Select Committee on Transport Written Evidence

Memorandum by the Quality Transport Partnership (FOR 119)


  My attention has been drawn to a submission to the Transport Select Committee by Dr Leunig, regarding some statistics used in quoting the cost of public financial support for maintaining rail services on the Isle of Wight. The figure quoted would be correct on the assumption that all passenger journeys are correctly recorded and that all the access charges paid by Island Line are actually reinvested in the rail infrastructure on the Isle of Wight. Unfortunately this is not true in either case.

  The reported passenger figures, upon which the SRA produce their statistics, only count passenger journeys made with tickets purchased on railway ticket machines and are reported through the LENNON (ex-CAPRI) system. This excludes passenger journeys utilising the "Isle of Wight Bus/Rail" rover ticket as well as through tickets purchased from ferry operators, mainland bus companies and the Isle of Wight Steam Railway.

  Information collected by an independent analyst for Island Line and reported in the Isle of Wight Council's Annual Progress Report states that these extra journeys, not reported by the SRA, are around 300,000 per annum and rising. Thus the real number of passengers on Island Line is just over 1 million per year.

  As you may be aware, Island Line is unique in that it is at present a vertical franchise. Island Line pay approximately £1 million each year in access charges, however, research shows that for each year since privatisation, on average, only around £300,000 has been spent on maintenance and renewals. Information provided in Railtrack's last "Network Management Statement" indicates that this under spend will continue for the next 11 years. Thus of the £2 million financial support provided by the Government to sustain rail services on the Isle of Wight £600,000 disappears straight back to the mainland. I appreciate that in a national context this is not a lot of money but if during the nine years since privatisation the sum of around £5.5 million had been invested in the island's rail network we would now have a modern expanded system that so many people see as a solution to the island's transport problems.

  To conclude, if the real amount of subsidy actually spent on the island's railway is divided by the real number of passengers using Island Line, the subsidy per passenger journey is reduced from the £2.60, suggested by the SRA, to £1.30. Therefore, the statistic quoted by Dr Leunig is reduced from 60p per passenger mile to 30p per passenger mile.

  I would be grateful if you could accept the above as evidence to your Select Committee in order to correct the record. The island's railway is an essential part of our transport infrastructure for tourism and local communities alike, misinformation is damaging.

Jim Ruby


November 2003

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