Examination of Witnesses (Questions 10400
10400. I have something to say about tomorrow
but I will deal with that at the end of today, so I think those
three points conclude matters which I had promised the Committee.
10401. CHAIRMAN: Will you bear in mind
the point I made about getting a minister to say something about
clauses 40 and 41, because I think it is fairly important. It
is not going to be on our record. You do not have to do it now,
but when it comes to the Public stage of the Bill, I think somebody
ought to say something. Lord Bassam no doubt will be leading the
10402. MR ELVIN: Indeed, and, of course,
what I have just said about clauses 40 and 41 will appear as evidence
in your Lordships' report.
10403. CHAIRMAN: Yes.
10404. MR ELVIN: Thank you very much,
10405. CHAIRMAN: Lord Berkeley and Mr
George, which of you is going first?
10406. LORD BERKELEY: I have drawn the
short straw to go first, Lord Chairman.
May I say at the end of three days' discussion
on railway issues for the rail freight industry I really am grateful
to the Committee for their attentiveness and interest regarding
matters of rail freight. I hope we were not incomprehensiblethat
will come out in your report, I am sure.
10407. As the Committee will realise, freight
is in the private sector but it does compete for track space with
passenger services which are generally State-funded or State-directed,
and Mr Elvin and Mr Berryman had a brief discussion about passenger
services and why they did not petition them, and I would like
to suggest to your Lordships it is because none of the current
franchisees will be around when Crossrail opens. I do not want
to get into more detail but that, I think, is the reason why they
are not here. We certainly talk to them a lot.
10408. But it is, therefore, often an uneasy
relationship and that is why the role of the ORR is so important,
I think we all agree, with a duty to promote the use of the railway
for the carriage of passengers and goods and facilitate investment
which, as I said on Tuesday, would inspire business confidence.
10409. I think the Committee will have appreciated
the growing demand for rail freight, especially for containersfour
times growth in 25 yearsand the forecasting work that has
been approved by Government and effectively agreed by all sites
in relation to Crossrail, which, of course, we welcome very much,
and of course, the consequences of not allowing such freight to
go by rail. Mr Cann said it would be the equivalent of 500 extra
trucks a day on the M25, A13 and A14, and Mr McLaughlin said a
thousand extra on the M4, so we are talking big numbers.
10410. My Petitioners realise that Crossrail
still has a lot of work to do to complete their designs and timetable,
as we have heard. Some would call it a heroic challenge but I
think we all agree it leads to uncertainty, and this is where
business confidence sometimes causes us concern.
10411. We have heard about the timetable being
modelled, and the passenger and freight trains for 2015, the infrastructure
in the Bill included, and the fact that it resulted in about 72
per cent PPM. Mr Berryman has admitted no modelling has been done
to see how many trains could be run without the infrastructure
we have been talking about, and also they have not modelled the
consequence of the Regulator, ORR, saying that the number of offpeak
Crossrail trains should reduce from eight to six on the Great
Western and Great Eastern.
10412. My Lords, with all those uncertainties,
with the planned introduction of this new type of signalling which
does not involve any lightsit is all cab-controlled, it
is working, as Lord Snape said, on a single branch line from Aberystwyth
to Shrewsbury, I believe; not very well but it is still being
developedand to transpose that on to the Great Western
between Reading and London, to deal with the problems so far unresolved
between TfL and Network Rail on the infrastructure and, at the
same time, increase the PPM to 92 per cent without any commitment
to build much of the infrastructure, I think is challenging, but
I get the impression that the Promoters' view is that the ORR
will sort it out and they will tell us to run fewer trains until
it is sorted out.
10413. My Lords, what happens if it does not
get sorted out and, having all spent five years trying to do the
timetable or make it work, we admit defeat and decide, three years
before the planned opening of the Crossrail services, that somebody
has got to build more infrastructure? What happens if they run
out of money and the Government or TfL or whoever cannot bail
them out? Do they offer to cut Crossrail services or put increasing
pressure on cutting freight services? We are talking politics
here, my Lords, but I am afraid that is life. What happens if
ORR at that stage was overwhelmed with Government pressure to
give Government the answer it wanted for Crossrail, and I would
remind your Lordships that in the last few years the Government
has tried a number of times to limit the powers of independent
regulators. It is in the Olympics Bill, nothing very serious there
admittedly; it is in the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill, which
I personally believe is extremely serious; it was in the Regulatory
Enforcement and Sanctions Bill until we persuaded them to remove
it, and it is still, to some extent, in the Crossrail Bill in
10414. I am not going over this again but what
I am saying is governments, and not just this Government, have
a habit of trying to control independent regulators when they
come up with unpopular decisions. Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe mentioned
that this morning, and I am afraid I fear that they might do it
10415. My Lords, I believe it is important that
we have tried to demonstrate to the Committee that there is no
conflict between getting planning permission through the Bill
and using industry processes through the Regulator to get access
to the network.
10416. Mr Elvin disagrees. He said it is completely
wrong in law. Well, as your Lordships know, I am no lawyer but
I have seen a lot of what Hutchison Ports have done, and we have
heard their evidence. They applied for planning permission to
build their port and the planning authority required them to build
certain specific rail infrastructure. It was not the Rail Regulator
who asked them to do it but the planning authority, who said:
"You cannot open your terminal until you commit and build
these rail links", all the way to Leeds.
10417. The Regulator is involved because Hutchison,
the Promoter, same as Crossrail, said: "Well, if I am going
to spend all this money on railway works I want to have an option
agreement to make sure I can run trains on it", and they
are applying for an option agreement just as Crossrail has, so
I submit that there is no conflict between the twoone is
for planning permission and the other is for access options, and
that is all I have to say on that.
10418. I think it is reasonable for the freight
industry to ask the Committee to require the Promoters to build
a small number of works which we consider to be vital to rail
freight. It is not an exclusive list, as we heard this morning,
because some, we know, are going to change, and they are not expensive,
but they are not only important for freight but very important
for bringing in this flexibility against perturbations and against
other problems I have already described which are going to happen
between now and some time in the future, which Mr Berryman said
will start next year for the bigger schemes and go on for several
years after that.
10419. Finally, if it is wrong in law for your
Committee to ask the Promoters to commit to building certain pieces
of infrastructure, was it wrong in law for the House of Commons
Select Committee to ask the Promoters to build the Acton dive-under,
and was it wrong in law for that Committee to require it? I leave
that with your Lordships.