Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 8760 - 8779)

  8760. Well, you are aware that the question of the current state of the modelling was the subject of evidence to the ORR on 1 February. Mr Robbie Burns for Network Rail and Mr Richard Morris for Crossrail gave evidence on that issue and others.

   (Mr Bennett): They gave evidence that there was a significant number of variables that could be tweaked, if I can use the expression, but they did not give any indication of what combination of tweaks would be necessary, for example, in order to deliver what was required. Hence our concern about prematurely excluding infrastructure announcements.

  8761. Let's just deal with this in steps. Mr Burns for Network Rail (exhibit 04C-55) says in the hearing before the Regulator on 1 February, the transcript at lines 19, 20 and 21, that the first iteration of the timetable before the ORR was "very much about a base position, a base position in terms of the reliability of our current infrastructure based on our 2006 figures", so the first iteration which was not showing particularly good PPMs, 72 per cent I think, Mr George mentioned it last week, was on the basis of a very first run without further iterations which were, if we look further up the page, please, at line 6-9, the next iterations expected by August.[12]

  (Mr Bennett): That is correct.

  8762. So, firstly, the 72 per cent was very much the starting point, not the end point: secondly, the ORR knew all about it, so the paragraphs we have been looking at in both the provisional decision and the final decision were taken in the full knowledge of the fact that the modelling was at an early stage?

   (Mr Bennett): That is correct.

  8763. I do not want to go through lots of this transcript because the full copy can be made available, but let's just look at how the Chairman of the meeting at the ORR summed up the position at page 84, the bottom: "Are there any final questions before we break? (No response). In that case, I will attempt to sum up the session. I think that Robbie"—that is Mr Burns, Network Rail—"has helped me greatly in this by clarifying that this project scheme is in design terms at a very, very early stage. But the Promoters believe that it has reached the stage where they require the additional certainty that an access option would provide and this is the point at which we now have to decide whether it is appropriate that one should be put in place ... [line 9] It is helpful to have heard very clearly that the Department and Network Rail share the clear view that performance has to reach very much higher levels than the one that is currently coming out of modelling on the railway in general and for this particular scheme to work. We heard figures from Richard"—that is Mr Morris from Crossrail—"He had an aspiration to get to 95 per cent PPM on Crossrail and a belief that 92 per cent is the lowest that could possibly be accepted. Clearly, the modelling that has been carried out so far, including the various sensitivity tests, has not yet produced runs which show that level of performance being delivered. We heard from Network Rail that their aim is in the refinement of the design of this scheme, principally, to look at what could be done to the infrastructure in order to help push the projected performance levels up to where they need to get to rather than to make substantial changes to the service pattern."

  8764. So, again, no doubt whatsoever that the stage of the modelling, the need for further refinement and further work, and the implications of uncertainty were fully before the ORR and debated before the provisional and final decisions were issued.

  8765. CHAIRMAN: Mr Elvin, we obviously want to get through Mr Bennett's evidence but I think we are beginning to suffer from not having heard your introduction, because I am not certain what it is that you are supposing that we should be able to do about any of this.

  8766. MR ELVIN: Cutting to the quick, my Lord, what is being suggested is that we should be required to do what the ORR did not require us to do, which was to give undertakings to carry out specific infrastructure works.

  8767. CHAIRMAN: That is right. I have a list of six of them.

  8768. MR ELVIN: And I am simply going through with Mr Bennett to demonstrate that this issue has been fully ventilated before the ORR and the ORR has fully recognised the position before reaching the conclusions that it reached in the final decision.

  8769. CHAIRMAN: You have given an undertaking as to two of them, I think.

  8770. MR ELVIN: One of them, Acton dive-under, which is already the subject of an undertaking, and it is inevitable that some work will need to be done at Airport Junction in order to get access to Heathrow, but I will come back to that in due course. It all goes to this point, my Lord.

  8771. Mr Bennett, cutting to the chase, the position is that this was an issue debated before the ORR; you did not urge the ORR to change his provisional decision and require the infrastructure to be done, we have seen that from the letter; and what you are asking this Committee to do is something you did not even ask the ORR to do?

   (Mr Bennett): It is something we did not ask the ORR to do because our prime concern at the ORR hearing was to establish the broader points, as you have described, about the reasons for the freight growth.

  8772. I am sorry, the question whether we should be required to carry out infrastructure works was clearly an issue before the ORR. It was in the provisional decision: it was referred to in Lord Berkeley's letter; it is in the final decision. It was open to you if you disagreed to say to the ORR: "No, we need that additional certainty, please modify your provisional decision". Yet you did not do so. That is correct, is it not?

   (Mr Bennett): It is correct that we did not send a letter.

  8773. CHAIRMAN: And the ORR could have done that, could they?

  8774. MR ELVIN: Under paragraph 5 of Schedule 4 to the Railways Act the ORR has power to give directions as to the terms of the access agreement. He has a broad discretion to impose such terms as are thought to be appropriate, so that could have been done by the ORR.

  8775. CHAIRMAN: Thank you.

  8776. MR ELVIN: And, indeed, the ORR, Mr Bennett, acknowledges he could have done that but chose instead the objective test based on performance. So coming to the conclusion, you will be pleased to hear, what you are asking the Committee to do is to depart from the industry processes, is it not, because what you are asking the Committee to do is something which the industry processes have not concluded should be done?

   (Mr Bennett): I suppose the reason for doing it in part is because we are concerned that the residual railway clauses themselves also provide the basis of a potential departure from normal railway industry processes.

  8777. Assuming the Minister means what he has now said in two recent statements in response to the provisional decision and the final decision, and will face a difficult time, if I may use that euphemism, before the Public Bill Committee if he does not keep to his policy statement, assuming those public bill clauses are going, as the Minister has said they will, you are asking this Committee on the one hand to be satisfied that the industry process is the right way forward, and yet on the other to do something outside the industry processes which the ORR specifically considered and rejected with your agreement.

   (Mr Bennett): I think we are also asking that clauses 40-42 be removed.

  8778. That is a separate issue --

   (Mr Bennett): With respect, Mr Elvin, it is not, because the existence of those clauses has an implication in our perception of the durability and robustness of normal industry processes.

  8779. Mr Bennett, the provisions relating to arbitration do not purport to rewrite the powers of the ORR under Schedule 4 of the Railways Act, do they? Once the railway provisions have gone as a whole they will not be able to rewrite the Schedule 4 powers. They do not purport to do so, do they?

   (Mr Bennett): I am grateful for your clarification.

12   Crossrail Ref: P63, Evidence given by Mr Robbie Burns, Network Rail, to The Office of Rail Regulation, p55, 84-85, 1 February 2008 (LINEWD-34_04C- 055, and -084 to -085) Back

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