Memorandum by Merseytravel (RI 30)
1.1 I am Neil Scales, the Chief Executive
and Director General of Merseytravel. Merseytravel is the operating
name for Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive and Passenger
Transport Authority and co-ordinates public transport on Merseyside.
2.1 I am giving evidence on behalf of Merseytravel.
Merseytravel is a consignatory with the SSRA in the Franchise
Agreements covering the Merseyrail Electrics franchise and part
of the First North Western franchise operating in Merseyside.
2.2 Merseyrail Electrics operates as a self-contained
third-rail electrified network centred on the Liverpool Underground
Loop and Link which was constructed in the 1970s. Merseyrail Electrics
operate the Northern and Wirral Lines of the Merseyrail network.
The network contains 66 stations and operates 3.7 million train
miles per annum, carrying 28.9 million passengers a year. Currently,
despite poor performance, passengers are growing at a rate of
6 per cent per annum. The First North Western franchise operates
the Merseyrail City Line which provides the local services in
and out of Liverpool Lime Street to 26 stations on the Merseytravel
supported network and to cross-boundary destinations such as Wigan,
Preston, Manchester Victoria, Warrington Bank Quay, Warrington
Central and Manchester Airport. First North Western Merseytravel-supported
services, carry 4.8 million passengers per annum. The City Line
is subject to rapid growth in patronage: the most recent figures
indicate over 13 per cent growth per annum. This is due in part
to consistently good service performance by First North Western
in delivering Merseyside services (service delivery across the
First North Western franchise as a whole has been less consistent)
and Merseytravel's' development policies on regular service frequencies,
new services and investment in the line. Two new stations at Wavertree
Technology Park and Lea Green opened recently with Merseytravel
and Objective One funding. The Merseyrail Northern, Wirral and
City Lines, despite the existence of different operators are marketed
and branded as the Merseyrail network serving Merseyside with
local identity, fares and ticketing structures reflecting the
2.3 Merseytravel is a funder of the network
through the two Franchise Agreements with Merseyrail Electrics
and First North Western but also has continually invested heavily
in the modernisation, enhancement and extension of the network.
Before franchising Merseytravel sponsored several third-rail electrification
extensions (more recently to Chester and Ellesmere Port) new stations,
station revitalisations, interchange and park and ride developments.
Merseytravel has continued to invest through improvements specified
under the new franchises (CCTV, telephones and help points) and
also through directly funded schemes usually project-managed by
Railtrack. Recent schemes have included new stations at Brunswick,
Conway Park, Wavertree Technology Park and Lea Green, station
revitalisation and access improvements at Kirkdale, Old Roan and
Aintree interchange and park and ride developments at Aintree,
Maghull, St Helens Junction and Wallasey Grove Road on the Wirral.
Merseytravel has taken the view that, despite the difficulties
presented by the new railway structure, the needs of Merseyside
regeneration and the passenger should be protected and enhanced.
Merseytravel has therefore worked closely with the rail industry
to overcome these difficulties and master the new processes, procedures,
contractual arrangements and funding mechanisms involved in the
railway industry of today.
2.4 Merseytravel has promoted partnership
both within the railway industry and with outside parties such
as the five District Councils, adjacent Shire and Unitary Authorities,
regeneration agencies such as the Merseyside Development Corporation,
City Challenge and Regional Challenge Initiatives, Single Regeneration
Budget programmes and European Regional Development Fund programmes.
2.5 Merseytravel works closely with partners
in the region. Merseytravel recently led a study into the transport
linkages across the Mersey Belt and has been a major player in
the Transpennine Rail Group which comprises PTEs, Shire Counties,
Unitary Authorities, Railtrack, three train operating companies
and the Peak District National Park Authority and has campaigned
for the development of Transpennine rail links. Merseytravel also
works to develop close links with unsupported train operators
that run services in and out of Merseyside: Virgin West Coast
and Cross Country, Northern Spirit, Central Trains and Wales and
West. Merseytravel is party to various groups such as West Coast
250 and Transpennine Rail Group.
2.6 Merseytravel has been very disappointed
in the sustained fall in service performance on Merseyrail Electrics
over the last year. This is discussed further later in this paper.
It is worth noting that a largely self-contained single operator
network such as Merseyrail Electrics should operate to the levels
of performance specified in the local Merseyrail Passengers Charter:
99 per cent of trains run and 95 per cent of trains running within
five minutes of right time. Sadly 1999-2000 results were 98.35
per cent and 90.62 per cent respectively.
2.7 Merseytravel has recently been designated
a Centre of Excellence for Integrated Public Transport by Lord
McDonald. Merseytravel and the five Districts in July submitted
the Merseyside Local Transport Plan with the following four key
(1) To ensure that transport supports sustainable
economic development and regeneration.
(2) To moderate the upward trend in car use
and secure a shift to more sustainable forms of transport such
as walking, cycling and public transport.
(3) To secure the most efficient and effective
use of the existing transport network.
(4) To enhance the quality of life of those
who live, work in, and visit Merseyside.
3.1 Merseytravel, under the 1968 Transport
Act Section 20 funding arrangements, had a very close role in
the operation, monitoring, maintenance, renewal and development
of the rail network. A high level of joint working and partnership
existed between Merseytravel and Regional Railways including a
joint management body involving Merseytravel. This enabled Merseytravel
to understand the issues and problems facing the railway network
on Merseyside, especially, Merseyrail Electrics with its current
performance problems. Merseytravel always sought to maintain maintenance
and renewal expenditure under the old Section 20 arrangements
and financed a substantial proportion of the Merseyrail Electrics
resignalling and establishment of a new integrated control centre
for the Merseyrail Electrics Northern and Wirral Lines.
3.2 It is a great frustration that despite
some evidence of improvement during 1998 and early 1999, performance
on Merseyrail Electrics has slumped badly and is missing Merseytravel
standards by a substantial margin. In 1999-2000, the reliability
of Merseyrail Electrics services improved marginally from 98.23
per cent to 98.35 per cent but punctuality suffered a serious
deterioration from 94.6 per cent to 90.6 per cent. In terms of
1999-2000, Railtrack were responsible for 13.2 per cent of cancellations,
25.6 per cent of part-cancellations and 39.1 per cent of delays.
During the course of the franchise, poor performance can be attributed
to the following headings that are within the responsibility of
impact of water on track and signalling
in the underground;
signalling and track circuit failures;
poor maintenance and renewal standards
(including broken rails and conductor rail incidents);
wheelwear adhesion problems during
the autumn leaf fall season;
ice formation on the third-rail;
external factors such as trespass
and vandalism and lineside fires.
3.3 Before the commencement of the franchise,
the most profound influence on the operation of the Merseyrail
Electrics network was the impact of the rising water-table following
the closure of water-extractive industries in Liverpool. This
has caused sustained contamination and short-circuiting out of
track circuits and electrolytic corrosion on trackwork as a result
of the action of stray third-rail current in a damp environment.
This led to emergency action to replace rails in the Wirral Line
Loop on a number of occasions: the most serious in 1995 when the
Wirral Loop was closed for six weeks for rerailing. Railtrack
inherited this problem on taking over as infrastructure owner
and have addressed the problem with a comprehensive drainage scheme
of boreholes set at intervals round the Wirral Loop continuously
pumping out so as to lower the water-tablein effect pumping
the centre of Liverpool dry. This has successfully addressed the
problem of water penetration.
3.4 The symptoms were also addressed before
the creation of Railtrack with the specification of axle counters
as a replacement for electric track circuits and this policy has
been developed further by Railtrack to complement the drainage
scheme. Most areas of the Wirral Loop are now covered by axle
counters. Drainage in areas under Birkenhead including Green Lane
can, however, still be problematical.
3.5 Merseytravel has serious concerns about
the standards of maintenance and renewals on the Merseyrail Electrics
network. While the signalling and track circuit failures have
diminished through resignalling, drainage and axle counter works,
it is considered that basic maintenance and renewal is not delivered
to the quality that would be expected, this has a major impact
on performance. Recent performance has underlined the impact of
poor quality renewals, engineering overruns due probably to poor
planning and resourcing, poor conductor rail installation, broken
rails and other issues. Merseytravel is not in a position to comment
on the performance of the Railtrack supervision or standards set
or the performance of the current track contractor (Jarvis) only
on the outputs and causation attached to the outputs. Merseytravel
trusts that the tendering of the new ICM 2000 infrastructure contract
for the area will deliver an improvement in standards and culture
of maintenance and renewals in the future.
3.6 A particular problem that has occurred
periodically on Merseyrail Electrics is the excessive wheelwear
on the Class 507/8 units that operate all passenger services.
It is known that the units are not ideally suited to the network
as they have relatively stiff bogies that do not adapt well to
the tight curvature present in a number of locations on the network,
in particular the Wirral Loop. Wheelwear has been experienced
at serious levels in both 1999 (late July through to early September)
and 2000 (late May to early June). In 1999 18 units of the 53
unit fleet had to be taken out of service and in 2000, 12 units.
The impact of the wheel/rail interface on the tight curves has
long been ameliorated by the 125 track lubricators that pump grease
onto the curves to ease friction and wear. This has generally
contained wheelwear at reasonable levels for many years but with
the occasional serious performance out break. Recent events in
1999 and 2000 have seriously inconvenienced passengers with widespread
short formations of six car trains and also cancellations of trains.
This has led to contractual "call-ins" by the SSRA served
on Merseyrail Electrics due to the failure to maintain performance
under the Franchise Agreement. The first joint Railtrack/Merseyrail
Electrics consultancy study in 1999 failed to identify specific
causes but a second study this year has pinpointed the operation
of the 125 track lubricators as being the significant factor.
The study sees the network of lubricators as operating on a "knife
edge" occasionally dipping below the standards required overall
to contain levels of wheelwear. The current system relies on old
technology, conventional maintenance (rather than modular rotational
maintenance) techniques backed up with insufficient documentation
and performance monitoring. These issues are now being addressed
by Railtrack and the network contractor. A recommendation has
been tabled for the installation of on-train lubricators (previously
taken off by Merseyrail Electrics). Merseytravel is concerned
that all the partiesRailtrack, the Railtrack maintenance
contractor and Merseyrail Electrics have not pulled together to
identify the problem over time and seek a solution to a major
performance risk to Merseyrail Electrics services.
3.7 A long-standing problem across the network
has been the annual leaf-fall season and the impact on punctuality.
The Merseyrail Electrics network has been relying on sandite application
by ageing multiple units and a Class 73 electro-diesel locomotive
in recent years; all with poor reliability and performance. Increased
co-operation between Railtrack and Franchise Operators has developed
in recent years was helped to identify problem locations which
can then be treated with sandite. Also, Railtrack have been more
inventive with leaf nets and other measures. However the two key
actions appear to be tree lopping and clearance of cuttings and
sanding of the track. Monitoring of outputs indicates that Railtrack's
tree clearance and trimming programme is not sufficient to protect
and improve on autumnal performance. The delays in the national
programme of introduction of Multi-Purpose Vehicles to undertake
sanding duties (and on the Merseyrail Electrics third-rail network
de-icing of the third-rail) is a major concern. On the combined
First North Western and Merseyrail Electrics networks, track clearance
and reliability issues appear to have prevented deployment this
autumn. Additionally, the failure of Railtrack to address the
introduction of safety features in terms of the underground tripcock
systems (similar to TPWS) in the basic design despite advance
warning from Merseyrail Electrics is a further concern. This deprives
the Merseyrail Electrics network of Multi-Purpose Vehicle operation
and threatens Merseyrail Electrics performance during the autumn
leaf-fall and winter icing of the third-rail.
3.8 Merseytravel has, in recent years, worked
closely with Railtrack, Merseyrail Electrics and First North Western
in the delivery of Merseytravel sponsored projects as well as
liaison on station regeneration programmes and major Railtrack
renewals. Merseytravel's comments are:
Railtrack performance in delivery
of Merseytravel sponsored schemes is adequate although they need
to appreciate the need to action early feasibility work to meet
European Grant and other deadlines. Merseytravel have a major
contractual claim on the work at one of the new stations recently
opened, this has been tabled by the contractor on the management
contractor working for Railtrack and is proving difficult to resolve.
General liaison has improved on network
issues under pressure from the Rail Regulator and Merseytravel.
Dialogue on the Railtrack Station
Regeneration Programme has ranged from good to poor: there is
a concern that limited specifications and poor standards of work
limit the effectiveness of the programme. The programme leaves
many stations with renewal work outstanding due to downsizing
of the programme and gaps in the facilities necessary for provision
of a consistent standard of facilities for passengers.
Railtrack's record on liaison with
franchise operators and funders on major renewals is poor on Merseyside.
For example, development and delivery work on various renewal
projects at Liverpool Lime Street Main Line Station has included
failures to consult even with the station facility operator, failure
to offer the opportunity for enhancements to the franchise operators
and funders, lack of thorough review of scheme options to the
detriment of passenger outputs and, of more concern, failure to
provide single leadership over all the Lime Street projects and
lack of liaison between business sponsors within Railtrack on
co-ordinated specifications and programmes.
Insufficient resourcing and lack
of experience on the business development and management side
of projects in part due to rapid turnover of staff and use of
temporary staff. This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
In the North West Zone, Railtrack have had three Zone Directors
in the last three years.
Property and commercial development
liaison has improved recently and is at a satisfactory level.
Railtrack are insufficiently aware
and inadequately funded to provide matched funding for PTE and
other partnership schemes reflecting Railtrack's responsibilities
3.9 Merseytravel is currently reviewing
and addressing the implications of the Disability Discrimination
Act: it is imperative that a way forward to allocating funding
and responsibility for delivery of systemwide upgrades is identified
by the SSRA and Rail Regulator.
3.10 Other issues of development are:
(a) the lack of provision of capacity for
non-Virgin passenger and freight operators in the West Coast Main
(b) the lack of renewal and capacity enhancements
on the Liverpool branch of the West Coast Main Line despite existing
capacity constraints between Lime Street Station and Wavertree
and between Warrington and Preston;
(c) failure of Railtrack to consult sufficiently
on renewal work to allow modernisation of the layout to meet future
needs (eg Ditton on the Liverpool branch of the West Coast Main
Line where a major interlocking had deteriorated to such an extent
that urgent renewal was essential);
(d) lack of sufficient capacity even for
existing services in the Manchester South resignalling scheme;
(e) slow railway vehicle acceptance procedures;
(f) failure to address network-wide loading
gauge enhancement for freight development;
(g) lack of priority given to capacity enhancement
on the North and South Transpennine routes including the Manchester
Hub and Liverpool and Mersey Belt routes linking Liverpool and
4. ADEQUACY OF
4.1 Merseytravel supports the firm but fair
line taken in the Rail Regulator's relationship with Railtrack
and welcomes the development of a more robust approach since the
appointment of Tom Winsor as Rail Regulator.
4.2 The Rail Regulator's review of access
charges is crucial to the future maintenance renewal and development
of the rail network. Railtrack's core duties focus on the efficient
and safe maintenance and renewal of the network. The monitoring
of key performance indicators (such as broken rails and punctuality)
in this respect is essential and should be extended. Recent events
at Hatfield on East Coast Main Line underline the importance of
the performance of Railtrack and their contractors in the inspection,
management, maintenance and renewal of infrastructure of all types
but especially track and signalling. It is imperative that Railtrack
receive the proper level of access charges to allow these duties
to be funded and allow improvement in indicator performance and
safety. The DETR Spending Review provides for a substantial increase
in capital and revenue expenditure: it is essential that the revenue
stream allows for the improvements in maintenance and renewal
levels necessary and this is fully resourced through the Rail
Regulator's Access Charge review and through SRA resources paid
through the franchise operators to Railtrack.
4.3 It is also imperative that Railtrack
is sufficiently funded and incentivised to undertake its core
duties and invest in the enhancement of capacity and route performance
for the future. There is a very real concern among the PTEs that
the access charge review may act against the current role and
future development of the metropolitan railway and the wider social
railway in favour of the better funded commercial railway. The
attention of the Sub-committee is drawn to decisions by Railtrack
and the SSRA on West Coast Main Line modernisation and Manchester
South resignalling which has squeezed the operations of the smaller
less well-funded operators in favour of Virgin Trains in particular.
Access charges need to be framed to reflect the needs of the LTPs
and the Government's 10 Year Transport Plan so as to allow these
metropolitan railway operations to continue and develop in terms
of capacity, frequency and clock-face timetables.
4.3 Merseytravel welcomes the Rail Regulator's
line on enforcement in terms of punctuality and broken rails.
4.4 The revisions of Railtrack's Network
License on Railtrack land holdings and treatment of dependant
parties are strongly welcomed.
5. WHAT ROLE
5.1 The first round of franchising was undertaken
on the basis of cost minimisation by OPRAF. Merseytravel, as part
of the process sought to achieve wider value for money criteria
with investment in passenger information systems, public telephones,
security features and improved station facilities. While significant
gains were made in terms of Merseytravel's objectives for the
Merseyrail network, the first round of franchising was a missed
opportunity: the lack of development of the prestige North Transpennine
route by Northern Spirit, despite its commercial potential and
proven growth record is indicative of this. It also underlines
the need to ensure that a progressive and well-financed franchisees
are secured in this round of franchise replacement.
5.2 One of the major failures of the first
round of franchising was the lack of recognition of railway growth
potential and lack of confidence in the industry to expand its
role. The franchise replacement process must deliver at least
track capacity enhancement, service development, new rolling stock,
enhancements to station facilities, compliance with the Disability
Discrimination Act improved customer-care integrated transport
measures and the latest ticketing technology: of these the core
issue is track capacity for without this the other objectives
cannot be met.
5.3 The issue of track capacity has been
sadly neglected by Railtrack and OPRAF. The West Coast Main Line
project has favoured the main operator, Virgin Trains, to the
detriment of other passenger operators (such as Silverlink) and
freight companies. It fails to deliver today's needs let alone
the needs of 2010. Additionally, its impact is reduced as one
moves further north and is minimal north of Rugby. The needs of
Merseyside in terms of renewal and capacity enhancement between
Crewe and Liverpool and the needs of Lancashire, Cumbria and Scotland
have not been addressed. A rolling programme of renewal and capacity
enhancement needs to be developed.
5.4 It is a major concern that, even in
recent resignalling and track modernisation, schemes, such as
Manchester South, the issue of future capacity is not being addressed
to the detriment of First North Western's current Passenger Service
Requirement obligations. There appears to be no strategy for capacity
enhancement on the route. As in the case of the West Coast Main
Line upgrade, the OPRAF/SSRA position appears to be that Virgin
Trains as the commercial operator should gain precedence on train-paths
and should gain priority in the allocation of the limited capacity.
This is contrary to the Government's Transport Strategy, the priorities
of Local Transport Plans and does not address the growth targets
in the Government's 10 Year Plan. The metropolitan railways perform
just as vital a role as Inter City type services in the seven
PTE areas with transport social, economic regeneration and environmental
objectives, rather than purely commercial ones. It is essential
that SSRA (and the Rail Regulators Access Charge Review) addresses
these issues as a cornerstone of future policy.
5.5 It is clear to Merseytravel that the
SSRA (OPRAF) role in the renewal, maintenance and development
of the network has been insufficient in the past. However, it
is recognised that the restructuring and expansion of the SSRA
is now addressing these issues. These now need to be taken forward
in a fair and balanced approach to encompass the needs of all
operatorspassenger and freight, Inter City and regional,
commercial and social. There is a need for the SSRA to become
more involved in capacity and route development issues.
5.6 There are a number of key hubs across
the Midlands and the Northin Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham.
Unless capacity at these is fully addressed to meet the requirements
of the next 20 years, as a minimum tied to the objectives of the
Government's 10 Year Plan, the growth of the railway to meet Government
as well as Local Transport Plans objectives will be neutralised.
It is recognised that Railtrack has addressed one of these in
terms of Leeds First and some works are proceeding in Birmingham
but not sufficient to address the core capacity issues in Birmingham.
However, each of these core capacity constraints needs to be addressed
as part of a co-ordinated national programmeto deliver
"a Leeds" and "a Birmingham" without "a
Manchester" in the middle will severely limit the network
benefits of the individual capacity re-enhancements. The SSRA
therefore need to adopt a strategic network approach.
5.7 Merseytravel welcomes the commencement
of the Manchester Hub Capacity Study. This is the key to development
of future Transpennine, North West regional, Greater Manchester
local and West Coast Main Line services. It is crucial that a
balance between the capacity and development requirements of all
these services is delivered in the infrastructure upgrades resulting
from the study. Merseytravel is particularly concerned that the
needs of Merseytravel supported services to Manchester and Northern
Spirit and Central Trains Transpennine services crossing Manchester
to Warrington and Liverpool are addressed. The attention of the
Sub-Committee is drawn to the work of the Transpennine Rail Group
(of which Merseytravel is a lead member) to promote the development
of the North and South Transpennine routes. It is crucial that
the development of these routes, held back by capacity and the
lack of ambition of the current franchisees, is now addressed
to link the main centres across the northern region.
5.8 Merseytravel has been heavily involved
in study work into the future shape and requirements of the rail
network of the North West through two studies: the Mersey Belt
Linkages Study and the Merseyside Freight Study. The former identifies
the need to address the capacity issues of the Manchester and
Liverpool conurbations as well as the routes in between so to
enable the development of a visionary three-tier hierarchy of
services15 minute frequency express services, 30 minute
frequency fast services servicing the major intermediate locations
and 30 minute frequency stopping services. This strategy and its
requirements for substantial capacity enhancement has been endorsed
by the partners in the studyMerseytravel and Greater Manchester
Passenger Transport Executive, Warrington and Halton Unitary Authorities,
Railtrack, Northern Spirit, First North Western and Central Trains.
There is an urgent need to address the capacity constraints in
Manchester and Liverpool and on the two routes between the two
5.9 The Sub-committee's attention is also
drawn to the recently completed Merseyside Freight Study which
focuses on the urgent need to enhance capacity for freight to
Seaforth Docks in North Merseyside, reopen the Olive Mount Chord
to improve access to Seaforth and reopen links to Birkenhead Docks.
The study highlights to need to promote early capacity enhancement
to meet the needs of the expanding Merseyside ports and provide
a viable alternative for the increasing port-related freight using
the road network. This underlines the need for the SSRA to undertake
integrated network development for both passenger and freight
purposes. The study also highlights constraints to modal shift
to rail for Merseyside traffic, especially lack of capacity for
freight access across Manchester and on the West Coast Main Line.
5.10 The agreement of criteria for allocating
new franchises is a matter of great concern to Merseytravel as
to gain the value for money required under Merseytravel's fiduciary
and Best Value obligations. Clearly the use of criteria reflecting
whole range of outputs required, rather than the cost minimisation
principle favoured by OPRAF in the first round of funding, is
essential to meet the needs of the PTEs, LTPs and the Government's
10 Year Plan. The SSRA to date has not issued to the PTEs criteria
for discussion and Merseytravel looks forward to a debate on the
criteria to be used on the franchises subject to joint funding
agreements, as well as those such as Transpennine Express and
Central Trains which run into Merseyside but are not currently
the subject of franchise agreements to which Merseytravel is a