Select Committee on Transport Written Evidence


Memorandum by Bombardier Transportation (FOR 107)

THE FUTURE OF THE RAILWAYS

INTRODUCTION

  Transport is at the top of the agenda in most industrial countries.

  Growing populations together with economic prosperity, particularly higher disposable income for the majority of people in society, is creating a demand for transport that is increasingly hard to satisfy.

  Congestion coupled with society's dependence on mobility has generated a need for continued improvements in integrated public transport systems in addition to and compatible with the motor car.

  Public transport systems are expected to be:

    (a)  Integrated—"door-to-door" and easily accessible

    (b)  Reliable

    (c)  Affordable (for the individual and for society)

    (d)  Comfortable (particularly important for longer journeys)

    (e)  Environmentally friendly and

    (f)  last but not least, to be Safe

  In the UK we have a continued debate and a very high level of public interest in our transport systems. We all depend on one mode of transport or the other; we are all affected by growing congestion, noise and pollution from traffic, costs of mobility, the need to "feel safe" when on the move, etc.

  The Transport Committee has following its meeting with Tom Winsor, the Rail Regulator, on 25 June decided to ask some fundamental questions about the future of our railways.

  In responding to those questions we will in some areas refer to the "White Paper on UK Rail" issued by Bombardier Transportation in July this year in contribution to the debate about our railways. We have enclosed a copy of our White Paper with this memorandum.

1.   Question 1—Is Rail an outmoded form of Transport?

  1.1  Although rail today accounts for only 6% of total passenger mileage, the present user level is the highest for more than 50 years. Trends are upwards and the number of passenger journeys on national rail from the beginning of this calendar year will almost certainly exceed 1 billion sometime in November.

  1.2  By far the most rail journeys are taking place in densely populated commuter areas. Those areas are also the ones where rail cannot be substituted by alternative means of transport mainly due to space constraints.

  1.3  To give a few figures. To carry 50,000 people per hour in one direction we would need:  

    —  a 175 m wide road used by cars, or

    —  a 35 m wide road used by buses, or

    —  a 9 m wide track bed for a metro or commuter railway.

  1.4  The average number of people in "commuter cars" is below 1.5 persons per car, and 15-20 sq metres are required for a parking space at the destination.

  1.5  The M25 western links from the A1(M) to the M23 (one of the busiest motorways in Europe) carry a maximum flow of approximately 210,000 vehicles per day or approximately 8,800 cars per hour. Allowing for 1.5 people per car this would give a capacity of circa 13,000 people per hour in each direction.

  1.6  Urban surface railways can carry up to 30,000 passengers per hour, a metro system up to 80,000 passengers per direction per hour while a two-lane carriageway can move 3-6,000 people per hour.

  1.7  London Underground alone carries more than 300,000 people into Central London during the morning peak from 0700 to 1000 hours plus moves an additional 200,000 from the main line (Intercity and commuter) termini for long and medium distance trains to their end destinations.

  1.8  This again would indicate that to replace LUL alone with car access it would require some 10 to 12 (congested) 4-6 lane M25-type motorways within the M25 area plus parking areas.

  1.9  From pure mathematics on space requirements we contend that rail is not an outmoded form of transport but a mode of transport on which our dependency will grow. In short, we agree with Tom Winsor's statement on 25 June.

  1.10  In addition rail transport is more energy efficient than road and air transport and often less polluting in particular where it moves higher volumes of people and freight.

2.   Question 2—Is the present network the right one; if not, how should it be changed?

  2.1  The present network is not the right one for the present and future requirements for a modern society.

  2.2  High traffic density, a mix of freight and passenger trains, high and lower speed trains and many crossings and junctions on the lines make timetabling difficult and compound the lack of punctuality by cascading delays from one train to the next.

  2.3  Work on the network when services are in operation incurs considerable costs due to inefficient use of working time, severe safety precautions and the interruption to services.

  2.4  To deliver the future level of capacity and performance we do not believe that "patching up" of the present system, in particular of the main lines, will be sufficient. Ideally we need to:

    (a)  remove present bottlenecks in the system to be able to utilise the existing network capacity in full. The SRA is working on this but we believe the progress will be slow due to lack of funding;

    (b)  resolve the main congestion in the London area by moving forward with the Crossrail project;

    (c)  separate fast and slow passenger trains and establish double tracks for the major traffic flows in the country; and

    (d)  establish a dedicated freight line between the main centres of producers, consumers and import/export shipping ports.

  2.5  The planning and the investment in the above infrastructure and rolling stock should be done after a robust analysis of future transport needs, taking into consideration such elements as the introduction of road pricing for freight and passenger vehicles, environmental issues, the ideal pattern of economic growth, any potential development of new conurbations on green or brown field sites etc.

  2.6  The analysis should include how high speed lines could stimulate growth and social regeneration in Government targeted development areas. (The analysis of high speed lines should be in parallel with the consideration of airport expansions in particular for domestic traffic.)

  2.7  Simultaneously with efforts to increase capacity where an increase is required the industry should not shy back from reducing capacity in areas with little or no commercial customer base for rail operations.

  2.8  The car will for many years be the preferred family vehicle for transport. The target for public transport and in particular for rail should be to deliver a service which would attract passengers to rail by fulfilling the expectations set out in points (a)-(e) of our introduction above and thereby reduce the need for more than one car per family.

3.   Question 3—What sort of traffic is the network best used for?

  3.1  Some of rail's greatest strengths lie in the following areas:

    (a)  mass transit passenger flows by metro trains and medium distance commuter trains into major conurbations. No other means of transport can deliver flows of more than 50,000 passengers per hour in two directions within a 2 x 9 m wide corridor. An example being the rail network in the south east of England;

    (b)  surface transport within major conurbations where trams (light rail vehicles) will in many instances offer an attractive alternative to existing bus routes. There are indications that tram systems are particularly good at promoting regeneration as the "permanent way" suggests longevity and commitment ie you can change or close a bus route tomorrow. Also trams tend to encourage modal shift by attracting passengers who would not otherwise voluntarily use public transport. Examples are the Strasbourg tram system and the system being built in Nottingham;

    (c)  fast and efficient links between airports and city centres and major stations for point-to-point rail connections. Depending on distance and passenger flows different solutions for rolling stock and rail services have to be considered as part of a truly integrated approach;

    (d)  passenger flows between communities within regions of the country targeted on commuters, business users and shoppers. Regional services can offer links to main lines and flexible capacity during the day;

    (e)  high speed connections between centres of major conurbations. As distances increase, the competitiveness of rail will also increase up to a travel time by rail of about 3.5 hours. A true high speed (300+kph) north-south rail system should be competitive with air transport between most UK destinations freeing gate slots at critical airports for international traffic. An example of rail replacing air travel is the Thalys service between Paris and Brussels which has replaced all flights between those two cities; and

    (f)  a dedicated rail system for freight between the major centres for producers/consumers and to the sea ports could also deliver substantial benefits to the environment as well as easing congestion on the road system. An example is the Central Railway project.

  3.2  For the success of rail, connections to other means of transport at the connecting points including affordable car parking facilities with sufficient capacity are key.

  3.3  For each of the main types of rail services mentioned above, dedicated rolling stock will be required to provide the right service level at the right price.

4.   Question 4—How does our network compare with other railways and what lessons can we learn from other countries?

  4.1  Comparing the UK network with other countries produces some interesting observations. In our White Paper section 3, pages 13 to 26 we have been examining "investment and growth" and given a number of data. We can add the following comments:

    (a)  Most of the UK's network was built during the Victorian times and has since then been through periods of varying investment and maintenance expenditure. Since privatisation investments have "rocketed" but with little positive effect on the performance of our overall rail system.

        In spite of the increase, the investment in UK rail on a cumulative basis is below that of Germany and France since 1986. (see White Paper page 25).

    (b)  There is at present nearly 3,000 km of high speed lines in Europe and 2,000 km under construction in Spain, Italy, Germany, Holland, France and Portugal. In the UK we have no high speed links except for the Channel Tunnel link.

    (c)  A particular area where we are well behind our continental colleagues is on signalling technology for our railway. On the continent operators are moving forward with the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) and with Computer Based Interlocking systems (CBI) while the UK is going backwards with Network Rail continuing the installation of Solid State Interlocking systems (SSI) which use 30 year old technology; ie saving costs short term but storing up problems for the future.

        We have commented more on signalling systems in our White Paper for UK Rail section 7.

    (d)  The overall structure of our industry is too complicated, fragmented, top heavy, and people within our industry have become so risk averse that projects are slowed down and are getting too expensive.

    (e)  Cost comparisons of ticket prices between the UK and selected other countries as per our White Paper section 3, page 22 shows that in the UK in general is more expensive than our counterparts.

  4.2  Major initiatives are however underway for the UK rail industry to get together and make overall passenger/freight revenues plus budgeted subsidies "to balance" our costs.

  4.3  The industry is using considerable resources ie people on inter-industry payments and penalties. We question whether the benefit and incentives from the payments in general outweigh the cost of administration. New payments which are planned to be adding to the internal industry payments within the coming years are the "part" industry funding arrangements for the HSE and RSSB.

5.   To Conclude

  5.1  Bombardier Transportation appreciates the opportunity to submit our comments to your questions.

  5.2  To balance the industry costs with our income we need to focus on our customers' requirements and address all expenditure including simplification of our overall industry structure, our regulatory system and working methods.

  5.3  To achieve the performance levels of train services and the necessary cost reductions to attract more passengers and to meet the Government spending targets it is essential that the objectives of all stakeholders in the industry, including the suppliers and contractors, are aligned.

  5.4  We believe that the suppliers to the industry should be closely involved in the early planning and decisions on technology, costs and resources available for moving forward (see our White Paper on UK Rail sections 4 and 9).

  5.5  Considering that Government and private investors are expected to spend many billions of pounds on rail over the coming years we also believe that suppliers should develop a national strategy, with influential Government sponsorship with the objectives of giving value for money to the taxpayers and to secure long-term product support to the industry. A strong UK domestic market would also be a springboard for exports to the overall benefit of the economy.

  5.6  Finally Bombardier Transportation is prepared to continue our contribution to a better railway for Britain as part of an integrated transport system fulfilling the expectations of customers.

Per Staehr

Chief Country Representative

October 2003


 
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