Memorandum by Manchester Airport PLC (REN
RAIL SERVICES IN THE NORTH OF ENGLAND
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
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
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. RAIL SERVICES
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
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 franchiseTranspennine
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. RAIL INVESTMENT
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
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.