Select Committee on Transport Written Evidence


Memorandum by Transport for London (FOR 109)

THE FUTURE OF THE RAILWAYS

1.  INTRODUCTION

  1.1  Transport for London (TfL) is the Mayor of London's strategic transport authority with responsibility for providing public transport services and infrastructure across the capital.

  1.2  London has a high demand for commuter rail services—approximately 500,000 people per weekday travel into central London during the morning peak on National Rail (NR) services, the provision of which are outside TfL London Rail's direct responsibility.

  1.3  London relies on rail for a host of reasons, primarily because its major road network capacity is small in comparison to other world cities but it has a much larger rail network.

  1.4  The Mayor of London gives Directions and Guidance to the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) on its needs from the National Rail Network to support London's Transport Plan.

  1.5  There is a London Rail Partnership Agreement (LRPA) in place between TfL London Rail and the SRA to facilitate the development and implementation of service improvements. There is, however, no obligation on the SRA to follow the Mayor's directions if additional costs would be incurred.

  1.6  The effective management of London's railways is critical to delivering both the Mayor's Transport Strategy and London's contribution to the Government's Ten Year Transport Plan.

  1.7  An effective rail network is central to the Mayor's strategy to improve transport in London and TfL London Rail is committed to working in partnership with other organisations to achieve better financial and service delivery value. TfL is committed to supporting service enhancements on London's National Rail network. Its policies, strategies and plans do not naturally harmonise with the SRA's objectives and policies for the national UK rail network.

  1.8  TfL London Rail recognises the pressure on existing resources (operational and financial) and the many conflicting priorities faced by the rail industry through such agreements as the LRPA. We have creatively sought to build a robust partnership with key industry participants in order to more effectively concentrate existing resources and capabilities on the immediate job in hand.

  1.9  TfL London Rail welcomes the Transport Committee's inquiry into the future of rail and would be happy to answer any questions. In this submission we have focused on the Committee's key themes, as follows:

    —  Is rail an outmoded form of transport?

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

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

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

2.  IS RAIL AN OUTMODED FORM OF TRANSPORT?

  2.1  No. Without rail, London and the nation's economy will decline. NR currently has a 42% weekday share of morning peak travel demand into central London. This figure rises to 77% when London Underground and Docklands Light Railway (DLR) services are added. Amongst other things, these figures reflect that the capital has an extensive and well used rail system.

  2.2  A study recently undertaken by the Centre for Economic Business Research concluded that a failure to invest in expanding London's rail network, to meet the forecast increase in London's population, would slow down the capital's Gross Domestic Product to below 2% per year and sacrifice around 500,000 London jobs. London could also lose its place as Europe's most important financial centre.

  2.3  Without sustained investment in the existing network, London will cease to function because we cannot simply build roads as a means of addressing transport infrastructure problems. London's railways are already at, or near, capacity, resulting in serious overcrowding.

  2.4  Subject to financial investment and a favourable planning regime, rail can play its part in meeting the massive future growth demand predicted in the Mayor's London Plan. This document, which is the Mayor's spatial development strategy, anticipates London's population will increase by approximately 650,000 people by 2016. The existing rail network will not be able to meet such growth.

3.  IS THE PRESENT NETWORK THE RIGHT ONE? IF NOT, HOW SHOULD IT BE CHANGED?

  3.1  The present network has evolved in a mostly unplanned fashion during the post-war period. It has many competing demands and requires a long-term strategic vision.

  3.2  Rail in and around London essentially comprises large volumes of commuter and InterCity traffic with a limited amount of freight. The "mixed" railway does what it can to meet the differing needs of these audiences, but at certain times of the day and at certain locations, struggles. Orbital routes such as the North London Line are highly congested and passenger demand is suppressed by the lack of paths due to freight requirements. Many radial routes into London are already at capacity, limited by short platforms and lack of terminal platforms and signalling.

  3.3  It is also worth stressing that whether a public or private asset, rail will always be reliant on Government support, be that in the financial, legislative or planning areas.

  3.4  TfL, in controlling other aspects of London's transport provision, is well placed through its London Rail directorate to ensure that commuter rail services in and around the capital are properly planned and integrated into a single transport network.

  3.5  Planned improvements will not be effective unless rail capacity is increased and this involves the need for prioritised and properly funded project management. TfL London Rail should take direct involvement in the management of what are presently SRA duties including service specification, fare setting, capacity enhancement and strategic planning for London's rail services. This is essential if a properly planned, integrated transport network is to be developed in London.

  3.6  A possible mechanism to improve performance is to enhance TfL's authorities and responsibilities in a similar way as to its other transport modes. The Passenger Transport Executives and the Scottish Executive have significantly greater authority to plan and fund NR services than TfL.

  3.7  An enhanced TfL London Rail body could directly sponsor the franchising of London's commuter rail services and ensure that non-rail modes support increases in output from the rail system.

4.  WHAT SORT OF TRAFFIC IS THE NETWORK BEST USED FOR?

  4.1  The key issue for London is primarily about how to get people to/from work. A small and congested road network and an increasingly overcrowded rail system cannot deliver this. A balance has to be drawn between long distance and local rail services, both of which are currently competing for passenger traffic and slots.

  4.2  The existing SRA franchise process does not reflect that approximately 70% of all passenger journeys originate or terminate in the London area. The balance at present is largely dictated by commercial considerations where the Train Operating Companies (understandably from their perspective) bid for contracts in terms of what profit they can extract. The franchise specifications are constructed by the SRA using affordability criteria from a national perspective rather than regional.

  4.3  An expanded and technically upgraded rail network that complements TfL's existing priorities can deliver on behalf of London, but it will take political will, secure finance and a decade of work. The planning delivery and efficiency of London's overall transport system both today and in the future is dependent on integration.

5.  HOW DOES LONDON RAIL COMPARE WITH OTHERS—NATIONALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY?

  5.1  Whilst London is the focus of seven out of 10 rail journeys in the United Kingdom, it has been the poor relation when receiving SRA grant support. £70.1 million of public subsidy was invested in London's rail network last year, compared to £890.7 million in provincial rail services. Most recent franchise renewal contracts in London and the South East are short term, with forecast increases in grant requirement primarily linked to essential asset renewal, such as replacement of old trains rather than enhancement of peak capacity.

  5.2  Each pound spent supporting London's rail services secures social benefits that are greater than in any other part of the NR network. Steer Davies Gleave calculate that the socio-economic benefits (including journey time, decongestion and health) for each pound of government rail subsidy are as follows:

    —  London  £4.03

    —  Outer suburban  £2.10

    —  Regional  £1.45

    —  InterCity  £1.33

  5.3  TfL London Rail is not proposing reductions in rail expenditure elsewhere in the country in favour of London—we believe there is an overwhelming and urgent case to prioritise additional investment for the capital.

6.  CONCLUSIONS

  6.1  Rail, as a transport mode has never been more important, which is why TfL created a London Rail directorate. We believe we have already made a positive impact on the capital's rail scene by laying the foundations of a partnership approach with other industry players and that this work has enabled immediate term improvements, such as those currently experienced by passengers on the South London Metro services. Increasing London's rail capacity is the only truly effective long-term solution.

  6.2  London's continued success and prosperity as a world city is dependent on its public transport, most especially rail, which is the most effective mode at moving large volumes of people in and around the city.

  6.3  More must be done to improve the quality and range of service provision and infrastructure. Although much of this stems from the industry itself securing a fair and sustained budget settlement from Government and other stakeholders, there is also an onus on the industry to improve operational and financial performance.

  6.4  One of the main reasons for this is TfL London Rail's desire to secure new schemes, such as Crossrail, and extensions to the existing system, such as Thameslink 2000 and the East London Line, that are so badly needed to alleviate pressure on an already overcrowded system. The first two projects alone would reduce forecast overcrowding on Underground services by 17% and 30% on DLR. This will not happen if rail funding is solely determined on a national basis.

  6.5  The simple fact is that after years of planning, numerous delays and setbacks, none of these key projects have been given final Government approval. Each is still in a state of uncertainty and the worst case scenario is that none will go ahead or, even if they do, all will face more serious delays. New methods of financing have not yet brought these schemes any nearer implementation and there is constant talk of whether they are affordable. This is precisely the prescription that has led, over many years, to the current condition of London's railway system.

  6.6  There needs to be a much more robust commitment towards getting projects under way, a more flexible approach towards alternative methods of funding, and greater co-operation between Government, London bodies, the business community and the private sector, as all benefit from an efficient rail system.

  6.7  The challenge of meeting London's future transport demands will take time. Even if started today, major rail projects are unlikely to be delivered before the 2010 to 2013 timeframe. Action is urgently required in the interim to improve today's service standards. Within its limited budget and power, TfL London Rail is attempting to deliver such as the South London "Overground Network" but a more significant strategic effort is needed if we are to meet the emerging short-term demands of London's rail network.

  6.8  TfL London Rail has no statutory duty to fund NR services, but faced with inadequate standards and the impact they have on the TfL network, is investing in upgrading inner London off peak NR services and stations.

  6.9  Where possible, TfL's investment aims to secure off peak service frequencies of at least four trains per hour and station upgrades to include "real time" train information screens, security cameras, help points and new maps. A pilot exercise on four routes in south London is currently being assessed before a possible London wide extension.

  6.10  Ideally such improvements should be undertaken in partnership with the SRA through its Rail Partnership Programme but the SRA has recently suspended the scheme to save money. TfL believes that a dedicated Partnership Fund for London is essential and will make a substantial financial contribution to it.

  6.11  It is not just a question of financial investment—there is also a requirement for more focus on the needs of London and to ensure that funds are spent wisely. TfL London Rail and the SRA must build on their new partnership agreement to give London a greater say in the planning and delivery of its rail services.

  6.12  Some progress can be made through co-operation between the various bodies responsible for London's railways and some improvements can be secured at comparatively low cost.

  6.13  However, it is major new projects which are key to the long-term development of London. The total project cost of implementing Crossrail, Thameslink 2000, the East London Line extension, power supply upgrade and platform lengthening is estimated to be in the region of £15 billion. This figure is significantly less than the contribution London makes in a single year to other parts of the country.

TfL London Rail

October 2003


 
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