Memorandum by Network Rail (RG 61)
1. Further to your letter inviting comment
on the Committee's inquiry exploring the question "Is there
a future for local government?" I would like to take this
opportunity, on behalf of Network Rail, to briefly address the
terms of reference outlined in your request.
2. It is worth stressing from the outset,
that the planning of railway provision has, to date, proceeded
along lines of routes and across the physical and social geography
that reflect the users of the network and its operation, rather
than any artificial political or governmental boundaries. As a
result the comments in this response will not necessarily fit
closely with the areas and regions that the committee is reviewing.
3. In some casessuch as city regions
and inter-regional planningthe provision of rail services,
as will be discussed, has pre-empted a number of the considerations
that the committee are now making.
4. Conversely, there is little that can
be contributed in relation to local authority specific planning
of rail services, as the scale of services are such that provision
will always be a matter that concerns a number of local authorities
in addition to other stakeholders in their areas. This interdependency
of needs and aspirations by stakeholders is something that is
already reflected, and being developed, in the planning and provision
of rail servicesand is a fact that I believe we demonstrate
we are conscious of when conducting consultations for future delivery.
5. As the committee will be aware, following
the outcome of the Government's rail review, the 2004 White Paper
and the Railways Act 2005, Network Rail has taken on significant
additional responsibilities in the areas of accounting for performance
and industry planning.
6. These additional responsibilities include
the production of Route Utilisation Strategies, which local and
regional government feed into. RUSs seek to identify opportunities
for improved utilisation of the existing network, small opportunities
for enhancement and changes in customer and stakeholder demand
and aspirations. We are publishing a Consultation Guide explaining
the RUS process, how people can contribute and the programme of
work to be undertaken. In a number of areas we have inherited
programmes where work was already underway and have already begun
the consultation processes.
7. Once established, RUSs have to be taken
into account by Network Rail in carrying out our activities and
by the ORR in considering access and licence issues. They will
also link with the government's High Level Output Specifications,
franchise specifications, and rolling stock specifications. Network
Rail's approach has been to invite input from local authorities
and other regional stakeholdersoffering briefing sessions
in advance of the consultation in order for transport officers
to be fully able to participate.
8. Due to the size and shape of the railway
it can be expected that any transport consultation will not be
contiguous with regional, or indeed local, political boundaries.
While the RUSs do need to be informed by regional planning assessments
and local development plans (and submissions on both counts are
sought), long-term, strategic, transport requirements will continue
to be set by central government through the Department for Transport's
High Level Output Specifications.
9. Network Rail has recently held the first
of what we intend to become biannual local authority conferences
reflecting the fact that as well as local transport planning,
there are a wide range of other interactions we have at regional
and local levels including: environmental management, town planning,
antisocial behaviour, redevelopment, and future planning up to
regional planning assessments. In many of these cases we work
at an operational level with the relevant authority.
10. In many environmental and social areas,
new regulations and initiatives continue to be led by central
government: Network Rail regularly interfaces through working
groups, pilot programmes and consultations.
11. We note that the committee's interest
in studying the desirability of inter-regional co-operation (such
as the Northern Way). Network Rail are working with the Northern
Way through our work with Yorkshire Forward, which is funding
development work for enhancing rail freight capacity and capability
on two important routes out of Hull and Immingham, both of which
are aimed at delivering wider economic benefits.
12. With regards the committee's proposal
to consider the establishment of city regions, we would point
to the existence of the seven Passenger Transport Executives and
Passenger Transport Authorities already in existence. These cover
the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, West Yorkshire,
South Yorkshire, Tyne and Wear and Strathclyde (the latter of
which is to be absorbed by the new Scottish Transport Agency).
13. PTEs specify and manage local rail franchise
operations in their area. Following the rail review, the government
is moving to give these bodies greater ability and responsibility
to bear the direct financial implications of their decisions on
services and faresand thereby flexibility to make trade-offs
between rail and other modes.
14. In summary therefore, we would suggest
that transport planning has already moved beyond the simple boundaries
of both local and regional government in many areas. In other
matters it is continuing to develop, across these boundaries,
tailored approaches to fit the needs of customers, the structure
and operation of the services, and wider stakeholder groups affected
by industry decision making.