Select Committee on Transport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Railtrack PLC (in Railway Administration) (REN 34)


  In order to comment on the areas outlined by the Committee, Railtrack describes in this submission features of the rail network in the North of England and also outlines the plans for meeting forecast future needs for rail services.


  1.1  For the purposes of this submission the rail network in the North of England is considered to cover the administrative regions of the NW Regional Assembly, NE Regional Assembly, and the Regional Chamber for Yorkshire and the Humber, which represents a third of the UK population.

  1.2  The rail network in the North of England consists of approximately 4,000 route km (7,800 track km) on which there are around 4,400 train movements per day to, from, within or passing through the region, out of a national total of approximately 17,000 movements. Approximately 8,000 people are employed in the rail industry in the areas of operation, passenger services, maintenance and construction in the Northern region.

  1.3  The rail network serves four principal passenger markets in the North of England:

    —  long distance passenger movements on mainlines, primarily to and from London;

    —  regional passenger services primarily linking together the conurbations and major towns of Northern England, and also providing access to Manchester airport;

    —  access to conurbation centres from the local area, primarily for commuting. The market is largest in Leeds and Liverpool and smaller in Manchester and Sheffield (although it should be noted that rail's share of the commuter market in northern conurbations is much lower than in London and the South East); and

    —  rural passenger services linking towns and villages to local regional centres such as Carlisle, Barrow in Furness, Hull and Middlesbrough.

  1.4  Journeys to and from the Northern Region, and within the region, account for around 12% of all rail passenger journeys (ie in excess of 100 million passenger journeys per annum).

  1.5  In addition, one quarter of rail freight traffic (10 billion gross tonne kilometres of a total 44 billion gross tonne) is within the North of England and to and from other areas of the UK including the 20% of freight, which runs to/from the Humber area.

  1.6  There are seven main Train Operating Companies (TOCs) using the network in the North of England. These are Virgin Cross Country, Virgin West Coast, GNER, Hull Trains, Arriva Trains Northern, First North Western, and Arriva Trains Merseyside. Freight operations involve DRS, EWS and Freightliner. Within the next five years, four of the TOCs will be re-negotiating or bidding for the replacement franchises. Railtrack works with the SRA and bidders in evaluating infrastructure proposals developed as part of the franchise process.

  1.7  Railtrack is actively working with TOCs on projects to improve the quality of rail services. For example, new timetables have allowed an increase in the frequency of trains between Leeds and Manchester, and Railtrack has worked to further improve the specific timing of those trains (to make them more evenly spaced).

  1.8  Railtrack is committed to providing a safe and reliable railway. The performance/ reliability of train services improvement work is built on several key work streams:

    —  Local cross industry Delivery Groups.

    —  Structural Improvement of the time table.

    —  Improved maintenance delivery and engineering strategy.

    —  Working in partnership with TOCs in the introduction of new trains.

  1.9  In the North of England our local Delivery Groups have been very successful and they have recently been strengthened by the creation of Virtual Boards (which have been set up to address high level strategic issues for major routes and geographic areas with representatives from Railtrack, TOCs and contractors plus the ORR and SRA attending as observers) to cover the West Coast Main Line and the Midland Main Line. More Virtual Boards are planned.

  1.10  Five Passenger Transport Executives (PTEs) cover the metropolitan areas in the North of England—Greater Manchester, Merseyside, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and Tyne and Wear. Railtrack works in partnership with the PTEs in developing their strategies and delivering agreed rail infrastructure improvements. For example, Railtrack has worked with Merseytravel to complete major refurbishments at Old Roan and Kirkdale stations and in South Yorkshire we have made good progress with SYPTE in regards to the development of facilities at Sheffield station.

  1.11  Railtrack has also worked with other industry parties in delivering a number of important major improvements to rail services in the North of England over the last five years. For example:

    —  increasing capacity into Leeds station from 26 trains an hour to around 40;

    —  Sunderland Metro—extension of metro services to serve Sunderland resulting in up to nine passenger services an hour;

    —  Settle-Carlisle freight route—extensive programme of track renewals to support use of the route for heavy coal traffic by EWS;

    —  station regeneration programme has seen major improvements to stations at Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool Lime Street and Newcastle; and

    —  improvements at Doncaster South junction to remove a capacity and reliability bottleneck.


Rail Demand

  2.1  Railtrack in common with the SRA Strategic Plan is expecting network growth of over 40% in rail passenger kilometres over the next 10 years. The growth, however, is not uniform. Growth in excess of 40% is expected on the inter-urban routes to London and on the newly enhanced Cross Country network. By contrast, lower levels of growth are expected on local services in metropolitan areas and on rural services.

Network Capacity

  2.2  The following map, which is an extract from Railtrack's 2002 NMS, shows current utilisation of the network (Winter 2001-02) based on the peak part of the day in the North of England.

  2.3  High levels of utilisation such as 90% or more are shown in red on the map and fall into two categories:

    —  lines carrying a mix of passenger and freight traffic, often over long distances, where utilisation of capacity is high over long periods of the day eg the Trans-Pennine route, Darlington-Newcastle (ECML); and

    —  commuter routes where an intensive service operates for a short period in the peak, but where spare capacity exists outside the peak (eg the approaches to Manchester).

  2.4  Should no infrastructure change occur beyond that already committed to (primarily the WCML upgrade) the number of significant bottlenecks are predicted to increase by 2012 and would then comprise the following:

    —  East Coast Main Line-Northallerton-Newcastle.

    —  West Coast Main line.

    —  Midland Main Line.

    —  East Coast Main Line.

    —  North Trans-Pennine: Leeds Manchester.

    —  Crewe-Manchester.

  2.5  However, it is important to put the picture on capacity bottlenecks into context; compared with the more densely trafficked South East, in general there remains significant network capacity to accommodate growth of rail services in the North of England.

Planning for additional capacity

  2.6  The analysis above identifies those parts of the network where capacity utilisation is at 90% or more. At these locations traffic growth is constrained and performance suffers. This is not consistent with developing a railway that can deliver substantial lasting improvements in performance and solutions must be sought. Railtrack is working with the SRA to develop proposals for enhancing capacity, and it will be for the SRA to then decide which of these they wish to see developed further. Low cost solutions include changing the timetable and lengthening trains; higher cost solutions involve building new infrastructure.

  2.7  The SRA and Railtrack have commenced a thorough review of the basis on which the timetable is constructed with the aim being to improve the utilisation of the network and the reliability of services. This work is being carried out in conjunction with TOCs. Route reviews for the Greater Manchester area and the Trans-Pennine routes are planned to be implemented in summer 2004.

  2.8  Railtrack has already worked with TOCs in the North to lengthen trains; a recent example being the PTE/SRA sponsored lengthening of Class 333 trains on the Leeds suburban routes. Other opportunities to lengthen trains may emerge from the re-franchising process—Railtrack is closely involved with the SRA and bidders on the development of proposals for the Trans—Pennine and Northern franchises.

  2.9  Larger scale enhancements listed in the SRA strategic plan as being either underway or in the pipeline over the next 10 years include:

    —  East Coast Mainline upgrade.

    —  Gauge enhancement Liverpool-Manchester-Yorkshire-Humber ports to allow deep sea containers and lorry trailers to be conveyed to/from the east coast and Mersey area ports.

    —  Capacity enhancements—South Humberside to Doncaster to allow rail to handle increased volumes of freight tonnage through the Humber ports and reopening of the Brigg line for regular operation of freight traffic.

    —  Additional platform at Manchester Airport station/

  2.10  It should also be noted that in line with the review of engineering and asset management policies which has taken place since Hatfield (October 2000), Railtrack plans to increase its maintenance and renewal spend on all parts of the network. This planned expenditure increase for 2002/03 (up 23% on 2001-02) is expected to be reflected in activity in the North and to result in improvements to overall levels of reliability and performance.

  Alan Bloom, Chris Hill, Scott Martin and Mike Rollings were appointed Joint Special Railway Administrators of Railtrack PLC on 7th October 2001.

  The Joint Special Railway Administrators act as agents of the company and without personal liability.

10 June 2002

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