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Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: In layman's language, if there is a deal on 2020, which may well be the sensible solution, we must be sure that it will stick.

On Second Reading, I raised the question about the big differences in cost between 2017 and 2020. I want to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, for the very helpful letter of 14 December that she sent to me and copied to other Members of the Committee. It makes the point about considerably fewer vehicles having to be refurbished if we wait the extra three years. Some 4,355 will need to be replaced in 2017 or only 2,200 in 2020. That is a big difference.

It is a sensible point that if the final cut-off date is 2020, a reasonable number of vehicles will be refurbished before then. They will not all be done on the last day.

The most powerful point in the letter, which very much concerns me, is that if the end date is brought too far forward, it threatens the viability and accessibility of some rural railways. We must always remember that railways are a vital public service. If lines have to close, they are not accessible to disabled people or anyone else. That was a helpful letter, but if there is a deal, there must not be any wriggle-room, if I can use that term again.

Lord Higgins: Is the implication of the noble Lord's remarks that if there is a very big reduction in cost between 2017 and 2020, very little is being done up to 2017?
 
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6.45 p.m.

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: I suppose that might be the case. I do not know what the run-through is, though no doubt the Minister can explain it to me.

Lord Carter: There is a table in our report that is quite helpful. In 2013, the number will be 6,269; in 2017, the figure will be 4,256; in 2020, it will be 2,080; in 2025, the original year that the Government suggested, it would only have been 69. There is obviously a trade-off between numbers and time, but those are the figures that we were provided with on the Joint Committee.

Lord Davies of Oldham: Let me begin by emphasising that those figures were given accurately to my noble friend and the Joint Committee. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott, for his contribution. He is right in saying that there is a trade-off with regard to compliance. I shall try to answer the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, with regard to the rate at which vehicles are replaced, which obviously affects the whole issue of compliance.

I recognise the strength of feeling about the question of clarity on an end date. We are all as one on the desirability of a clear definition of when compliance has to be largely met. However, I may differ from the Committee on the extent to which that needs to be in the Bill. What the Committee will recognise is that the Government have entered into the debate in the best possible faith and with the recognition that there has been very intense pressure for the suggested date of 2017. Our initial response, as the Committee will recall, was to propose 2025.

Our proposal now to work towards 2020 is the compromise that the noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott, mentioned with regard to the question of costs. The costs are almost doubled as between the amount needing to be spent in 2020 and 2017. We are talking about a difference of between more than £300 million and just over £150 million, so it will be recognised that we are not talking about negligible sums. Therefore, it is quite proper that the Government should consider the question of serious costs for the railway industry.

I emphasise, to reassure the Committee, that the exemption provisions in the DDA, which would be amended by this Bill, are not used lightly by the Secretary of State. Each case is considered on its merits. Key stakeholders, including the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, are consulted, and the decision is based on all the factors. Where exemptions are granted they are generally time limited and may contain other conditions which the Secretary of State considers appropriate. The amendment would restrict the Government's ability to make exemptions beyond 2017.

We are well aware of the strength of feeling behind that proposal, but it should be recognised that the end date of 2020 not only has the merits of saving the rail industry a very substantial cost, but brings the requirements for rail vehicles into line with those for coaches, which are in many cases providing broadly similar longer distance services. It might be helpful if I follow my noble friend Lord Carter into a statement of costs. If 2017 were chosen—I believe that my noble
 
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friend quoted this figure—4,355 rail vehicles would need to be replaced before their normal life expiry at a total additional cost of £353 million. Those are the figures to which the noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott, kindly referred, and which I re-emphasise for the record. Based on our preferred date of 2020, 2,200 vehicles would be affected at a total cost of £169.7 million.

Lord Carter: Just in case there is any confusion, those are updated figures. The figures that we had are probably a year or more out of date.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I understand that my noble friend is in that position—it behoves me to be as accurate as I can in the present circumstances. It also helps to explain that aspect which the noble Lord, Lord Addington, mentioned, about what seemed to be increased costs. Inevitably, as we have pursued over time with great intensity the necessary evaluation of potential costs, we have been able to produce more rigorous figures, which reflect our best estimates on that position.

On balance, we believe that our proposal will command the broad support of the community. It will be recognised that inevitably there is a compromise with regard to choice of date. However, if we failed to propose any date at all, the Government would be open to considerable criticism. We recognise that there is a necessity on the issue of compliance and that the date is of great significance in those circumstances.

The amendment would have an unfortunate impact on other aspects of the rail system, which would not be helpful. It would certainly mean great problems for the heritage rail industry, where we would lose the capacity for those necessary exemptions. However, I know that the noble Lord moved the amendment in the spirit of recognising that there would be a need for flexibility in that regard. However, equally, he will expect me to seek to identify that the amendment would have some unfortunate consequences of that nature if it were pressed, which I am sure that it will not be.

Very considerable progress has been made on these issues. These are serious and major costs for a major industry, and a great deal of progress has been made. The Government have moved from the position that we adopted on the date of 2025. I hope that therefore it will be recognised on all sides of the Committee that we are making progress with regard to a very important aspect of compliance across the whole range of the rail industry.

Lord Addington: Has any thought been given to progress targets, measuring how far we should have got in making the rail stock compliant in the time frame of 2020?

Lord Davies of Oldham: We are dictated to rather more by the nature of the industry and the time at which rolling stock reaches the end of its natural life than just mere aspiration.

Lord Addington: We were told at considerable length, and it was one of the arguments that we have
 
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not heard for the end date of 2020, that 15 years is the normal refurbishment time for a train. Perhaps if we could hear how many trains should be refurbished by whatever point, we could put that down as a target. That would at least keep people on their toes. Interim targets have been used in the very different industry of broadcasting to achieve things such as audio description. That was seen to be a good thing. A target that fits in with the engineering schedule would be very reassuring to have to ensure that compliance will happen on time.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I believe that it will be recognised that when we have a date to which the industry will be gearing itself, as rolling stock becomes out of date and new rolling stock comes on stream, there will be the determination to move towards compliance. The fact that I am reflecting to the noble Lord is that the rate at which rolling stock goes out of date and is necessarily replaced is governed by the economics of the industry and also by the nature of the composition of the rolling stock that we have at present.

The noble Lord may have in mind some flow chart to show the rate at which the changes will be effected, but there would not be a consistent flow chart in those terms. What it would reflect is the nature of the rolling stock that we already have and when it goes out of use. The noble Lord must recognise that we cannot address the matter with the kind of precision that I believe he was driving towards in his questions.


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