5 Rolling stock |
40. A repeated theme of the evidence we received
was the lack of a clear answer to the simple question: who is
responsible for ensuring that there are trains available to run
on new and electrified lines? DfT official Roger Jones told us
that "there would be no point in Government investing very
substantial sums of money in electrifying the railway and then
not seeing electric rolling stock there".
This appears to have been exactly what has happened on the Todmorden
Curve (which will reduce journey times between Blackburn, Burnley
and Manchester), and on the Liverpool to Manchester electrification,
where there is likely to be a year between the completion of the
electrification of the line and the operation of a full electric
service, due to a shortage of rolling stock.
As a result of this experience, David Brown, representing Rail
North, told us that a theme of the Department for Transport's
electrification programme is that "the infrastructure is
there, but there is a shortage of rolling stock to provide train
services across the infrastructure".
Mr Brown was clear that the only way to gain the economic benefits
of investing in infrastructure was to ensure that there would
be running additional, longer or electric trains on the new or
Leeds City Region and North Yorkshire County Council warned that
there was a "real risk that the railway infrastructure in
2019 may be electrified and upgraded, but the service patterns
and rolling stock running on it will not correspond to the needs
and expectations of passengers wishing to use it."
Malcolm Brown, Chief Executive Officer of Angel Trains, called
for more "joined-up thinking" from the rolling stock
operating companies, train operating companies and Network Rail,
building on a long-term strategy from Government to "align
investment in the infrastructure with both new train procurement
and the refurbishment of trains".
Pteg argued that the fact that decisions on rolling stock and
decisions on infrastructure were "often made by separate
people at distinct points of time" was "an important
weakness" in the rail network.
41. An additional factor has been the length of franchises,
which does not always match the length of leases of rolling stock.
Paul Francis, Managing Director at the rolling stock operating
company, Porterbrook, told us of new investors who wanted to purchase
more rolling stock, but instead were having to be told to wait
until the franchise was re-let.
This lack of alignment has been a particular problem in the last
two years, following the decision to issue short-term "direct
awards", extending the life of a franchise, during the suspension
of the franchising process following the failed competition for
the Intercity West Coast Line.
This was demonstrated in March 2014 when it was announced that
nine Class 170 Turbostar trains in the TransPennine Express fleet
would be transferred to Chiltern Railways. The lease of the rolling
stock had been aligned with the franchise, until a direct award
extended the franchise from April 2015 to February 2016. As the
lease had been due to end at the end of the franchise in April
2015, the rolling stock operating company, Porterbrook, signed
a contract with Chiltern Railways to lease the trains on a long-term
basis. The short-term direct award to TransPennine Express left
concerns that the transfer of trains to Chiltern Railways would
leave a shortage of trains on the line. There was confusion among
who was ultimately responsible for preventing this from occurring.
Nick Donovan, Managing Director of TransPennine Express, told
The Times in October that "the Department for Transport
should have intervened" in the case, noting that a shortage
of replacement trains could result in services no longer being
able to run. The
Secretary of State stated that the Department for Transport could
not "unreasonably withhold consent" for Chiltern Railways
to lease the stock for use on the soon to be introduced Bicester
to Oxford services.
Paul Francis, Managing Director of Porterbrook, told us, however,
that the Department had been involved in all the discussions around
the transfer of the fleet and that the physical transfer of the
trains will not happen "until the DFT and the operator have
agreed that it is the appropriate thing to do".
This would be, he suggested, "maybe 2016", when other
diesel trains have been cascaded to the region.
Mr Francis sought to clarify further:
TransPennine Express has the right to continue
to operate and sub-lease those vehicles on that particular line
until such time as Chiltern and the Department for Transport decide
that it is no longer an appropriate thing to do.
42. When asked directly whether there would be a
repeat of the rolling stock transfer from TransPennine Express
to Chiltern Railways, Clare Moriarty emphasised that while the
Department worked very closely with the industry, and was "watching
like a hawk" for potential problems, the rolling stock was
owned by the rolling stock operating companies and leased to the
train operating companies.
Ms Moriarty added that it was "very difficult" for the
DfT to give a categorical assurance on the issue as it did not
have direct control over the parties involved.
The Secretary of State told Parliament in January 2015 that the
Department has "reached agreement" for new rolling stock
on routes in the North of England, to maintain services following
the transfer of TransPennine Express trains to Chiltern Railways,
and also add an unspecified number of new carriages on other routes.
The Rail Minister, Claire Perry, has stated that the average age
of the carriages which form part of this "new rolling stock"
is 22 years old, and that the £20 million cost will be borne
by the Department".
43. The TransPennine Express/Chiltern Railways issue
was in part due to a shortage of diesel rolling stock. David Brown
of Rail North used the Northern and TransPennine Express franchises
as an example, noting that there would be a shortage of 220 carriages
over the franchise, if services were maintained at their current
level. To achieve
the economic benefits promised by the new infrastructure, some
460 additional carriages would be required.
Mr Brown warned that this meant that bidders able to offer a long-term
lease for rolling stock would be more likely to secure the trains.
Councillor Shaw reported that TransPennine Express passengers
were having to use "antiquated" diesel trains because
there simply were not enough carriages for operators to use.
The Department accepted that there was "currently" a
shortage of diesel trains, which we heard would last until 2016/17,
when electrification was due to result in a surplus (we were warned
that delays to electrification would then prolong the shortage
of diesels). Until
electrification of lines resulted in the cascading of trains,
the Department stated that it would work with the rail industry
to "manage the short-term issues".
44. While the cascading of trains was seen as the
answer to rolling stock shortages, witnesses questioned the very
principle of cascading older trains from the South East to other
parts of the country, following the delivery of brand new rolling
stock to the South East. Rail North noted that "most of the
diesel units concerned are aged and in many cases of poor quality".
Mr Brown suggested that "constantly being at the end
of a cascade to take trains that are fairly old from elsewhere
into the North is not the best way of making the most of electrification".
Paul Francis of Porterbrook argued that extending the life of
diesel trains by redeploying them in other parts of the country
gave the network a "more economically attractive service".
It was, he said, a decision for the Department when they set the
specification for a franchise, and for the train operating companies
bidding for a franchise, to assess whether a franchise would get
new or cascaded rolling stock.
The Secretary of State said that "part of the job" of
the franchising team in the Department was to "press"
the train operating companies on the issue of rolling stock.
Mr Francis was clear: as a commercial business his interest was
to ensure his rolling stock "is deployed wherever it can
be deployed most effectively".
45. We heard that the responsibility for ensuring
the rolling stock is available appears to be divided. The Secretary
of State answer failed to clarify this point:
Well, at the end of the day, it is between the
Office of Rail Regulation and the Secretary of State, and when
the tracks are ready as far as Network Rail is concerned [
The Secretary of State, ultimately, takes a lead in what is happening
in the rail industry.
The ORR told us that "rolling stock procurement
is a matter for Government".
46. The rolling stock operating company involved
in the proposed transfer of trains for the TransPennine Express
franchise to Chiltern Railways sought to reassure us when he told
us that the trains would stay with TransPennine Express until
Chiltern Railways and the Department decided to transfer them.
This has only blurred the lines of accountability, as the Department
was keen to stress that the factors involved in this case were
outside its control, before announcing that it had worked with
the franchisees to resolve the situation. We welcome the Department's
commitment to making sure there will not be a shortfall of trains
on the TransPennine Express line but we expect current capacity
and schedules to be maintained. The Department must continue to
accept responsibility for rolling stock, and ensuring that there
are sufficient trains to operate timetabled services.
47. The TransPennine Express/Chiltern Railways
transfer of rolling stock has been symptomatic of a fundamental
weakness in the way rolling stock is leased and managed. This
has also been demonstrated during the electrification programme,
where a disconnect between the funding of new or enhanced infrastructure
and the procurement of rolling stock risks leaving passengers
stranded with no trains running on newly electrified lines. The
Department must take responsibility for aligning infrastructure,
franchises and rolling stock procurement. This is necessary so
that uncertainty can be reduced for industry and investment made
rather than deferred.
48. Paul Francis, Managing Director of Porterbrook,
was keen to stress that the UK had "one of the youngest train
fleets in Europe".
The rolling stock operating companies set out the average and
oldest age of the trains they lease on the UK network:
||Oldest trains & location
||29 years. Wales and North of England
|Eversholt||Around 19 years
||40+ years. Govia Great Northern line.
||40 years. Midland Mainline and Great Western.
This did not allay the concerns we heard about the quality of
rolling stock on the rail network. In particular, witnesses called
for the replacement of the "Pacer" trains used in the
North and South-West of England, and in Wales. The Pacer trains
were built between 1985 and 1987 at "relatively low-cost",
and were intended only for short-term use.
They are unpopular with many passengers and do not comply with
accessibility regulations due to come into force in 2020Persons
of Reduced Mobility Technical Specification for Interoperability
49. In the Autumn Statement the Chancellor of the Exchequer said
that by tendering for the new Northern and TransPennine Express
franchises the Government would be "replacing the ancient
and unpopular pacer carriages with new and modern trains".
The Green Bookwhich sets out the details of the Autumn
Statementstated, however that while the franchises will
"include new rolling stock fit for the 21st century"
they will "encourage" but not require "bidders
to replace the outdated pacer trains with modern, better quality
trains; [and] bring all the trains that remain up to modern standards".
It also stated that the Invitations to Tender will specify upgrades
including "modern trains in order to phase out the outdated
No details have been given for taking the Pacers out of service
in the South West or Wales. In evidence the Secretary of State
refused to give a date for when the Pacers would be taken out
of service, stating:
If I give you a specific date, you will then for ever be holding
me to account to say it was not that particular date.
Instead, the Secretary of State could only say that he hoped the
Pacers had had their day.
50. Malcolm Brown, Chief Executive Officer, Angel Trains, told
us that Pacers were still running because there was not a replacement
for them. The
Long-Term Rolling Stock Strategy produced by the rolling stock
operating companies, Network Rail and the train operating companies
stated that no new diesel trains would be required to be built
in CP5 or CP6 if electrification continued.
We heard that there was "no manufacturer of trains, either
in or outside the UK, who will commit to building a new, low-cost
DMU [diesel multiple unit] for the UK market", as they believe
that electrification will result in a surplus of diesel trains.
Paul Francis accepted that this was not a satisfactory situation
Mary Kenny, Chief Executive Officer, Eversholt Rail, told us that
the company were sounding out manufacturers to see if there is
a specification for a DMU which it could invest in, and have a
manufacturer prepared to build.
Porterbrook is spending £800,000 to demonstrate that a Pacer
train can be modified to comply with PRM regulations to provide
a "back-stop", in case of any delays with electrification.
In 2011 the ORR reported concerns about the safety of "the
ongoing use of Pacers beyond their intended design life".
Mr Brown told us, as far as he was concerned Pacers were safe
but because of the views of passengers and operators, Angel Trains
are not planning to refurbish their Pacers, and plan instead to
retire them in 2019.
Mr Brown noted, however, that delays to electrification
would require him to "re-evaluate" his position.
51. By refusing to give a date for when the Pacer trains will
be taken out of service and simply saying that he "hopes"
they have had their day, the Secretary of State has suggested
that he does not have the powers to ensure a decent quality of
train for passengers in the North and South West of England or
in Wales. Alternatively, his admission that he would not like
to be held to account for the Pacers' withdrawal suggests that
he does have these powers, but is unwilling to match his rhetoric
with action. We find it concerning that the rolling stock operating
company Porterbrook is prepared to spend £800,000 refurbishing
the Pacer to extend its use on our network. It is unacceptable
that Pacer trainsbuilt in the mid-1980s and of questionable
safetyare still in use on busy rail lines. We recommend
the Secretary of State uses his franchise specification powers
to require the removal of Pacer trains from the rail network by
2020 at the latest.
52. The cascading of train carriages out of the South East
may provide the most efficient way for the rolling stock operating
companies to manage their rolling stock. It is concerning that
the Department has chosen to order brand new trains for passengers
in London and the South East, while expecting passengers in the
rest of the country to be content with reconditioned older trainscast-offs
from more prosperous areas.
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