Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 8640 - 8659)

  8640. CHAIRMAN: I think we will do that.

  8641. MR ELVIN: Then there is no problem with Lord Berkeley developing his case properly.

  8642. CHAIRMAN: Is that all right, Lord Berkeley?

  8643. LORD BERKELEY: That is absolutely fine, my Lord Chairman, thank you very much.

  8644. CHAIRMAN: Are you going to say anything at all, Mr Elvin, to start with?

  8645. MR ELVIN: No.

  8646. CHAIRMAN: In that case, it is over to you.

  8647. LORD BERKELEY: Thank you, my Lord Chairman. I am Tony Berkeley, a member of the House of Lords, as your Lordships know, and I am also Chairman of the Rail Freight Group, but I am here to introduce witnesses on behalf of six Petitioners: the Freight Transport Association, number 33; the Rail Freight Group, number 34; Hutchison Ports UK Limited; number nine; Quarry Products Association, number 72; the Freightliner Group Limited, number 102; and Mendip Rail Limited, 32.[1] I have given them in that order, my Lord Chairman, because that is the order in which I propose to call witnesses, but I am also going to call an expert witness, Mike Garratt of MDS Transmodal, whose report I think you have already seen, Crossrail: Protecting the Need to Cater for Rail Freight Growth.

  8648. My Lord Chairman, these six Petitioners represent most of the end customers, ports and train operators affected by Crossrail either on the Great Western Main Line, the Great Eastern Main Line, or both. They agreed that, since they had very similar concerns, it would be sensible to sort of pool their resources and make one overall submission to the Committee rather than each company or organisation repeating the background and everything all over again.

  8649. We have not included EWS Railway in this group since that company has many additional concerns of which the Committee has already heard some and will be hearing more tomorrow, I believe, but, in preparing our evidence today, we have worked very closely with EWS and I think it is true to say that we have all got similar concerns. Mendip Rail is part of this group and it fully supports this group's arguments, but it did not want to appear today and I think that would have created some duplication.

  8650. My Lord Chairman, these and many other organisations petitioned the House of Commons Committee who, having heard their evidence, were clearly concerned that the Promoters had not produced enough evidence on the effect of the proposed Crossrail trains on the GW and GE Main Lines, if I may use those abbreviations, on existing and forecast future traffic. They were also concerned that the Government had not tackled the all-important issue of rights to access on the railway, and Mr Elvin will be telling us something about this after lunch, I believe, and whether the Government were going to seek to use industry processes to achieve what they felt they needed, or whether they were going to retain clauses 22 to 45 of the Bill, giving themselves power to direct the Office of the Rail Regulator to give Crossrail trains priority.

  8651. As your Lordships know, the Commons Select Committee concluded that most of the issues should be dealt with by your Committee after some detailed timetabling work had been carried out and after the Government had applied for, and received, a decision from the ORR on their access option application. The one requirement that the Commons Select Committee made in respect of freight, which was of course much welcomed by the freight community, was to require the Promoters to give an undertaking that the Acton dive-under for freight trains, which is Works 3/17 and 3/17A, and I am sure the Committee are well aware of which one that is, should be completed and operational before Crossrail trains started running.

  8652. Now, my Lord Chairman, since the end of the Commons Select Committee hearing, the Timetabling Reference Group was restructured under the chairmanship of Network Rail and it has done some good work. The Rail Freight Group and train operators have been fully involved in this process and, as I believe you have heard, the interim conclusion of this group is that the number of freight trains that the Great Western and Great Eastern Main Lines could accommodate in 2015 without Crossrail was very similar to the number of trains that these lines could accommodate in 2015 with Crossrail and—and it is an important "and"—with the new works described in the Bill complete, and this issue was discussed on Day 21, paragraph 8170 which you have heard, so I shall come back to this later in Mike Garratt's evidence which will be after lunch now.

  8653. My Lords, the other major piece of progress has been the submission of an application for an access option by the Promoters to the ORR and its determination which was received on 14 April. The ORR consulted fully and the Petitioners I represent have welcomed the final decision as being fair and reasonable and in line with its duties under section 4 of the 1993 Railways Act, as amended, "to promote the use of the railway for the carriage of passengers and goods, and the development of that railway network to the greatest extent that it considers economically practicable".

  8654. So, in general, the Promoters, I believe, have come a long way since the start of the process in Parliament, and it has taken a long time, but they have come a long way, and it is right to pay tribute to their willingness to make changes as a result of the representations made by the rail freight industry. I must also point out that the Petitioners I represent have no wish to prevent Crossrail happening. In fact, some of them have commercial interests in bringing building materials to the sites, so they want to see it happen.

  8655. What remains to be presented to the Committee today are some really final, but very important, details which the Petitioners believe need resolving before they can have the full comfort that their businesses will not be adversely affected by the construction and operation of Crossrail and that in the long period between the present and the currently planned opening date of 2017, which is nine or ten years away, my Lord Chairman, Crossrail will comply fully with industry processes which have been developed over more than the last 12 years, and they are accepted by the industry as being fair and transparent.

  8656. My Lords, turning now to the witnesses I propose to call, there are six of them, but I am not going to spend much time with each, so I hope I will not delay the Committee too long. I will start off calling James Hookham of the Freight Transport Association to give a short overview of the importance of trade in general to the UK, the main routes and its effect on GDP, and the consequences of the new `sustainable transport policies' as proposed by Sir Rod Eddington in his report in 2006 and accepted by the Government. I will then call Alan Bennett, DG of the Rail Freight Group, to speak about the growth in rail freight, the expectations that government documents and policies have given it and what is needed to achieve both absolute growth and an increase in the market share with road freight. We will discuss the importance of ensuring business confidence to invest in rail freight, trains, terminals, et cetera, and how this is best achieved against a backdrop of passenger services and Network Rail because, whereas freight is totally in the private sector, most of the passenger services are in some way controlled and/or financed by the Government.

  8657. Turning to the specific flows and the issues relating to the Great Eastern and Great Western Main Lines, the rail freight on the former is primarily deep-sea containers, which is the line from Ipswich to London and from Felixstowe, and from the Haven ports which is Felixstowe and Harwich, but there are ports on the north side of the Thames which the Committee will know, such as Tilbury and, in the future, the London Gateway which could also have the potential of being affected by Crossrail. On the Great Western, the main traffic is aggregates and other building materials delivered to terminals along that route and elsewhere, and my witness will describe the high proportion of volumes of such material that get delivered via that route to many places in the whole of the south-east of England.

  8658. On the east side, I will be calling Andrew Cann of Hutchison Ports UK who will describe the high growth of imports in containers, where they have to go and the need for suitable rail services. On the west side, I shall call Jerry McLaughlin from the Quarry Products Association whose members will be particularly affected if there are any problems of supplies to the terminals in the London area which generally go through the Acton Yard, and we have talked about the Acton dive-under already. Next, I will call Lindsay Durham for Freightliner which is the largest operator of container trains, but which also moves a lot of building materials and other cargo. She will describe the operations of rail freight, the investment achieved and the need for best asset utilisation and the customer demands for high reliability as part of an overall logistics chain which of course includes from ports and quarries to the destination of a concrete batching plant on a construction site or a supermarket for supermarket goods.

  8659. Finally, I will call Mike Garratt of MDS Transmodal, who wrote the report you have all got, to explain the forecasting of rail freight through the GB Freight model, its acceptance by Government and the Promoters, and the importance of timetabling the overall journeys from end to end and the future demand for freight trains on these lines, not only in 2015 but also looking further ahead 25 years or so to 2030. Mike Garratt, alongside some of the train operators, has been sitting on this timetabling reference group I mentioned earlier, and he will talk about the options for enhancement to cater for these growths, although of course we recognise that some of them are the responsibility of the Department for Transport with a different hat on from being the Promoter of Crossrail. Nevertheless, I think it is important that the Committee is aware of that.

1   Committee Ref: A52, Rail freight interests (LINEWD-34_05-001) Back

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