Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1460 - 1479)

  1460. Turning, then, to the three criteria that you have heard so much about over the last couple of days—number of passengers, capital costs and ease of access to alternative stations—I would suggest to the Committee that those have to be read with common sense and not as some legal statutory basis. Obviously in applying those criteria we have to take into account the expense of the works and whether they make good use of public funds.

  1461. In terms of to what degree we have considered the level of usage by PRMs, the first point is that our passenger number figures reflect the level of car ownership, so to that degree they give some indication—not a perfect indication but some—of social deprivation, but the issue specifically of how many people in a catchment area will benefit from step-free access is, as is explained in our note, an extremely complicated one, and the approach the Promoter has taken is to consider whatever industry information there is. But trying to work out, as Mr Reed has urged upon you, how many disabled people there are in a station's catchment area is extremely unlikely to give any particularly useful figures; it does not give you the answer.

  1462. So the kind of station-specific analysis which is done by looking at people who get DLA mobility component, whether at a higher or lower level, first of all means it is extremely difficult to work out what the disabled figures would be, but anyway is just not a useful exercise, in brief because many people who are categorised as disabled do not benefit from step-free, either because they cannot because they are too disabled and too unable to walk or because their disability has nothing to do with their ability to use steps, but also it fails to catch that proportion of people which is the larger proportion of people who benefit from step-free who are encumbered rather than disabled. So it is perfectly understandable why people when they first come to this issue say, "Look at how many disabled people there are", but it does not actually help. So what Crossrail has done is use industry information to look at the kind of figures which seem likely and to apply those across the route.

  1463. The other way of looking at it is that, even if one were to fiddle around with the tiny percentage differences in Newham, Stratford and New Town ward, the numbers of people concerned are miniscule. I went through it yesterday with Mr West and on his 2.3 per cent from the DLA figures you only come out with 46 people anyway, so it is simply a pointless exercise.

  1464. We have looked, as Mr Berryman explained, when deciding which stations to upgrade, at whether or not there are any particular circumstances that would mean that there are likely to be more disabled people. For example, at Whitechapel, which as the Committee saw last week is right opposite the Royal London Hospital and at Paddington, where obviously it is going to be upgraded anyway but again it is right next to St Mary's, so we have taken the issue of how many disabled people there are into account but only in that way.

  1465. In terms of saying that we have not done a detailed cost-benefit analysis on each station as to whether to upgrade, you will remember it was Dr Maynard's and Mr Berryman's evidence that if you did do a cost-benefit analysis for step-free access you would almost always come out with a negative figure in any event because of the cost involved for a relatively small number of people.

  1466. Can I then, before I turn to a couple of specifics on each station, deal with one other point of generality and put down a very strong word of caution, which I am sure Mr Mould and I will be doing on a number of occasions, about how you approach incremental costs on Crossrail.

  1467. It is very easy to take the attitude on Crossrail that it is a very expensive project and adding a few more million does not make much difference, or that it is only a tiny percentage of the total so do not worry about it too much. In the Promoter's very strong submission that is completely the wrong approach.

  1468. First, the sums of money we are talking about are large in absolute terms; £12 million for Manor Park is a lot of money. Remember Dr Maynard's evidence yesterday that upgrading Clapham Junction cost only a bit more or something more than £10 million, so for the £12 million at Manor Park you could upgrade a much busier station somewhere else that would be far better value to the national purse. It may not be for the people of Newham but in national terms, and this is national money from the Department for Transport, it would be far better to spend it elsewhere.

  1469. Also, looking again at the big picture, if we go down the line of adding the odd £4 million here, £10 million there, for items each one of which may seem perfectly sensible on its own terms, we get a project that spirals out of control. Your Lordships may have noticed that on many of our slides we have something at the bottom that says something like, "Building an affordable railway", and all the effort over the last couple of years has been to make sure that Crossrail is affordable. That was the great achievement in bringing the project forward, and all these incremental costs could very easily have the effect of ceasing to have an affordable railway.

  1470. Turning to Manor Park I am sure the Committee has completely got our points already. You are talking about a major engineering operation, very expensive at £12 million but also extremely disruptive to existing users, closing the station for upwards of three months and with a number of weekend closures of the line, so a major operation which is very disruptive.

  1471. In terms of the freight loop, Mr Reed is doubtless going to say, "Well, they were closing the freight loop before so they can close it now". Your Lordships will hear in a few weeks' time as to just how much weight the freight lobby put on keeping these freight loops, but also Mr Berryman's evidence about the importance of keeping this loop to avoid perturbations on the railway. It helps the railway operation if you have a little bit more scope through having a loop such as this.

  1472. The other side of the coin at Manor Park is that there will be a few people (there is no getting away from it) on the north/south bus route who will be inconvenienced by not having PRM access at Manor Park—we do not pretend otherwise—but for the vast majority of the catchment they can very easily get on an accessible bus on Romford Road and be taken, depending on whether they want to go west or east, either to Stratford or to Ilford. It is very important to remember, again, and Mr Berryman made the point, that we are not talking about people who live on top of the station; we are talking about people who have got to get to the station in the first place. So the question is, are they going to be significantly inconvenienced by, rather than getting to Manor Park, getting themselves to Stratford or Ilford? We would suggest the answer to that is no.

  1473. Remember that the assumption is that people will make rational transport choices. A great deal has been made that the buses will be very busy. Well, most Londoners who use the bus know that you get on a bus at 3.30 pm at your peril, because of the number of schoolchildren. If you are not keen on schoolchildren or you have got small children and you do not want to push a buggy on to a very crowded train, you slightly change your journey to deal with that. That is a rational transport choice for all of us in London, and PRMs would make rational transport choices as well about, possibly, getting on a bus at a quarter-to-four or a quarter-past-three in order to avoid that very busy spot.

  1474. Maryland. We quite accept it is a slightly different argument because although there are engineering problems at Maryland, and it is not cheap, at £4.5 million, and the money could be better spent somewhere else, the real issue at Maryland is that the passenger numbers are low and it is very easy for PRMs to get to Stratford. We are not talking, primarily, about them upping sticks and walking to Stratford, but if they are on the bus already then, to be honest, it is easier for them to stay on and go to Stratford than it is for them to get off and battle across the A13 at Maryland.

  1475. Even if Maryland was made step-free, it is never going to be a good station for PRMs because the buses do not stop outside, you have got to have that fence because of the A13, it does not have disabled parking and it does not have good drop-offs. So it is never going to be a good station on those criteria, in any event.

  1476. Finally, your Lordships should remember on Maryland that Stratford is an excellent station for PRMs. I hesitate to give evidence but Mr Berryman has already told you that even at peak hour Stratford is such a big station that there is plenty of space for people to move around. It would take a massive uplift in numbers for Stratford to have the kind of congestion one sees in Central London. You can see that from the photographs, even if the Committee is not familiar with Stratford Station.

  1477. Just finally, and I do not know whether this will feature in Mr Reed's closing, there was a very strong suggestion yesterday that Newham was being very hard-done-by because it had two stations that were not being upgraded. The reason why there were two stations in Newham is because the stations are so close together, and the figure put by Mr West yesterday that 40 per cent of Newham were not getting step-free access is completely misleading. As your Lordships can see from the various plans, very few people in Newham who live close to the Crossrail route will not be within easy reach of a Crossrail fully accessible station. So, in fact, the people of Newham who need PRM are getting a huge improvement over what they have now, and in not upgrading those two stations all we have done is apply a sensible use of public money.

  1478. My Lords, those are my submissions, unless there are any questions the Committee has for me now. I am conscious that there is one issue outstanding, which is that Lord Brooke asked questions yesterday about to what degree have we taken into account future increases, demographic changes, in disability. We are still working on that and we will put a note in on it later, if we may, and we will obviously copy it to the Petitioners.

  1479. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Ms Lieven. Mr Reed?

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