Transport Executive Group, and Railtrack; and Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA), National Union of Maritime Transport Workers (RMT) and Association of Locomotive Engine Firemen (ASLEF); the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA), the North Eastern and North Western England Rail Passenger Committees; and the Department for Transport. The Sub-committee also visited York and Leeds where they held discussions with train operating companies and with Railtrack. Since October, the Transport Committee has taken evidence from the Chairman of the SRA twice on wider matters than Railways in the North of England, and has also taken evidence on Overcrowding in Public Transport, some of which was useful in drawing up this report. We are very grateful to all those who gave evidence in this inquiry.

3. In this work we have taken 'Railways in the North of England' to be principally those rail services which fall within the North West, the North East, and Yorkshire and the Humber regions. The routes concerned are primarily described by the SRA as North West Routes and North East, Yorkshire and the Humber Routes. The North of England is also served by important intercity routes on the East and West Coast Main Lines and by Cross Country Routes. This report is concerned with all rail services servicing the North of England, and is not confined to regional services.


4. The 10 Year Plan set out policies and targets for "safeguarding the environment and ... developing an integrated transport policy to tackle the problems of congestion and pollution".[4] It said:

"Our aims are to increase the use of the railway by passengers and freight, to provide new capacity to meet demand, and to improve the quality of service to customers, while reducing most currently regulated fares in real terms. A large expansion of rail services will make an important contribution to reducing future levels of congestion on the roads".[5]

5. The 10 Year Plan and its revision set out targets for transport, which were revisited as part of the process leading to the 2002 spending review. The target most directly related to this inquiry is:

  • ·  "Secure improvement in rail punctuality and reliability with a 50% increase in rail use in Great Britain from 2000 levels by 2010".[

Two other targets may also be affected by the success or failure of the rail network:

  •   "Reduce congestion on the inter-urban trunk road network and in large urban areas in England below 2000 levels by 2010;
  •   Improve air quality".[

6. In addition, the SRA has been given goals to secure growth of 80% in freight traffic (measured in freight tonne kms) over the 10 Year Plan period.

7. National targets, however, can only be achieved by a series of actions at local level. Our inquiry into Railways in the North of England suggests that the contribution rail can make to local travel, in particular, in this area, has been held back because of reluctance to invest the sums needed in the infrastructure, a lack of strategic grip from the SRA, a reluctance to consult local partners about services needed and a depressing tendency to meet an increase in demand for rail with concern rather than delight.

8. These problems are not confined to services in the North of England; we expect that we would find similar problems if we investigated many, if not all, regional services. But the North is a complex operating environment. It has to serve two clusters of relatively closely linked conurbations, major cities such as York and Newcastle, as well as important local centres with large rural hinterlands such as Barrow or Carlisle. Rail has a key part to play in 'joined up government' in the North; we are concerned that it is not being developed to its full potential.

1   Transport Committee, First Report of Session 2002-03, Urban Charging Schemes, HC 390-I. Back

2   Transport Committee, Third Report of Session 2002-03, Jam Tomorrow?: The Multi Modal Study Investment Plans, HC 38-I. Back

3   The Members of the former Transport Sub-committee of the Transport, Local Government and the Regions Committee were as follows: Mrs Gwyneth Dunwoody MP (Chairman), Andrew Bennett MP, Mr Gregory Campbell MP, Mr Brian H. Donohoe MP, Mrs Louise Ellman MP, Chris Grayling MP, Helen Jackson MP, Miss Anne McIntosh MP, Mr Bill O'Brien MP, Dr John Pugh MP, Mr George Stevenson MP. Back

4   Transport 2010: The 10 Year Plan, July 2000 p 5. Back

5   ibid, p 42. Back

6   Delivering better transport: Progress Report, December 2000, pp 160-161. Back

7   Ibid, pp 160-161. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003
Prepared 19 June 2003