Examination of Witnesses (Questions 278
WEDNESDAY 26 APRIL 2006
Q278 Chairman: Good afternoon and
welcome. We almost need a commuter service between us and you!
We were unable to book our usual room for this session. Thank
you very much for coming in. It is a very important part of our
evidence gathering for this report which we are in the middle
of preparing. Just to kick things off, I wonder whether you would
like to say how important you think rail is in the whole process
of reducing carbon emissions and what you see as the progress
which there can be in moving towards our goal.
Mr Lyons: I think rail plays a
really essential part in this, not that rail in itself has a major
impact on the environment, but rail can reduce the impact of others
on the environment in a way which I think probably no other powered
transport mode can do. The way forward is complex and I think
you will probably be examining this. The railways have come through
quite a dramatic period, we can describe it as, where the issues,
of course, of performance, industry structure and safety have
loomed very large indeed, and to be quite honest sustainable development
issues have not received the priority which I think many of us
would like to have seen. I think we can now confidently say the
industry is significantly more stable than it was a few years
ago and the sustainable development debate and activity is now
beginning to emerge, I think, in a most positive way.
Mrs Shaw: Yes, I think that is
very fair. We have been through a very difficult time, but we
are making some very positive moves.
Q279 Chairman: I am sure that will
be quite a widely held view. I certainly, as a longstanding enthusiast
for railways, welcome the fact that things seem a bit calmer.
Given that is the case and given the potential contribution which
even greater use of railways could make in terms of reaching national
targets for cutting carbon emissions from transport, do you think
the Department for Transport puts enough emphasis now, looking
forward, on further cuts of carbon emissions in its strategy for
the rail industry?
Mrs Shaw: Carbon emissions from
the railway industry per se are not going to make a huge difference
to the overall picture for transport in the UK. We are already
very, very low producers of carbon compared with, say, the air
industry or the roads. Where the contribution can be is in encouraging
more freight and more passengers onto rail rather than making
specific gains per se either in the rail freight industry or the
passenger industry. So the emphasis from sustainability has increased
noticeably in the last twelve months certainly with two particular
DFT individuals, Clive Burrows and Mark Lambirth fully on board
with the sustainability agenda. Clive, the technical director,
is working on the sustainability aims which we all want to see
in the technical strategy which, collectively, the industry and
the Department is working on to produce later on this year and
into next year.
Mr Lyons: I agree with that, Chairman.
We are very pleased that the Secretary of State in the middle
of last month announced (which we have been discussing for some
time) that there is tobe a proper long-term railway strategy.
The whole sustainable development debate on the railways has got
to be long-term; it is not something you can sort out in a matter
of months. The other key issue now, I think, is that after probably
an over-long delay we now see this emerging focus on sustainable
development for rail in the Department for Transport for rail.
For a long time we have been pointing out that other modes of
transport have received very significant incentivisation to move
to lower emissions, Power shift, Clean up and all these other
things in the road industry, while the railway industry was just
left on its own. I think that is being rectified now. Of course,
we have yet to see the overarching strategy and its supporting
technical strategy, but we are looking forward to that next year
and I must say that DfT is making an attempt to discuss this with
the industry to get the widest views.