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If one were suspicious and had a conspiratorial mind—which of course I do not—one might think that, as the Government had failed to achieve their objective of getting priority for the construction of Crossrail in the other clauses in the Bill, another way to do it is to take over running the franchises and reduce the services so that there is more time to close the lines and have fewer trains. It is much easier to do that if you own the franchise and run it than if it has been let to First Group or National Express. I am sure that would not be the case, but it is 10 years out, and something might go wrong with the construction or something else.

It is a good idea to have flexibility in the operation of those passenger services, because there will certainly

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be some disruption. I hope that my noble friend will give me some assurance that this will not be used to reduce services, to the detriment of people living anywhere between Swansea, Cardiff, Plymouth, Ipswich and Norwich, during a very long construction period—in other words, that it is just a way of managing a franchising process, rather than cutting the services to a degree that will make everyone move back to their cars again.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, for regrouping the amendments, and I will address his amendment in due course. I understand his point about the interim arrangements perhaps being complicated by this provision, but we are trying to put a necessary flexibility into the Bill. I thought that I made clear the circumstances in which it would be of value and would enable the Crossrail project to be taken forward. Providing the flexibility to enable the project is important.

I am not going to get drawn into a debate about the length of franchises; that is not the purpose of today’s deliberations. I understand the point that the noble Lord made, and I have probably made the point in the past. I understand the argument that is being put, but that is not for us, and it is not for Crossrail in these terms.

My noble friend Lord Berkeley confessed his cynicism. I cannot see why we would want to run down the timetable and then run the services, having committed ourselves with the City and the mayor to a £16 billion project. I cannot see the sense or the logic in the argument. It does not add up. This is a massive investment, which is designed to make a significant difference to east-west and west-east transportation across London and continue the further regeneration of important parts of London along that route, with all the synergies that it brings. I invite my noble friend to be less cynical at later stages of the Bill. I throw that out as a challenge to him, and I invite him to think further on his approach. We have no plan to take over all services, as he might have implied, on either the eastern main line or the western main line. We are only talking here about suburban services using a slow line and nothing on the fast lines at all.

On Amendment No. 13, which the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, regrouped, the expectation is that Crossrail services will be procured from the private sector and, on current plans, by means of a concession let by Transport for London. The department will participate in the detailed service and timetable planning of the franchise to ensure that the interests of all railway users are properly represented during the franchise specification. Noble Lords have accepted that premise. However, as I said, the department and TfL have agreed to review the position, which makes good sense. That review will take place in good time, before operating contracts are entered into with the private sector. It will consider whether it would make better sense for the department rather than TfL to be the franchising authority. An issue, for example, is whether Crossrail services should be franchised on their own or with some other service groups. Alternatively, Crossrail

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may be extended in the future to Reading, for which there is a powerful lobby, which would see services extended significantly further beyond the Greater London Authority area to a regional centre. The department's expectation is that such an extension would see the franchising authority revert back to the Department for Transport.

3.30 pm

Ultimately, the current plans in relation to TfL letting the Crossrail franchise reflect the unique circumstances of this project, but the Committee will appreciate that significant detail will need to be worked through in the coming years between the department, Transport for London, the mayor and train operators as to how exactly Crossrail will be integrated into national rail services and the railway network.

In conclusion, we need to retain flexibility in relation to who should be the franchising authority. That will ensure that a Crossrail train operating company can be procured in the most effective and efficient manner available at the time. For that reason, I invite the noble Lord not to move his amendment and I hope that the Committee will agree our amendments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendments Nos. 10 to 12:

(a) the frequency with which the services are likely to be disrupted;(b) the duration of the period in which the services are likely to be disrupted (and, in particular, its duration relative to the length of the franchise term);(c) the severity of any likely disruption.”

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 35, as amended, agreed to.

[Amendment No. 13 not moved.]

Clause 36 [Disapplication of franchising and access exemptions]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 14:

The noble Lord said: This group of amendments, which starts with Amendment No. 14, deals with a rather subtle legal point, but before I get to that, I will explain the context.

The LRT order that is referred to in the Bill was made in 1994. It exempts the London Underground network from regulation under the Railways Act 1993. To be more precise, it exempts from regulation trains, stations and infrastructure that are used by only a Transport for London group company. That is the

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case on most of the London Underground network. When we were preparing the Bill, our objective was to ensure that potential impediments to the delivery of Crossrail services could be removed. It is clearly important that appropriate rights of access for Crossrail passengers in the central tunnel section can be secured. For example, Crossrail passengers will need to be able to enter and exit the station at Tottenham Court Road, parts of which will be shared with London Underground and which, therefore, are currently exempt from regulation. Such access for passengers might need to be provided through normal, regulated station access contracts. Hence, Clause 36 provided the explicit ability to amend or revoke the exemption from regulation that the 1994 order provides for stations, should that have been needed.

More recently, we have been considering a range of related issues to do with the way that Crossrail will be operated and, hence, how the central tunnel section of Crossrail will be regulated. The Secretary of State would expect to see a case demonstrating a clear, overarching detrimental impact from 1993 Act regulation before she would exempt the Crossrail central tunnel from such regulation. I can confirm that the Department for Transport does not today see such a case. Equally, the Secretary of State recognises that the project—in terms of the way it will be operated—is at a relatively early stage of development. She will therefore need to retain flexibility on this position, in case such a detrimental impact should become clear at a later stage.

The department also recognises that different considerations are likely to apply to the central area stations, including the relevant areas of existing London Underground stations. These underground stations are currently exempted from regulation, and the Secretary of State would want to see good reason before deciding to change the status quo.

Ultimately, amendments will almost certainly be required to the 1994 order. For example, as I have already explained, we expect that Crossrail services will be operated by a private sector operator working to—on current plans—a concession let by TfL. Unless the 1994 order is amended, the consequence of that would be to bring not just the Crossrail tunnel, but also Crossrail stations and common parts of the relevant London Underground stations, into 1993 Act regulation—even if that is not the intended effect.

At the same time, I have said that the department and TfL have agreed to review whether it would make better sense for the DfT rather than TfL to be the franchising authority. We therefore need to allow for the possibility of the department rather than TfL letting the Crossrail franchise. A DfT-let franchise would need to gain proper access to the central area stations, including the relevant areas of existing London Underground stations. An agreement for access must be on appropriate terms, and we cannot rule out whether that should involve the application of 1993 Act regulation. I hope that that explains why we need to retain flexibility on how the 1994 order is amended.

This brings me back to the subtle legal point that I referred to at the start. To reiterate, the purpose of Clause 36 was to make explicit the ability of the Secretary of State to amend or revoke the LRT order

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in relation to the stations that Crossrail will share with London Underground. But, as I have explained, the effect of the LRT order on Crossrail may go a little wider, depending on the way Crossrail is operated. When we re-examined this clause in that context, we became concerned that, by seeking to clarify that specific provisions of the LRT order can be revised in one set of circumstances—for stations shared with Crossrail—we might unwittingly create an implication that the LRT order cannot be revised under the Railways Act 1993 in other circumstances.

Primary legislation is intended to clarify rather than confuse. Leaving Clause 36 as it is would have left the position unclear. Extending the powers in Clause 36 to enable all the possible changes to the LRT order that we expect might be needed would have taken us into the problematic territory of a rehybridising amendment. The Committee will appreciate why that route did not appeal. Instead, we have looked again at the powers that the Secretary of State already enjoys under the 1993 Act. We concluded that we would be able to amend the order as needed. On balance, therefore, we believe that the better approach in terms of legal certainty would be to rely on the Railways Act 1993 and accordingly remove these references to the 1994 order in the Bill.

I hope that the Committee has followed that exposition and that I have been able to explain the context and reasons for these amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendments Nos. 15 to 18:

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 36, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 37 [Closures]:

Lord Hanningfield moved Amendment No. 19:

The noble Lord said: In considering this amendment, we can reflect on the debates in this House and another place. It is clear that we are all aware that the construction of such a great project cannot come without some disruption. However, the great British philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead, once said:

and that is something that I will try to secure with this amendment.

The amendment would ensure that adequate notice is given to passengers and operators before services, stations or lines are closed for a significant period of time. This will allow operators to plan for alternative travel solutions to be put in place and will allow passengers to be aware well in advance of disruptions to rail services. Clause 37 removes the statutory consultation and notice period required by Sections 22

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to 31 and 37 of the Railways Act 2005. Those sections require a consultation period of 12 weeks and a notice period of six months before any closure relating to passenger services and networks, operational stations and experimental passenger services comes into effect. Clause 37 theoretically allows the closure of entire passenger services, stations and networks with no prior consultation or notice. That would provide no protection to passengers and operators if closures were to be unilaterally announced at short notice and has the potential to cause chaos for commuters and businesses. Noble Lords may joke that I always refer to Essex, but in the past few weeks we have experienced such disruption because of incidents on the Great Eastern main line that runs through Essex. Hundreds of people have been stranded in small towns.

I do not believe it is the intention of the Government to cause havoc on our railways, and I also accept that all reasonable measures need to be taken to facilitate the speedy construction of Crossrail. However, it is not unreasonable to expect a six-month notice period for long-term closures of lines or stations for major construction works so that train operating companies and franchises can make appropriate alternative travel plans. I accept that it may be necessary to close services, lines or stations for shorter periods, such as four days over bank holidays or for two or three days for emergency works, where a lengthy notice period cannot be given. This amendment would not prevent that, but it would ensure clear and transparent project planning for major construction works and would facilitate vital communications with operators and passengers to allow them to plan their alternative transport arrangements in advance. Can the Minister tell us under what circumstances Clause 37 will be used and advise us of how the Government plan to ensure that disruption is kept to a minimum without giving sufficient notice to affected parties? I beg to move.

Lord Bradshaw: I support the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, because we are all well aware that there have been some disgraceful delays and closures because of overrunning work. That is mostly unnecessary if the work is planned properly and professionally well in advance. The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, is right to draw attention to this and, through the Minister, to draw to the attention of the promoters the need to behave to neighbours in a neighbourly fashion so that train services into places such as Liverpool Street and Paddington are not disrupted by overrunning engineering work.

Lord Berkeley: I support this amendment. I am not sure that this section of the Railways Act—I do not have a copy of it with me—applies to some of the things that the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, spoke about, but he is right, and I just wish this amendment could apply to the whole network, but that is probably beyond the scope of the Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said, it is essential that the industry processes, which require this kind of notice, are adhered to. If Network Rail is to be the infrastructure manager of the surface section, as we all believe, it is up to the regulator, through the industry process, I think, to

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make sure that this happens. No doubt my noble friend will be putting enormous pressure on everyone to make sure that it does happen because it is an important point.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, for his amendment. He confessed that he accepts that there will be disruption, which is a realistic starting point. I suspect that it will not come as a surprise to him that I do not think his way of attempting to deal with it is necessarily the right one. I shall explain in part the purpose of Clause 37.

The clause is designed to ensure that the closure provisions of the Railways Act 2005—Part 4 on “Network Modifications etc.”—do not apply when such a closure is required in connection with the construction or maintenance of the Crossrail works, or as a consequence of Crossrail passenger services. The 2005 Act provisions include the circumstances and procedures that apply for proposals to close—that is, permanently discontinue—certain railway services, networks or stations.

3.45 pm

To deliver the Crossrail project, it will be essential to alter track and stations and reorganise suburban services; Members of the Committee have accepted that. Some of these have the potential to be classed as “closures”, even quite small changes; for example, the closure of the bay platform at Ilford station in order to permit platform lengthening could be covered. While such small changes may fall under the definition of “minor modifications” in the Railways Act—so the closure provisions do not apply anyway—others may not; for example, the replacement of the Docklands Light Railway station at Pudding Mill Lane on a new alignment. The hybrid Bill process has been the appropriate forum for considering the likely impacts of the project in context, including closures. If Parliament approves Crossrail, it is not appropriate for essential elements of that project to be subject to another consideration and approval process that could place the ability to bring the project to fruition at risk.

However, the noble Lord's amendment is intended primarily to refer to the temporary track possessions required by Network Rail in order to carry out the Crossrail works on the existing national railway network. That is not the purpose of the clause, and the amendment would simply require the Secretary of State to give six months’ notice of any closure relating to Crossrail, as closures under this clause relate to a discontinuance under the Railways Act 2005—which will, by definition, last for longer than four days. This notice period is redundant; such closures are likely to be small changes that will be carried out within the context of the Crossrail works as a whole.

Taking the spirit of the amendment, I can again reassure the noble Lord that the Crossrail works on the network will be carried out by Network Rail, and so will be carefully planned and managed by Network Rail through the normal industry processes. Therefore, all train operators will be given notice of planned possessions and disruptions, enabling them to keep their customers informed and to put in place temporary alterations to their services. The majority of the works

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will be carried out at weekends and during overnight blockades, and Network Rail would also look to integrate the works with other infrastructure renewals and maintenance on the route, as it would with any other network works. Some temporary impact on passenger and freight operators from Crossrail infrastructure enhancements and network modernisation work is unavoidable given the scale of investment that Crossrail will bring to the existing network, but this disruption should be considered in the context of the public benefits that the project will bring overall.

On the noble Lord’s area of interest, the works planned on the Great Eastern main line are much less extensive than on the Great Western main line, partly because it is already electrified. It will involve elements such as platform lengthening, some track work and new sidings and, importantly, station works and enhancements at Shenfield; I am sure that Essex County Council will be pleased about that. I hope that, having heard my explanation, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Hanningfield: I thank the Minister for that reply. It does not completely reassure me; I will read his answer again. We might have to look at this again at a future stage of legislation. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 37 agreed to.

Clauses 38 and 39 agreed to.

Clause 40 [Duty to co-operate]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 20:

(a) a matter which pursuant to any enactment must or may be dealt with by the Office of Rail Regulation, or(b) a matter relating to an agreement which pursuant to any provision of that or any other agreement must or may be dealt with by the Office of Rail Regulation.”
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