Select Committee on Transport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Manchester Airport PLC (REN 02)



  1.1  Manchester Airport welcomes the opportunity to set before the Select Committee its views on rail services in the North of England, and in particular, their importance as an airport access mode.

  1.2  High quality, reliable and efficient rail services are essential to Manchester Airport. They:

    —  provide a realistic surface access alternative to the private car;

    —  assist in reducing the level of car parking on site and promoting sustainable land use;

    —  reduce the number of vehicle trips on national and local roads around the airport;

    —  limit the need to make long road journeys to south east airports; and

    —  maximise the airport's ability to meet air travel needs arising in the region, avoiding the need for expensive and environmentally damaging transfers over London and other European hub airports.

  1.3  Achieving high quality, integrated public transport via rail franchises such as the proposed Transpennine Express franchise is central to Manchester Airport's ability to play a full part in achieving the objectives of the Integrated Transport White Paper, and the 10-year Transport Plan.


  2.1  Manchester Airport is the third largest airport in the UK, and the largest outside the South East of England. It handled over 19 million passengers in 2001, and is forecast to grow to over 40 million per year by 2015. Manchester is not only the major airport for travellers in the North West, but for many North of England air passengers it provides the only realistic alternative to travelling to the London or mainland European airports for long haul and transatlantic flights.

  2.2  Manchester Airport, in common with other major airport operators in the UK and elsewhere, has recognised that maintaining excellent surface access to the site is a fundamental requirement for future growth if it is not to become strangled through road congestion. Manchester Airport enjoys direct links to the motorway system, but we have long acknowledged that reliance on the roads for airport access is not going to serve either the local communities or the Airport business. It is not a sustainable approach.

  2.3  As part of the package of environmental measures associated with the now complete second runway, we made a commitment to our local communities through a Section 106 Planning Agreement that by 2005, 25% of all trips to the Airport will be made by public transport. We are committed to revising our Ground Transport Plan to increase this target for the period post 2005.

  2.4  Manchester has actively promoted the development of public transport alternatives. A rail link to Manchester Airport opened in 1993 enabling trains from Manchester and the north of England to access the airport. This was followed by completion of the southern rail chord, to facilitate access by trains from Crewe. Funding from the Airport was critical to levering out the total investment required for both parties.

  2.5  Government policy set out in the 1998 Transport White Paper is to:

    —  develop airports as transport interchanges and be partners in improving the quality of public transport services;

    —  improve access to airports by rail, encourage the development of regional and long distance feeder services; and to

    —  look for opportunities to facilitate public transport links to airports with particular focus on improved rail access.

  Government has set targets in its 10-year Transport Plan to increase the use of rail by 50%, and to invest £60 billion in rail.

  Manchester has been working to deliver Government policy on Airport access through the development of the Manchester Airport Ground Transport Interchange. This state of the art project costing £64 million is now well underway, and on target for completion in mid 2003. The Interchange will combine bus, coach rail and light rail (Metrolink) stations into a single site on the airport with check-in for air passengers. The project has attracted EU support, receiving

2.8million in grants from the Trans European Networks programme. It will provide a highly integrated public transport terminal at the heart of Manchester Airport that meets all the objectives of government policy. A core element of the project is to provide a third rail platform and lengthen the existing two platforms to accommodate longer trains, and a further phase will extend the rail line westwards under the airfield to create a through running station. The Capital cost estimate for the rail works is £17 million. The issues surrounding rail investment at the Ground Transport Interchange were given in evidence by Manchester Airport to the Select Committee's recent inquiry on Passenger Rail Franchising and Railway Infrastructure.


  3.1  Manchester Airport's train services are now provided by three train operators: Arriva Trains Northern (as Transpennine Express); First North Western; and Central Trains. The SRA is in the process of creating two new rail franchises Transpennine Express and Northern that will effectively replace the Arriva and First North Western franchises. Transpennine Express is planned to be the core provider of rail services to Manchester Airport. There are currently significant weaknesses in performance, network coverage and passenger comfort.

  3.2  British Rail set out the pattern of rail services to Manchester Airport from opening in 1993. Briefly the original pattern provided two half hourly local shuttle services into Manchester and two hourly longer distance services, one to Scarborough, and one to Blackpool. From very early on, it became apparent that Manchester Airport passengers favoured direct trains from their home destination, and changing trains was a barrier to use. British Rail and subsequently the Manchester Airport services have developed around a range of direct inter urban services throughout Northern England, and to a lesser extent to the Midlands. Local stations between Manchester City Centre, and the Airport are now mainly served by stops on the inter urban services: a situation that is unsatisfactory for local users and air passengers. Experience shows that rail is most effective for Manchester Airport where:

    —  Manchester Airport passenger volumes are high (>100,000).

    —  The destination is a significant distance from Manchester Airport (>30 miles).

    —  Relative road/rail journey times favour rail, especially Transpennine.

    —  Rolling stock is of high quality.

    —  Services are frequent (at least 15 per day including weekends).

  3.3  The strongest performing services have been those on the North and South Transpennine Express routes. These services most closely match the ideal model for Manchester Airport train services offering a hourly service for most of the day, and with overnight trains to the major destinations: Leeds, York and Sheffield for example. Rolling stock is also of a reasonably high quality (Class 158s), and a First Class section is provided on most Transpennine trains. There is evidence to support increased frequency, and enhancing the number of Transpennine destinations directly served from Manchester Airport. These services are well used by commuters between Manchester and Leeds and Sheffield, and overcrowding is common during the peaks. The relative lack of convenient luggage space for air passengers exacerbates the problem, and overcrowding must be considered a serious barrier to growing the passenger market.

  3.4  Transpennine services are also compromised by their need to double as local trains in Greater Manchester, and in particular between Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport. The serious lack of network capacity in south Manchester, and platform capacity at Manchester Airport means that some services call at all five local stations between Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport, further eroding their desirability for air passengers.

  3.5  Services from Manchester Airport to the North West (Liverpool, Preston, Blackpool, Lancaster and Barrow and Windermere) perform less well than their Transpennine counterparts. As with the Transpennine services, these services often include many local stops, and overcrowding is again a problem, particularly in the Manchester to Bolton area. However there are overnight trains to Manchester Blackpool and Preston. The North West has historically had some of the worst and oldest rolling stock in the country. Until the recent introduction of some new Class 175 trains on the Blackpool and Barrow/Windermere routes, the quality of rolling stock on many services was poor, and not of a type to encourage air passengers to use rail.

  3.6  Two services operate directly to the south of Manchester Airport: a local train to Crewe by First North Western, and Central Trains service to Crewe, Stoke and Nottingham. Neither is a satisfactory use of the available paths. The local Crewe service fails to provide a direct connection to key stations Sandbach and Holmes Chapel to cater for airport employees working normal office hours. The service to Stoke and Nottingham is compromised by the need to stop at all local stations between Crewe and Nottingham. Rolling stock on this service is also basic commuter stock.

  3.7  Passenger Service Requirements (PSR) protect most of the Airport's train services, and making significant and effective improvements will require a change to the PSR. Whilst this may be possible because of the creation of two new franchise—Transpennine and Northern, a more serious barrier is the lack of capital investment to address the deficiencies in the network.

  3.8  Manchester Airport rail station is operating at capacity for most of the day with all available train paths into and out of the station fully used. There are also major capacity bottlenecks in Greater Manchester that are preventing the growth of rail services in the region, and to Manchester Airport. The Manchester network is operating at the limits of its capacity, and susceptible to minor incidents that can cause many knock on delays. Manchester Airport's train services from the North of England terminate at the Airport after having first passed through Manchester Piccadilly. It is thus common practice for Railtrack to recover delays on late running airport trains by terminating services at Manchester Piccadilly with consequential inconvenience and delay to passengers.

  3.9  Reliability of airport services, and confidence in their use, has been badly eroded during 2001 by delays and cancellations particularly on the Arriva Transpennine routes. Driver shortages, strikes, and delays caused by engineering works post Hatfield, and at Leeds First, have badly disrupted Transpennine Express rail services. This has damaged user confidence, and led to a reduction in rail use in 2001 for the first time since the rail link opened in 1993. It is estimated that rail's mode share has declined by at least 1% in 2001 when compared to 2000, a loss of some 150,000 rail passengers.


  4.1  The poor performance of train services in the North is in reality a consequence of serious under investment in the network outside the south east. There have been many studies to identify the problems and solutions for the Greater Manchester and North West rail network. Most recently the SRA's own Greater Manchester Strategic Rail Study, and the South East Manchester Multi Modal Study have recommended key actions that need to be undertaken to improve rail, and public transport use generally in the Manchester area. It is not proposed to debate the individual merits of schemes here, but rather to question why the SRA, and Government when presented with very clear and compelling evidence on the problems facing the network, should make no provision in the Strategic Plan for any significant action in the next 10 years.

  4.2  One of the North West Regions key transport priorities is to increase capacity in the Manchester Hub rail network. Both the SRA's Greater Manchester Strategic Rail Study, and the South East Manchester Multi Modal Study support this need. Yet none of the rail schemes highlighted in the regions strategic transport studies have been included in the SRA's Strategic Plan.

  4.3  The Plan sets out the SRA's priorities for the short and medium term, and these are:

    —  short term investment to make safe and efficient use of the network, and improve passenger service before embarking on major new schemes; and

    —  medium term investment to deliver the major projects needed to meet Government targets for railways, and completed within the 10-year plan period.

  4.4  The objectives of the plan are to achieve a 50% increase in passenger kilometres, reduce overcrowding and an 80% in freight tonne kilometres. When judging schemes to go forward, the SRA applies value for money and affordability tests. This inevitably will focus investment into rail schemes in the South East where subsidies are lower, and on Inter City routes where their combination of high value fares and long journey sectors will always look better value than investments in the high subsidy regional rail networks. This one size fits all approach is ill equipped to make rational and balanced judgements on schemes outside the south east. The North of England has very real problems with rail services that need investment to solve them. They are different in nature and scale to the south east, but no less important to the regional and national economy.

  4.5  The Strategic Plan makes it quite apparent that there are insufficient funds to deliver many of the new projects that were supposed to be delivered through refranchising. The revised specification for Transpennine Express is explicit in its requirement not to provide new infrastructure at least during the first five years. Thus the Strategic Plan makes no provision for funding the schemes outlined in the Greater Manchester Strategic Rail Study, including the Airport Western and Eastern Links.

  4.6  Deferring investment in the Manchester area has significant implications for the Airport's development, and its ability to meet Government targets for increased rail use to airports. In the short to medium term there is an urgent need for more capacity to cater for and stimulate the growth of direct rail services.


  5.1  Manchester Airport's experience with rail services has shown that they can provide an effective alternative to the car. However despite a promising start from opening the rail link in 1993, rail's ability to deliver an effective service to Manchester Airport continues to be compromised by poor reliability and a mismatch of the product with the market.

  5.2  The optimum rail product, and use of rail network capacity, for Manchester Airport is a frequent inter urban service with good quality trains linking key regional towns and cities with Manchester Airport. This is only partially achieved, mainly on Transpennine services, but on many routes the journey time penalties from including too many minor station stops, poor reliability and indifferent quality trains is turning many passengers away.

  5.3  Manchester Airport does believe that the requirements for a successful airport rail service are well understood by the rail industry. Extensive consultations have taken place with bidders for the Transpennine Express and other franchises about the Airport's requirements. A document giving information to bidders and other interested parties was produced. However it is evident that despite all the evidence, real progress is being compromised by the lack of investment. This is not a matter that the rail operators can solve by themselves. The nature of rail operations in the North does require a greater share of the investment outlined in the 10 Year Transport Plan than is currently the case.

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Prepared 11 July 2003