Transport CommitteeWritten evidence from Angel Trains Ltd (DAT 48)

1. Angel Trains Ltd

1.1 Angel Trains Ltd owns, leases and maintains trains for Train Operating Companies (TOCs). We are the largest Rolling Stock Operating Company (ROSCO) in the country and our customers include all 19 franchised TOCs and two open access operators. We are one of the largest private investors in UK rail and since 1996 we have invested over £3.5 billion in new trains and the refurbishment of existing trains.

1.2 Our workforce consists of over 100 individuals who are specialists in many aspects of train leasing, from finance and engineering to commercial and customer service. From our offices in London and Derby, we provide expertise in the procurement of maintenance for our leased trains and know-how on the purchase of new rolling stock. In addition to our own resources, we have a network of suppliers and contractors, from large companies through to specialist SMEs, who are sustained by the work we generate for them. Every year we channel over £60 million through our supply chain.

1.3 Angel Trains Ltd owns and maintains more than 4,450 passenger vehicles and 280 freight locomotives in the UK, which is about 37% of the nation’s rolling stock. In accordance with UK and EU regulations, we are committed to building or fully refurbishing our trains to comply with modern access standards by 1 January 2020. In 2010 we estimated that our investment in disability upgrades could reach £131.5 million.

1.4 In responding to the Select Committee’s call for evidence we intend to focus on rolling stock and the effectiveness of legislation as the other questions posed are outside our areas of expertise.

1.5 Angel Trains Ltd is in on-going discussions with the Department for Transport (DfT) about improving accessibility and welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Select Committee’s inquiry.

2. The effectiveness of legislation relating to transport for disabled people: is it working? Is it sufficiently comprehensive? How effectively is it enforced?

2.1 Accessibility requirements for trains were initially set out in the Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations 1998 (SI 1998/2456) (RVAR), as amended, and applied to all new trains and trams brought first into use after 1 January 1999. In 2008 European Directive 2008/164/EC—the Technical Specification for Interoperability relating to Persons with Reduced Mobility (PRM TSI)—came into force for all new rolling stock, and SI 2008/1746 implemented this TSI in place of RVAR for conventional TEN rail systems. SI 2008/1746 requires all trains to be compliant by 1 January 2020, within the parameters detailed in the SI, with features such as priority seating, provision for wheelchairs, handholds, audio and visual passenger information systems and palm-operable controls.

2.2 By 1 January 2020 all trains must comply with modern access standards or be as compliant as possible within the DfT’s targeted compliance agreements. With this deadline in place, we believe that current EU and UK legislation for rolling stock is working effectively to improve disabled access to the UK railways. Legislation to improve the accessibility of rolling stock has been in place for 14 years and significant refurbishment work has been undertaken during this time. It is worth noting that we believe these improvements are not captured in the figures often quoted (that 41% of the UK’s total fleet is compliant) as this percentage reflects the number of trains built post-RVAR 1998.

2.3 In Europe, the UK is very much leading the way as the only member state with a 2020 rolling stock deadline. Moreover, current EU legislation does not require older trains to be upgraded to the same specification as new trains unless the owner is undertaking a significant amount of work on the trains. In the UK, however, all trains, irrespective of age, must meet the same accessibility requirements as far as is reasonably practical. This represents a significant investment in the UK railways; with industry estimates suggesting that the UK’s three ROSCOs will collectively invest circa £500 million to prepare their fleets for the 2020 deadline.

2.4 The replacement of toilets on trains with universal access toilets in compliance with the PRM TSI standards will reduce the seating capacity of a train by up to 16 seats. This represents a significant loss of capacity taken across a fleet of trains operating in a franchise and across the rail network as a whole.

2.5 However, it is worth highlighting the impact of the current franchising hiatus on meeting these crucial accessibility requirements. As set out by the DfT, new rail franchises (which operate beyond 2020) are to include accessibility clauses designed to incentivise operators to upgrade their trains and minimise disruption as other refurbishment work takes place. As such, Angel Trains Ltd has produced a programme of work to coordinate accessibility upgrades with other “heavy work” being carried out on our vehicles.

2.6 Based on the original timetable (pre-West Coast Mainline), this work would have peaked in 2017. The current uncertainty surrounding franchising policy, coupled with the shorter timescales, will make coordinating these upgrades more complex. For example, as a ROSCO we are contractually restricted to the number of trains we can take back from an operator as TOCs are committed to running services with a certain number of seats and could risk breaching their existing franchise agreements. Supplier capacity is also a concern as all ROSCOs will be carrying out accessibility upgrades, working to the same deadline and often in the same location. Angel Trains Ltd is in on-going discussions with the DfT about these issues.

2.7 The Office for Rail Regulation (ORR) is the enforcing authority for RVAR and PRM TSI. The ORR’s Railway Industry Contact Officers (RICOs) will take the primary role in handling potential breaches of accessibility provisions raised by passengers and others, and in considering companies’ arrangements. As a ROSCO, our focus will be on breaches of technical specification (as opposed to operation). Until the 2020 deadline has passed, it will be difficult to assess the effectiveness of enforcement by the ORR.

January 2013

Prepared 13th September 2013