Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Fyfe of Fairfield: I am very interested in this amendment. The definition of a tramway is somewhat obscure. The best definition that I can find is under Section 67 of the Transport and Works Act 1992. It states that,

    (a) provide support and guidance for vehicles carried on flanged wheels, and

    (b) are laid wholly or mainly along a street or in any other place to which the public has access (including a place to which the public has access only on making a payment)".

That definition does not cover adequately former railways that have turned into tramways, such as much of the Manchester tramway or the Croydon Tramlink. It would be helpful to have a proper definition of "tramway", which could then be included in the Bill, clarifying its jurisdiction. My noble friend Lord Hogg intended to table an amendment to Clause 1 attempting to do that. He will wish to move such an amendment on Report, as he cannot attend the Committee today. I will be interested to hear what my noble friend has to say about the problem.

Lord Dixon-Smith: Will the Minister bat slightly wider than the business of investigating railway accidents by saying who is responsible for investigating accidents on tramways, if they are not to be included in the Bill? If he could do so, I am sure that it would relieve the need for further questions at later stages. It is all very well to say that such accidents would be subject to a normal police investigation or one by the body responsible for creating the tram service in question, but there is a similarity between

19 May 2003 : Column GC19

tramway and railway services. One could argue that the potential for accidents on a tramway service is considerably greater than it is on railways. Railways have their own integrity and discrete lines to which the public do not generally have access, whereas tram lines are more open. It would help us all if the Minister could explain the responsibility for accidents on tramways, even if the matter is outwith this Bill.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: The principal difference between a railway and a tramway is how the driver acts. On a railway, drivers rely largely on signals determined by others, and on a tramway must drive on line of sight, as does the driver of a car or lorry.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market: On reading a report of proceedings on this Bill in another place, I was struck by the debate on whether we should consider having a transport authority to look at transport safety in general. This is the second debate on an amendment in which it has become very clear that the lines—no pun intended—between railway safety and other aspects of safety are not clear. Great Heck has shown how an aspect that is relatively simple in railway terms is much more complicated in road terms. Equally, that applies to the difference between roads and trams. Will the Minister reflect on the issue of transport safety rather than just rail safety?

Lord Berkeley: I have another definition of "tramway", which is referred to in the Bill. Section 42 of the Transport and Works Act refers not only to other railways and tramways but to,

    "trolley vehicle systems and to any system using a mode of guided transport prescribed by regulations".

Although I agree with other speakers that there is a problem with the definition of tramways, it might be interesting to widen the ambit to include guided busways. They are a guided transport system. I am not sure whether they have signals. I do not think they do. I am not sure whether the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, is right, as many branch lines do not have signals. The driver collects a wooden token and must keep to the speed limit.

A number of aspects of the Bill could usefully be discussed in the context of including "and guided busways". Such systems are planned for Cambridge and Luton, and one already operates in Ipswich. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, wants to build one in Oxford. Basically, guided busways are the same as trams. You can regulate and investigate them as much or as little as you like. They are not very different from railways. But the Bill will demonstrate the difference between how we tend to treat roads and our treatment of railways. I shall not pre-empt my comments on later amendments. Tramways are somewhere in between. A definition would be very useful.

I would be happy for the RAIB to investigate guided busways under the supervision of the Health and Safety Executive, which would require it to erect fences

19 May 2003 : Column GC20

along the line, to produce accident reports, to report everything that it does, and generally to make life difficult.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: We have had at least three definitions of tramways. There is one in the Bill, at Clause 1(1), which is a definition by reference to Section 67 of the Transport and Works Act 1992. I shall not go further than that. I do not blame the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, for being confused about it. I was, because it was not immediately evident to me that Clause 7(2) means that, for the purposes of Clause 7(1)(a),

    "a tramway shall not be treated as a railway (despite section 1(1))".

It refers to Clause 7(1)(a), but it does not need to say so because it is in the same clause as that paragraph. The provision is correct, but very difficult to understand.

There is a distinction between tramways that run on the public roads, where there are no lessons to be learnt for road safety and where the police will investigate, and tramways that run off the public road—they are more like a railway—where there could be railway implications and where the RAIB should be responsible. The distinction between the two could be very difficult. A tramway could run between a public road and a railway, for example. I believe that some do. That is not something that one would seek to define in any legislation.

All that we can provide, which is what we are providing in the Bill, is that there should be flexibility for the chief inspector of the rail accident investigation branch. If there are no rail implications, she does not have to carry out an investigation. However, if there are rail applications under Clause 7(1)(a), (b) or (c), she can do so. If the noble Viscount is unhappy about that—I confess that I am a little unhappy about it, because I do not see all the links—I suggest that he and I and anyone else who wants to can talk about it before Report.

5 p.m.

Viscount Astor: I am grateful for the Minister's response. He has illuminated the matter a little, but not that much. If I understood what he said, tramways will not come under the provision unless there is some rail implication. However, that takes one back to Clause 1(1), in which,

    "'railway' means a railway or tramway within the meaning given by the . . . Transport and Works Act",

as pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner. I have not got that Act in front of me, and therefore I do not know what it covers. The subject needs to be cleared up, and I am grateful for the Minister's offer that we should talk about it before Report, because we should be clear on it.

There was something that I did not understand from the Minister's answer. Under the current rules, should there be a tramway incident—for example, if a tram crashes not into a car but another tram—who is currently responsible? Does the Minister know? Is it

19 May 2003 : Column GC21

the police who investigate it? Does it come under the Health and Safety Executive? Do any rail-specific bodies have some remit? It seems to me that a tramway is much closer to a railway than to a bus, whether guided or powered by other means. They are much closer to railways, whether or not the driver has the power to press the stop and go buttons when the passengers have got on.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I can answer that question immediately. The rail accident investigation branch does not exist, but Her Majesty's Rail Inspectorate exists and is responsible.

Viscount Astor: That is helpful. As I understand it then, Her Majesty's Rail Inspectorate is responsible for tramway incidents or accidents, as it were. Therefore, we will want to ensure that its successor body, the rail accident investigation branch, has similar responsibility. I think that we will have to look at the definition of tramway, because a tramway can be a permanent rail system, but I have seen systems that can involve rails temporarily put down on the top of roads so that temporary trams can operate.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I am sure that we can look at that, but I hope that the noble Viscount will not tempt me into suggesting that any such definition can be included in the Bill.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: The Bill states:

    "For the purposes of subsection 1(a) a tramway shall not be treated as a railway".

However, subsection 1(a) states that the rail accident investigation branch,

    "shall investigate any serious . . . accident".

Subsection 1(b) and (c) refers to non-serious accidents. Am I correct to understand that, under the Bill, the rail accident investigation branch shall investigate non-serious accidents?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The RAIB can investigate serious accidents as well. That is within the discretion of the chief inspector.

Viscount Astor: I take the Minister's point that the Bill should not necessarily define what is and is not a tramway, but it may be something that the Government need to look at by regulations. Indeed, they may be able to give the power to the rail accident investigation branch to decide what is a tramway and what is not. The fundamental principle is something that runs on rails, I would have thought. However, I am grateful for the opportunity to have this brief debate. It seems that there is some confusion, but we are all on the same side and it needs to be cleared up. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 not moved.]

Clause 7 agreed to.

19 May 2003 : Column GC22

Clause 8 [Investigator's powers]:

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page