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Lord Beaumont of Whitley: The burden of that answer appears to be that mother knows best, but I am not sure that mother always does know best. Nor am I sure that I agree with the main idea put forward--that in a clash between the overall strategic national plan and the local plan the strategic national plan should prevail.

I take account of what the Minister said about the wording of my amendment and I shall re-examine the London situation. I understand that it is more complex than I had presumed when I tabled the amendment. However, unlike the other amendments standing in my name today, I shall probably bring this one back at a later stage. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood moved Amendment No. 283:

("(d) to identify unmet needs for railway services; and
(e) to expand the railway network where appropriate").

The noble Baroness said: The amendment adds two more purposes to those of the SRA: first, that of identifying the unmet needs for railway services and, secondly, the expansion of the network appropriately. It does that by adding two paragraphs to Clause 204(3).

Merely satisfying the existing need will not be sufficient for the railway to play its part in an integrated transport system which is designed to be sustainable and to reduce traffic on the roads. But nor is the simple determination to grow the service any good unless there is a similar determination to expand the network to match the services. Arguably, some of the railway's greatest problems, from delays to overcrowding, since privatisation stem from that simplistic approach.

These are modest proposals. The network is to be expanded appropriately; that is, in the light of measured need. I am not suggesting expansion for the sake of expansion. Furthermore, we are talking about the need for all railway services, not merely passenger services. Therefore, the requirement from the freight industry must also be addressed and responded to appropriately. I beg to move.

Lord Berkeley: I support the amendment. The purpose of the integrated transport policy is to encourage people to use public transport. There is

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much evidence that a large proportion of the population has never been on a train. I had a horrible experience when I worked for Eurotunnel and ran a tourist attraction. I had to encourage people to come to look at it and we used to have about 300,000 visitors a year, including many school groups. We had a couple of old passenger coaches in which we had education work. Day after day, people turned up and asked, "What's that?". We said, "It's a railway train". Many people in this country do not know what a railway train is or how to use it. To the uninitiated, it is pretty frightening.

I shall be moving amendments later so I shall not bore the Committee now by speaking about them twice. However, we must make the railway system simple and attractive for people. I believe that the intention,

    "to identify unmet needs for railway services",

alongside, it is hoped, a provision relating to buses, is very important if we are to attract large numbers of the population who have cars and intend to use them. We must try to wean them off their cars and on to public transport.

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: The amendment seeks to add two more to the fundamental purposes of the Strategic Rail Authority; that is, that the authority should identify unmet needs for railway services and that it should be able to expand the network where appropriate. The Committee will not be surprised to learn that we consider the amendment to be unnecessary. One of the three high-level purposes of the SRA is already,

    "to secure the development of the railway network".

For the record, I can assure the Committee categorically that that includes examining the possible expansion of the railway network and the need for new network to meet demand where appropriate.

I can also assure the Committee that we have carried through that high-level purpose to the basic level of giving the authority the powers that it needs to do the job. As can be seen in Clause 210, it will have very wide funding powers to encourage, promote and, where necessary, fund the development of the network. Where necessary, the authority can even go so far as to promote a Bill in Parliament to facilitate growth. Therefore, if a private Act is needed, it can help or co-ordinate that. The authority can also go to the rail regulator and request that he directs facility owners to enhance facilities or provide new facilities. Therefore, it could be well within this power to request a new station or a new stretch of track.

Therefore, the Committee can rest assured on the legal framework. However, I suspect that, as usual, the noble Baronesses in whose names the amendment stands are being more subtle than simply considering the legal framework. These reassurances were given in another place and they want to know more of the Government's and the SRA's intention.

Some cogent and relevant points were made in another place. With regard to the balance between rural and urban needs, concern was expressed that the

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congested urban centres should not receive all the investment. It was pointed out that there was a need to look at transport in the round to see whether re-openings of lines would make sense. There was the possible need for new stations and the needs of commuters, as well as those of long-distance travellers.

We accept that those are all strategic issues relating to what we want from a railway network, how best it can meet the needs of the community, of changing demand and of settlement patterns, and how the network should be structured and taken forward. Local problems were also brought forward in another place. However, a much wider point was made: we must get right the quality of service in order to encourage people to move from their cars and on to the network.

All that requires a strategic examination of the network, which the SRA will bring. It needs a champion who can look at the needs of local areas and relate them to the overall network and to the overall problems and start to address them with solutions. Some solutions are already in place; for example, the franchise replacement process, which I hope will deliver substantial new investment.

The SRA's strategic plan produced under Clause 205 will address network priorities to enable growth, although clearly it will be for local authorities to consider more local schemes. The shadow SRA has already commissioned studies to consider the need for new infrastructure. The South Trans Pennine Integrated Transport Study, which involves the shadow SRA, Railtrack and the local authorities, will consider the case for restoring the Matlock to Buxton line as part of a core east to west route from Derby to Manchester.

The shadow SRA is also encouraging rail passenger partnership fund bids for the funding of new facilities or re-openings where they meet the published planning criteria. One example is an Edinburgh cross-rail scheme, which involves the reinstatement of a short section of the former Waverley route to serve two new park-and-ride stations.

I assure the Committee that these possibilities and any concrete proposals will be considered seriously. Where they are justified, we shall ensure that the mechanisms are in place to ensure that they can take place. I hope that with those reassurances the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: I thank the Minister for his detailed and reassuring response. I shall read it with great interest. The next stage in the progress of the Bill is so far distant that it is impossible to think about what anybody will do then, but it is unlikely that I shall bring the amendment back. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 204 agreed to.

Clause 205 [Strategies]:

[Amendment No. 284 not moved.]

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10.45 p.m.

Lord Berkeley moved Amendment No. 285:

    Page 120, line 26, leave out from beginning to first ("by") in line 28 and insert--

("The Authority shall formulate a strategy for securing the provision of services in various parts of Great Britain for the carriage of passengers and freight").

The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 427. I thank my noble friend the Minister for responding today to a question that he was, quite reasonably, unable to answer on the final amendment in Grand Committee. He has confirmed that if Eurostar or EWS cease to operate cross-Channel services, the assets will be ring-fenced. I am most grateful to him for that helpful information.

The amendment would add a regional dimension to the duties of the SRA. It is a consequence of the intention in the Bill to withdraw Section 40 of the Channel Tunnel Act 1987. My Amendment No. 427 was designed to keep that section in, but I was just trying to have my chicken and eggs in the same thing--or whatever the right expression is.

Noble Lords: Have your cake and eat it.

Lord Berkeley: To have my cake and eat it. Thank you very much.

The history of regional services to the Channel Tunnel is rather sad. Some 15 years ago, both Houses had to fight very hard for the Government to accept any obligation to consider the regional aspects and encourage passenger train services from the regions. That is how Section 40 of the Act came in.

Regional interests have pressed the Government to update that. I was disappointed by the latest study, which came from the consultants, Arthur D. Little. It said that there were not enough passengers to justify a regional service, even from Birmingham or Manchester, because the service was too infrequent. It did not look at the original idea of splitting the trains in two, so that we could have double the number of trains but still maintain safety through the Channel Tunnel. It did not look at running domestic passengers on international trains, which many people, even in the security service, say would be possible. It then said that there was no economic case. I do not find that surprising, given what I have just said, together with a load of other items with which I shall not bore the Committee.

It is true that the Channel Tunnel trains are expensive. Maybe there is not an economic case, but there is no economic case for many of the passenger franchises in this country today. They would not survive without subsidy. The inter-city routes tend to make money, but many of the others do not. If it is acceptable to subsidise most passenger services in this country, we should at least consider making a similar arrangement for regional Eurostar services.

My aim in the amendment was to get the SRA to pick up an idea that successive governments have failed to take forward, to the detriment of the regions.

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I hope that the SRA will pick up the idea and see what can be done to try to make the services work, at least in the medium term. I beg to move.

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