HL Deb 09 March 2005 vol 670 cc305-64GC

(Third Day)

Wednesday, 9 March 2005.

The Committee met at half past three of the clock.

[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Fookes) in the Chair.]

Lord Rotherwick

moved Amendment No. 65: After Clause 33, insert the following new clause—


  1. (1) A closure ratification notice under section 33, issued by the Office of Rail Regulation, shall not have effect until ratified by the Secretary of State by the issue of a closure decision.
  2. (2) Each closure decision must be reported to Parliament at least six weeks before any closure can take place."

The noble Lord said: I said earlier in Committee that Amendments Nos. 65 and 66 would be taken together, and there was no objection to that. However, I see on the selection list that they are again separated. However, if it is acceptable to the Committee, I shall speak now to Amendments Nos. 65 and 66 together. I understand that another noble Lord will speak to Amendments Nos. 75, 76 and 78.

Amendments Nos. 65 and 66 set out the key elements to be taken into account when closure proposals are considered. The Bill gives the Secretary of State the ability to issue directions to all involved. Primary considerations in proposing a closure or considering closure proposals can be at his discretion, and they can change from time to time, perhaps under short-term external pressure from the Treasury or elsewhere.

This new clause lists key elements in an integrated transport and community policy that must be seen to have been taken fully into account when a closure proposal is considered and which should be covered in every edition of the Secretary of State's guidance. The "unnecessary and/or restrictive list" argument often deployed by Ministers does not apply in this case, as the amendment includes vital safeguards and would give a public message of government intentions. Including specific issues in the statutory list does not prohibit others from being included in the guidance, as the draft initial statutory guidance seems likely to include most of the issues. In any event, there should be no insurmountable problem in including text in primary legislation.

The first part of the draft statutory guidance is very mechanistic, as it is set out. There is a danger that the mechanisms could be given more weight in subsequent ORR analysis than the future needs of the communities that railways serve. I am grateful to the Minister for a copy of the letter to the noble Viscount, Lord Allenby of Megiddo, which sets out guidance on closures. In particular, it contains a chart of various matters that would be considered. As the draft guidance already exists, I do not see that the Government would have difficulty accepting my amendments, which would put the guidance in the Bill and would ensure that it could not be changed later at the whim of the Secretary of State. I beg to move.

Lord Bradshaw

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, for having raised the issue of closures. Closures are one of the most important parts of the Bill, and they are not well dealt with. It is difficult to know where amendments should go in the Bill. Like the noble Lord, I have read the letter to the noble Viscount, Lord Allenby of Megiddo. I am grateful that the Minister has allowed us to see the closures guidance contained therein.

The fact that the closures guidance is not in the Bill is a matter of great concern, particularly when one reads Clause 42(5): Guidance published under this section may include different provision for different descriptions of proposals and for different purposes". Clause 42(6) states: A person who is under a duty to publish guidance under this section may from time to time … modify the guidance; and … publish revised guidance". All that, as the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee pointed out, is without reference to Parliament.

We have a set of guidance here that is made by Ministers, can be amended by Ministers and does not have to come before anybody for approval. That is objectionable in itself, and I hope that, in replying, the Minister will say that he accepts what the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee said and will ensure that, before any revised guidance is brought into force, it will be by order and will be subject to parliamentary procedure.

The guidance itself, to which reference has been made, does not contain the sort of things that we would like to see in it. In many ways, it reflects the things that have always been taken into account and which have led to many closures taking place without proper consideration and relying on broad averages of costs throughout the whole system. To take one example, I know very well that the money allocated for the infrastructure on the Isle of Wight is charged to the railways on the Isle of Wight, as is the cost of the rolling stock. We also know very well that that money is not spent on the Isle of Wight. We would look askance at any proposal introduced under the guidance that relied on average costs and bore no relation to the money that is being spent out of pocket on the facilities required to provide the service.

I will press the Minister further on the guidance. It is time that we broke away and radicalised the whole approach to the railway which, over the past two decades, has been dictated from the Treasury by people who know nothing about railways and has been ruled simply by prejudice. It is time that accord. was given to people who know about railways instead of people who know about the PFI and other such failed monstrosities. I suggest adding to the guidance a provision that, before any closure proposals are made, the Secretary of State shall publish guidance—obviously—but he should have a statement of the actual expenditure that will be saved by any closure proposals based on the previous three completed years operation of the service concerned. I am talking about the actual money that is expended out of pocket; I am not talking about accountancy tricks, average costs or long-run average costs, which we know do not reflect what the services cost.

The second thing that we would like to see is evidence of what any interested third-party operator would require to keep a similar service operational on the basis that the fixed assets of the line would be leased to that operator at a peppercorn rent, including the necessary connections to the main line and taking into account any provision for freight.

I am happy with what the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, proposed. I have given the Minister the view of everyone who has spoken that it should always be the Secretary of State who ratifies a closure decision not the Office of Rail Regulation. However, that closure decision should be based as near as possible on the facts and Parliament should be consulted, as I am sure honourable Members in another place would wish, before any line in their constituency was closed by order of anybody. I wonder whether the Minister in his reply to the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, will also give me some comfort about the questions that I have raised.

Lord Snape

I have no intention of detaining the Committee for more than a few moments because, whether or not I was in order, I had a few things to say about the closure procedures on a previous amendment. I support the views that have been expressed, trenchantly in the case of the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, whose views on the operation of the railways are based on experience. We must accept that.

My noble friend the Minister will not be surprised to hear that I press for the Secretary of State to debate the matter in Parliament when it is decided that it is necessary to close a railway line. I said previously that it was nonsense in my view that the ORR should take the flak. Such decisions should properly be debated in Parliament, and the Secretary of State should be seen to take the decision to close a stretch of railway.

All too often in the past, when previous Secretaries of State have acceded to closure proposals, it has become apparent within a decade, certainly within 20 years or so, that the relevant local economy has been considerably damaged by the withdrawal of rail services. One has only to consider some of the towns along the route of the Great Central Railway Line. For people in the smaller towns and villages along that route who do not possess cars the situation has moved back to the Middle Ages. Travel outside their area is a comparative rarity due to the lack of a rail service. Therefore, closure decisions are momentous decisions that should properly be taken after debate in Parliament.

I was fascinated by the opening remarks of the noble Lord who speaks on this occasion for the Conservative Party: an integrated transport policy—now there is a thing. I seem to remember that we used to have one of those at one time. For some years in the other place, I was responsible, at least in the Labour Party, for trying to explain what that comprised. I was never quite sure what it was even then, and I am not sure that I know what it is now. However, it is interesting to see that that form of words has been chosen by the Conservative Front Bench with regard to the amendment.

I press my noble friend the Minister to listen carefully to the debate. I know that he will do so, but I hope that he will agree that the decisions should properly be taken after debate in Parliament and that they should be taken not by the ORR or anyone else in the name of the Secretary of State but by the Secretary of State himself or herself.

Lord Berkeley

I am assuming that at the moment the Committee is discussing just Amendments Nos. 65 and 66, rather than the rest of that grouping. I do not believe that the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, spoke to Amendments Nos. 77 or 78.

Lord Rotherwick

I was aware that I spoke only to Amendments Nos. 65 and 66. However, I should be delighted if the noble Lord wished to speak to the remainder of the amendments in the group.

Lord Berkeley

I would like to keep Amendments Nos. 75 to 78 separate and speak to them when we reach them.

I support Amendments Nos. 65 and 66. I also support what the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said about having a detailed, accurate estimate of the savings to be made with regard to a particular line. I believe we have said before that Network Rail does not have a clue about the costs of individual line operation. The passenger operators may or may not have estimates in that regard. The freight operators will have different views, depending on whether they use the relevant line and depending on the effect on their business.

It is absolutely crazy to take the total route mileage in this country and divide it by the total cost and say, "You will save that if you close a branch line". You certainly will not. As I said on a previous occasion, the Rail Regulator is having such trouble coming up with the figures that they will probably not be available until the next periodic review, which is five years away, if not more. I believe that the regulatory asset-based figure that has been allocated to Scotland was calculated on route miles. However, there is no evidence behind it, and it is a draft figure. Draft figures may be all right for deciding how much money Scotland gets to look after its railways—the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, will have views on that—but they are not good enough when considering the closure of a branch line or something else. Therefore, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, has the situation absolutely right.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

I do not intend to detain the Committee long, but I agree with every word uttered by the previous four speakers.

I draw attention to two points. First, I am pleased that in Amendment No. 66 the phrase, hardship to rail passengers which may result from a proposed closure", has been included. Those words have disappeared from the main part of the Bill as an issue to be taken account of when a closure is considered. It is important that that is included in the legislation.

My second point is to remind the Committee of one of the great difficulties that people running the railways have had since the days of the Beeching report in wanting to re-open services. If a line is closed and the track bed is destroyed and houses are built over it, reinstatement is almost impossible. There is no doubt that a number of towns and locations around the country desperately wish that those services had not disappeared when they did.

It would not be appropriate to keep open the network as it was in the late 1950s. There was a helter-skelter approach towards closures, in some cases even giving area managers of British Rail a quota for services in their area which had to be withdrawn in order to comply with national policy. We must never get back to that situation.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie

I was tempted by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, to speak about Scotland. I would like to give a Scottish example. We are discussing how much you might save by closing a branch line, but I would like to put the situation the other way around.

The extension of the passenger railway service to Alloa will cost hardly anything extra because the train that will go to Alloa from Glasgow Queen Street already leaves Glasgow Queen Street at 18 minutes past the hour. It then sits, ticking over, for 25 minutes in Stirling before returning to Glasgow. In a year's time, that train, rather than idling in Stirling, will nip out to Alloa, pick up some more passengers and return to Stirling and on to Glasgow. So, although there is a cost in re-establishing the line, the running costs need not build up very much at all because they use the same staff—it is a wee bit more diesel, perhaps.

Lord Berkeley

I remind the noble Earl that this is an example of a new freight line being constructed by the Scottish Executive with passenger services running over it at very little extra cost, which is different from what often happens. It is a good project.

I want to ask my noble friend Lord Faulkner of Worcester whether he thinks that if a passenger service is withdrawn there should be a requirement on Network Rail to maintain the track for, say, five years afterwards to allow time for other people to propose a new passenger service, for freight to start or something. Does he think that that would be a good idea?

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

I sat down a little while ago. That question should be addressed to the Minister. My answer is, "Yes", but, sadly, I do not occupy the position that my noble friend does. He may wish to give some assurance like that. Certainly, the destruction of a track bed and the infrastructure makes it impossible for a service to be reinstated.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley: we are well aware in Alloa that it is a case of a passenger train being hung on the back of a freight train.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I have been watching the debate like an interested observer of a pinball machine, as the issue rocketed back and forth around the Committee. The only thing that chills my heart a little is the absolute unanimity on some of the crucial issues—issues that I cannot accept in their entirety.

I shall mention the one obvious difficulty I have, and I am in the hands of the Committee on it. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, asked a fundamental question about parliamentary control. I can give the definitive answer now, as the noble Lord has raised the issue. It is exactly what Amendment No. 78 addresses. I do not want to detain the Committee by addressing it twice on the same issue. I am more than prepared to address the matter now, but Amendment No. 78 is not grouped with this amendment. Of course, members of the Committee have the right to move Amendment No. 78 when the time comes. However, I can only address the rather far-reaching question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, in the context of Amendment No. 78. I propose to do that, while recognising that I could be called to account at any stage and may have to reiterate the same points in response to Amendment No. 78.

Let me make it absolutely clear: the Bill provides for wide-ranging consultation on the content of the draft guidance but not for parliamentary consideration. That point was brought to our attention by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, which said: We recommend that Parliament should have some degree of control over the Secretary of State's guidance and amendments to it, e.g. by ensuring that they can be brought into force only by order subject to a parliamentary procedure". We welcome the report and agree with the main thrust of it. We are considering how to respond. Amendment No. 78 is certainly one way of doing that, but we are by no means certain that it is the best.

The report was published quite recently, and we have subjected the issue to considerable work. However, we are asking For a little more time, and I undertake that we will table on Report a government amendment that will address the point. I hope that that is an answer to the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, who introduced the issue into the debate, and I hope that noble Lords opposite will appreciate that I am attempting to meet the terms of their Amendment No. 78 although it is not immediately before us, and I would be the last to step out of order.

Viscount Astor

I am grateful to the Minister for his response on Amendment No. 78 and will not move it. I give him warning that I will move Amendment No. 77, which is similar. We are grateful to the Government for accepting the recommendations of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and accepting the principle of our amendment.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I am grateful for that intervention, if only because it shows that the Official Opposition are as much out of order as I am in the way in which I have conducted the debate thus far. It helps to clear the ground on what we all recognise are important issues.

We discussed last week the question of who makes the final decision to withdraw service or close networks or stations under the network modification procedures in the Bill. It is a complex area on which there are a number of anxieties. So, before I address Amendment No. 65 specifically, it might be helpful, given that we have a number of other amendments on the issues, if I went through the decision-making process set out in the Bill.

Responsibility for taking decisions varies according to whether a closure proposal is initiated by a railway funding authority or an operator. I will start with arrangements for proposals initiated by the railway funding authorities, which are listed in Clause 44. They are the Secretary of State, Scottish Ministers, the National Assembly for Wales, passenger transport executives, Transport for London and the Mayor of London. They are public sector bodies, either directly answerable to the electorate or answerable to bodies such as passenger transport authorities, the London Assembly or the Mayor of London, which are accountable to voters.

A railway funding authority may make a closure proposal if it meets the eligibility requirements in Clause 41 and after carrying out an assessment according to the closures guidance that the Secretary of State, Scottish Ministers and the National Assembly for Wales will have a duty to provide. The Committee will recognise that, as set out in our letter, all RFAs are bound by the notes for guidance. If the RFA is satisfied that the proposals meet the criteria in the guidance, it can carry out a public consultation, following the approach in Schedule 7.

After the consultation, the funding authority has a choice: it can withdraw the proposal, or, if it decides to proceed, it may refer it, amended or in its original form, to the Office of Rail Regulation. The ORR's role, set out in Clause 32, is, in effect, to satisfy itself that the proposal meets the criteria in the closures guidance and that the consultation has been carried out appropriately. If the Office of Rail Regulation is satisfied on those points, a closure ratification notice is issued. If not, a closure non-ratification notice is issued.

Without a closure ratification notice, a closure cannot be implemented. However, Clause 32 makes it clear that such a notice does not authorise anything that would contravene franchise arrangements or other agreements under which railway services, networks or stations are provided. That may go some way to meeting the point that my noble friend Lord Berkeley made. For instance, it might be appropriate, in certain closures, that the requirement on Network Rail to maintain track bed services might be continued for five years. That was my noble friend's suggestion.

Our response to what might be in my noble friend's mind in support of an amendment is that such proposals would need to be treated case by case. The draft closure guidance is likely to contain something on that important point. It would include guidance on how the issue should be tackled. We would resist any attempt to write into the Bill a requirement that would operate in every case. In giving his illustration, my noble friend argued that specific circumstances would need to be considered. Finally to implement the closure, the railway funding authority has to decide to enter negotiations with the relevant train operating company or Network Rail to amend contracts and agreements to give effect to the closure. It cannot proceed without doing that.

It is a complicated procedure, but I think that it will be recognised that the Secretary of State or one of the other publicly accountable bodies—the railway funding authorities—will have a key role in deciding whether a closure proposal should progress through the procedure and be finally implemented. Proposals cannot be implemented without a closure ratification notice from the Office of Rail Regulation, but that in itself is not sufficient to implement the closure. That is a separate step that will fall to the funding authority.

4 p.m.

Now, what happens if an operator—not a public funding body responsible to the electorate, Parliament, or the Scottish Parliament or the National Assembly for Wales—initiates a closure? Operators can propose closures after they have carried out an assessment following the closures guidance, but it is for the national authority—the Secretary of State in England and Wales or the Scottish Minister—to consider whether the proposal meets the criteria and should go forward to consultation. That is where the publicly accountable, democratic body cuts in in relation to a closure proposed by an operating company. Following consultation, the national authority will decide that the proposal should be withdrawn or should go forward to the Office of Rail Regulation. If it decides that the closure should not be allowed to proceed, it will have a duty to secure the continued operation of the service and that is the end of the matter. The public body will have taken a decision against the operating company's proposal.

If the national authority agrees that the proposal should be allowed, it forwards the proposal to the Office of Rail Regulation, which satisfies itself that the consultation has been carried out appropriately and decides whether the proposal is compatible with the closures guidance in accordance with its duties under Clause 32. It will issue a closure ratification notice or a closure non-ratification notice according to its judgment. If a closure ratification notice is issued, the service can be withdrawn or the network or station in question closed.

The reason why I have spent some time on this is that, when we addressed the issue last Thursday, there were anxieties on many sides. Although my reply was as accurate, succinct and precise as I could manage, a number of question marks were left dangling in the air, to say nothing of the fact that we had not had the benefit of reaching these amendments, which raise some of the fundamental issues.

I hope that today I have been able to show that the Bill does not put closure decisions completely in the hands of the Office of Rail Regulation. The Secretary of State, Scottish Ministers and other funding authorities are closely involved in any closure procedure. That is a change from the existing procedure where the Secretary of State takes the final decision on closures, but that approach has to change. The winding-up of the regional passenger committees and the SRA requires such a change, as does greater local decision-making for devolved administrations, Transport for London and the passenger transport executives.

The procedures in the Bill—closure guidance published by the Secretary of State, Scottish Ministers and the National Assembly for Wales; a wide-ranging, statutory consultation; independent output from the Office of Rail Regulation to ensure that procedures have been properly followed; and the key role for national authorities and public sector railway funding authorities—continue to provide the necessary protection for railway users. That is the theme that all noble Lords who have addressed themselves to the amendment—the noble Lords who moved the amendment in particular—have been concerned about.

I do not think that Amendment No. 65 is appropriate or necessary. Requiring the Secretary of State to issue a closure decision confirming the Office of Rail Regulation's closure ratification notice before a closure can be implemented does not fit well with the approach to closures in the Bill. It would undermine the rationale of the independent role of the Office of Rail Regulation. It would be inconsistent with the proposals in the Bill for greater local decision-making. The amendment would give the Secretary of State a power that would allow him to veto closure proposals made by railway funding authorities, even though they have explicit powers to initiate such proposals after they have followed the proposals set out in the Bill, including the independent ratification from the Office of Rail Regulation. Now, that would be centralisation with a vengeance; it would vitiate all local decision-making.

Amendment No. 65 does not seem to take into account the fact that the Secretary of State as a railway funding authority can also initiate closure proposals. It would not be sensible to require him to confirm or otherwise closure proposals that he started. That problem with Amendment No. 65 runs counter to the proposals envisaged in the Bill.

If Amendment No. 66 were agreed, there would be two clauses entitled "Closures guidance": this new one and Clause 42. That would be confusing. As "Closures guidance" is defined in Clause 44, the closures guidance in Clause 42 would contain criteria that those making closure proposals would have to use in assessing those proposals. The Office of Rail Regulation would also have to use the Clause 42 guidance. The purpose of that new guidance and where it would fit into the statutory procedure are therefore unclear.

The intention may be—I think that the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, indicated it when he moved the amendment—to set out in statute certain factors that must be addressed in the closures guidance. I hope that we have indicated in the note about the Government's thinking about closure guidance that we understand the main principles that need to be included in it. As the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick indicated, I wrote to Members of the Committee updating that note only last week.

In short, the intention is to have a wide-ranging assessment based on that used for road schemes and multi-modal studies, known as the new approach to transport appraisal. That will cover environmental, economic, safety, accessibility and integration factors. I assure my noble friend Lord Snape that the effects on passengers and rail operators will be central considerations in the guidance. So the closures guidance should cover all the effects mentioned in Amendment No. 66. We consider that our guidance covers those points. It will cover the effects on passengers, including disbenefits from longer or more inconvenient journeys that might be termed hardship. Environmental and social effects are clearly covered in the notes on closures guidance. They are an integral part of the roads and multi-modal appraisal that we use at present.

I agreed last week about the need to obtain information that is as accurate as possible about costs arising from a closure, including any long-term costs. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, introduced that point again today, and was supported by my noble friend Lord Berkeley. He referred to the costs that might be required to maintain residual infrastructure and the need to look at the fare revenue effects across the network. Where relevant, the effects on freight operators also need to be assessed and taken into account.

I am happy to assure the Committee that that is the exact intention behind the closure guidance; it will include those issues. Therefore, the more thorough assessment required in the Bill is considerably beyond anything contained in the closure procedures of the Railways Act 1993. The Bill creates a duty to consult on draft guidance before it is published. The intent ion is to do that before the new procedures come into effect later in the year. I have, no doubt, a little more to say about closures guidance because we have further amendments, so I dare not pre-empt them any further. In the wake of last week's discussion, which, I recognise, left issues in the air, and as a result of the responses to the amendment today, the Committee will recognise that I have taken extensive time to spell out exactly how the procedure will work and just where the closures guidance fits into the framework in order to assuage the anxieties of those who raised important points.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie

Perhaps I may briefly take the Minister back to his remarks about safeguarding the track bed if a railway is closed. He will no doubt be aware that there is a serious proposal to re-establish a fifth railway line between Edinburgh and Glasgow by filling in the gap between Airdrie and Bathgate. There are services from Glasgow to Airdrie and from Edinburgh to Bathgate.

It is just as well that the track bed is an official long-distance footpath. No doubt, there will be a few complaints if it becomes a railway again, but that was a good way of safeguarding the line. It was also possible to re-establish the railway line to Larkhall because it had been safeguarded. Considering that those closures happened more than 30 years ago, the period of five years that we were talking about is remarkably short.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I accept that point entirely. There are many instances where the railways had the foresight to protect land that might be brought into use again through a second set of rails being put down. That necessity has arisen, for example, in providing services to airports. I am grateful to the noble Earl for giving me the illustrations from Scotland. That is why we are positive about the five-year proposal; it is fairly modest, as has rightly been identified, and we think that it can easily be taken on board in the framework of the guidance that will be issued. The noble Earl is absolutely right to say that the period can extend beyond that time.

Lord Bradshaw

I am not very happy. First, the Minister has explained clearly what will happen if a closure ratification notice is issued. If I understand him correctly, it is still the intention that the Office of Rail Regulation will issue the notice, and it will not be subject to any parliamentary procedure.

Let us take, for example, a proposal to close a railway line in England. I have a lot of confidence in Scottish Ministers, Welsh Ministers and the passenger transport executives—although I may have less confidence in the Mayor of London, we are not likely to close any railways there—but I do not have that confidence in the Secretary of State's organisation. As far as I can see, the decision will be made by the Secretary of State, but I am not sure at what juncture any parliamentary representations can be made, other than through the medium of Questions. We know that that is a slightly unsatisfactory method of eliciting information from Ministers, even if one gets a direct reply in the House of Commons.

I accept that the Office of Rail Regulation may certify that all the procedures have been carried out, but I object to the fact that a closure ratification notice would be issued by the Office of Rail Regulation, and presumably pasted up in stations, without the Secretary of State laying himself open to parliamentary scrutiny. That is a key issue on which we need a better answer than the one that we have received.

The question of guidance also worries me. A lot of information is in guidance; it makes it difficult for Parliament to know what is in that guidance. I know that the Minister is returning to that point, but I would like to see proper reflection in such guidance of the evidence, which I cited before, that there was a clear statement about the actual expenditure.

4.15 p.m.

I am not interested in the new approach to transport appraisal used in the multi-modal studies. That was broad-brush appraisal, carried out by expensive consultants who did not study what happens on the ground. That is my concern. I am not interested in theories and generally applied formulae. I want to see what happens in that case. Although I stand to be corrected, I believe that it does not make provision for an interested third-party operator who is willing to keep the service going on the basis that the fixed assets of a line are leased to him at a peppercorn rent. I would like to see what the third-party operator would make of it before the line was closed. In some cases, there are people who would provide a service if the Secretary of State were minded to withdraw it. I am not satisfied with either of the Minister's answers.

Lord Snape

Once again, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, although we have had a full explanation of the department's thinking, for which I am grateful. My noble friend continually talks about democratically elected authorities making the decisions. He says that, provided that they follow the terms of the Bill, they are the proper people to make the decisions. Incidentally, he did not use that argument when we talked about franchise settlements, when the view was that democratically elected authorities were not the proper bodies to sign franchises. No matter; I shall put that aside.

Let me give my noble friend a hypothetical example showing why I feel that the Secretary of State should be responsible and that Parliament should debate any subsequent closures. Passenger transport executives run trains outside their own areas. For example, in the west Midlands the Cross City railway line runs through to Lichfield, which is not in the PTE area but is the obvious convenient terminus for that end of the line. Let us suppose that a passenger transport executive decided, perhaps because of financial constraints, to withdraw that service and followed the procedures laid down under the Act. The PTE is not democratically elected so far as concerns the citizens of Lichfield because they have no democrat input into it. Further north, in Manchester for example, the passenger transport executive runs trains—let us say, subsidises trains—to Buxton, which is a considerable distance outside the PTE area. On numerous occasions over the years, certainly in my lifetime, an attempt has been made to close the line, certainly between Hazel Grove and Buxton. Given the financial constraints that we are likely to face in the years ahead, there is every likelihood that a similar proposal will be made again. Those are not democratically elected authorities so far as concerns the citizens of Buxton, Whaley Bridge or one or two other towns outside the PTE area.

We could table Questions for Ministers, and I could draft the response now. I would not need a battery of civil servants to do it for me. The Minister would say, "These are not matters for me. The procedures are laid down. They are matters for a democratically elected authority"—to quote my noble friend—"and eventually the ORR".

My noble friend, in his comprehensive response to the amendment, referred the Committee to Clause 41, particularly subsection (3). I must confess that I do not understand that subsection. It looks as though it was originally written in Serbo-Croat and badly translated, because I can make neither head nor tail of it. But it is immaterial to the amendment because, whatever subsection (3) says, it does not apply to passenger transport executives, the Mayor of London or Transport for London. So, even if there is protection in that clause, it does not apply to the passenger transport executives or the other bodies that I mentioned, the other railway funding authorities.

I say once again to my noble friend that it will not do for him to say that there are safeguards in the Bill. In the case that I outlined, it would appear, unless I have got it wrong—no doubt, my noble friend will tell me if I have—that there are no democratic protective measures that can be taken by people who enjoy a rail passenger service provided in a passenger transport executive area but who are from outside the boundaries of that executive area.

Lord Berkeley

I am even more confused at the end of our debate than I was at the beginning. I am sorry about that. My noble friend gave a full response, some of which I welcomed, but it is confusing. I do not know what people in the outside world who are worried about closures will think. The matter must be revisited.

I must take my noble friend back to the start of his response about decision making. He said that two groups of people would make initial decisions about closure proposals: one was the railway funding organisations—he listed them, and I understand about them—and the other was the operators. I assume that, by "operators", we mean open-access passenger operators. If they have an open-access passenger contract with Network Rail, they can, presumably, close their service if it is not making any money. We cannot force somebody who is not being paid by the state in any shape or form to carry on a service if he does not want to; that is the nature of open-access operation, I imagine. I cannot believe that there needs to be a procedure for the withdrawal of such a service; it probably just happens, however upsetting that may be for other people.

I am not sure that freight operators need a procedure to withdraw services. They come and go as the market wants. They have a "go anywhere" licence on the network. They do not need closure procedures, but they would be concerned if there were a closure procedure that changed the status of a line from a mixed line to a freight-only line or, more importantly, if Network Rail decided to close a line for whatever reason. If there was a passenger service on that line, it would have to go through the railway funding organisation, but I am not sure how the closure would happen on a freight-only line, if Network Rail just decided that enough was enough, which can happen. If a bridge fell down, it might say, "Sorry, mate. We haven't got enough money".

There is a case at the moment involving something called the Partington branch, south-west of Manchester. EWS wishes to run trains on a freight-only line, but, due to Railtrack's ineptitude, the line has not been maintained. In fact, somebody stole several miles of the track. EWS wants to run trains on that line again, and there is a row going on.

There needs to be more clarity about what happens if Network Rail wishes to close a section of the track and how that fits into all these long and complicated clauses. I hope that my noble friend will be able to help.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I am conscious that I am taking up a great deal of the Committee's time on the issue. Let us be clear: public authorities close railways. We are seeking to develop and expand the railway system in this country through increased investment, so the issue of closures must be put in a context in which we see railways playing an important strategic role in improving the transport service that we provide.

Where closures are contemplated, either they are initiated by the public body or the public body takes on board a proposal from an operator and reaches a decision on whether or not it is valid. It is subject to public scrutiny. My noble friend Lord Snape said, "Yes, but the public bodies are not up to the job". 1 am sure that he is not saying that the Secretary of State is not—

Lord Snape

I should be glad, if my noble friend is going to quote me, that he should do so accurately. I never made any such statement, nor would I ever do so.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I am coming to the point where my noble friend was critical of the public body that would be charged with doing the job at a local level regarding the role of the passenger transport executive. He pointed out in his terms why such bodies were inadequate for the job. He said that that was because the closure might extend beyond the boundaries of the passenger transport executive. That was the basis of his contention—that in that respect a public body would not be able to do the job because it would not cover sufficient of the area for it to be democratically responsible.

A passenger transport executive may have responsibility for and cover a substantial section of a line, sufficient for it to be the initiator of a closure proposal, but there may be several stations at one end or the other of the line that are not immediately within its purview. Is my noble friend seriously contending that a democratic body would not consult its neighbours about a decision that affected not just the area under its immediate control but an area immediately outside it? It would be unfair to suggest that of a passenger transport executive. Therefore, when I talk about the passenger transport executive's role, I am perfectly justified in subsuming within that the possibility that it would need to include in its consultations before it went ahead adjoining authorities, where such a facility existed. So far as concerns the other bodies, they are competent in their area.

I do not think that a Secretary of State has been involved in the detail of railway closures since the 1850s and the 1860s, when we had private Acts that set up the railways and then closed them down again. The idea that the Secretary of State should be answerable to Parliament directly in the sense that he would have presumably to put some kind of Motion before Parliament for every proposal for closure in this country seems to me to be a concept that does not obtain in our legislation and goes much further than would be reasonable.

We need the assurance that the process involves a public body that is accountable. With certain significant closures, of course the Secretary of State would be the funding authority and the initiator and therefore would be answerable.

The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said that Parliamentary Questions were not enough. Parliamentary Questions are not the only way in which Members of Parliament call attention to what they regard as a potential deterioration—if they saw it in those terms—in the service offered to their constituents. There are many strategies. What is clear is that the Secretary of State is answerable.

I emphasise to the Committee that our proposals are founded on the concept of proper public accountability. It is unreasonable that every closure should be subject to some parliamentary procedure. I am sure that on reflection noble Lords will recognise the limitations of that.

On the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, about costs, of course the assessment will need to be based on as accurate an assessment of the position as is possible. We are not talking of a broad-brush approach. We recognise that the analysis would have to relate to the individual local situation of the line, station or facility that was subject to closure. Of course, the noble Lord is right to emphasise that it is important that any cost benefit analysis takes into account the full range of factors, but we intend to see that that is done.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Bradshaw

Will the Minister go so far as to say that the actual cost will be taken into account? That is what I am talking about. I want to know the actual costs being expended not some formula that represents average costs.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I hear what the noble Lord says and he will recognise that when we produce the closures guidance we will address ourselves to these issues. It is a point of judgment. Any cost-benefit analysis is bound to be an issue of judgment about the range of the factors to be involved. I understand what the noble Lord is saying. He is making a plea for the recognition that an excessively broad brush approach can ignore costs which need to be taken into account in the way he has identified. We need to develop that issue over the course of time with regard to closures.

We recognise the value of the point that he makes, but he will also appreciate that it is not possible for me, within the framework of this debate, to drop a cost benefit analysis model on every single closure proposal that might emerge with regard to the railway. I accept the point about the broader brush issues with regard to environmental costs, the strict evaluation of the question of revenue against costs and the consequent costs for other parts of the network system. I accept that point entirely and it is well made on his part. What I do not see is that that is in any way outwith the broad proposals which we are developing with our closures guidance.

On the final point and underpinning all this—and this issue was raised at the beginning of the debate—is the suspicion that the Treasury might have some malign intent to cut costs and therefore will interfere with the railway. Let me say what is absolutely clear: the public authorities funding the railways are responsible for the initiation of closures. Of course, the Treasury underpins all government expenditure, but it should be recognised that it is unfair to leap from the Secretary of State and other public funding authorities' responsibilities with regard to the railways and say that a relatively minor closure might be enforced on the railway by direct Treasury interference. I refute that concern.

Lord Bradshaw

Before the Minister sits down and the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, moves on, I want to press the Minister very hard on this matter. We want to know what actual money is being expended. I am not asking him to invent any formulae at all. I am just asking whether we can know the amount of money that has been spent in the past three years. That is the question. The second question that the Minister has not answered is that relating to the third-party operator.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I will undertake to write to the noble Lord on the first specific point that he identified because I cannot give him figures at this time. Within the framework of the amendments that are proposed I have met the points he has made.

Lord Rotherwick

I was not expecting that these modest and sensible amendments would take so long to get to the end of. I was very grateful for the unanimity of views of Committee Members although I was not sure whether I detected a certain amount of teasing from the noble Lord, Lord Snape, at one point. Maybe I am wrong. I was excited at one point when the Minister, who had so kindly given me this letter, seemed extremely sympathetic to the views behind some of these amendments until I realised that he was not being sympathetic to my amendments. Indeed, he called my amendments "not necessary".

I have to say, especially given the views expressed here today by everybody other than the Minister, it seems sensible that the Secretary of State is not as he put it just "closely involved", but should be involved in the final decision so that there is a straightforward, simple accountability of somebody to Parliament. Indeed, as part of the amendment it seems only sensible that Parliament should be aware that this process is going on so that the whole thing cannot be swept under the carpet and nobody found responsible.

On the second amendment on closures guidance, after eight years of this Government, with three transport Ministers, five rail reviews and countless considerations, it is common sense that we do not just accept closure guidance which, as the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw says, can be modified in Clause 42(6) and new guidance published. In other words, it has no meaning whatever. It is totally meaningless. Only today, in a speech to the National Rail Conference, Alistair Darling called for a commonsense approach to rail services—well this seems quite common sense. With all the muddle and confusion, these guidances are bound to get changed, so something firm must be in the Bill.

With this common sense, we would obviously like to read the Minister's comments before saying any more, but we will return to the matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 66 not moved.]

Clause 34 agreed to.

Clause 35 [Closures eligible to be treated as minor modifications]:

Viscount Astormoved Amendment No. 67:

Page 38, line 7, at end insert"; and

(c) passengers travelling on such a train will not be required to pay an additional fare on account of an increase in journey length"

The noble Viscount said: This is a simple probing amendment that would ensure that passengers would not have to face additional costs if they had to endure a longer journey because of a closure decision. Some alternative routes may be longer in distance than the original ones even if the travelling time is not increased substantially. We believe that no financial penalty should fall on passengers for closure decisions, which will presumably be based on making significant financial savings for Network Rail or the operator. I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure me. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham

In contrast to the last debate, I hope to be excessively brief. I can give the noble Viscount that assurance. This type of minor modification has not, in our experience, ever led to passengers paying higher fares and we cannot conceive of the circumstances under which that might arise. Therefore, I hope that the noble Viscount will recognise that what we have in the Bill gives the same protection as in the Railways Act 1993 and that there is no cause for anxiety.

Viscount Astor

I am grateful to the Minister and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendment No. 68: Page 38, line 9, after "network" insert "consists of a stretch of track which

The noble Lord said: This amendment would merely make a very minor amendment to the drafting of Clause 35 of the Bill, which is concerned with closures eligible to be treated as minor modifications. Subsections (3) and (4) of Clause 35 are concerned with the circumstances when closures of parts of the network can be treated as "minor modifications". Subsection (4) refers to a stretch of track "mentioned in subsection …3)". However subsection (3) does not actually expressly refer to a stretch of track.

The amendment corrects this small anomaly by inserting the words, consists of a stretch of track which", at the appropriate place in subsection (3). This ensures that the subsections of the clause are consistent with each other. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 35, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 36 agreed to.

Clause 37 [Discontinuence of experimental passenger services]:

Viscount Astormoved Amendment No. 69:

Page 40, line 30, at end insert"; and

(c) gives the reason why the service is not considered suitable for continued provision"

The noble Viscount said: This amendment relates to the discontinuance of experimental passenger services. I assume that the main reason for proposing the discontinuation of an experimental service would probably be when a service had failed to attract the customers who were originally expected. However, it would be reasonable to expect some detailed account of performance against expectations to be given in explanation for the withdrawal of the service. I hope that the Minister can again give me an assurance on this matter. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I cannot quite see how the amendment would improve the Bill, but I recognise that the noble Viscount has an anxiety about this issue. I would hope that any responsible operator would explain to its passengers why an experimental service had been withdrawn. That would be part of the train operator's normal communications with passengers.

In most cases, the discontinuance would probably be for clear commercial reasons—for example, fares income from the service had failed to live up to expectations. I see no need to make a statutory requirement to include reasons for discontinuance in the discontinuance notice required under Clause 37. I do not think that we have had any great demand for this from passengers. Therefore, I hope that the noble Viscount will withdraw his amendment.

Viscount Astor

I am grateful for the Minister's response. Perhaps he can help me. Clause 37(3)(b), where my amendment would have been inserted, states: The notice required to be given under this section is a notice which … (b) is published in the required manner". What does "required manner" mean and would it have made my amendment redundant?

Lord Davies of Oldham

That is exactly the point. All significant closures are covered by the clause and by our closures guidance. What we are talking about here is an experimental service of a very limited kind. We just do not see that there is a statutory requirement to include these reasons for discontinuance.

Viscount Astor

I am grateful to the Minister. I think that he has given the reassurance that I require and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 37 agreed to.

Clause 38 agreed to.

Viscount Astor

moved Amendment No. 70: After Clause 38, insert the following new clause—

"REDUNDANT ASSETS' REGISTER The Secretary of State shall every three years lay before each House of Parliament a register of all assets including land and property owned by Network Rail which are redundant to railway use or which have not been used for railway purposes during the preceding eighteen months, together with a statement of intent regarding their future use or disposal.

The noble Viscount said: We have had various discussions in Committee about the assets that are held by the railways both directly by the Secretary of State and by the company that was BR limited. My amendment attempts to elucidate from the Government how we can improve the exploitation of these huge property assets. The best parallel to give is that if we examine what has happened in the aviation industry and in airports in this country, in even quite small regional airports, passenger facilities are very good. They have hugely improved over the past few years. Indeed, even in airports that have train connections, huge improvements have been made to the comfort and convenience of passengers. That is in contrast to many railway stations. I do not think that many of them have been changed since they were originally built in the previous century or even the one before that.

4.45 p.m.

I hope that the Minister will not accuse me of encouraging a massive sale of assets, but the amendment would put the Secretary of State on notice that there must be an incentive to speed up the exploitation of the property assets to encourage the building of secure car parks, which are important, and to encourage the improvements required in stations. That is what we are attempting to do. I accept that the amendment could be argued to be rather severe when it comes to asking the Secretary of State to respond every three years, but the intention is right. Perhaps there are other ways of achieving the same outcome. I will listen with care to the Minister's response. I beg to move.

Lord Berkeley

This is an interesting amendment. It rather follows on from Amendment No. 2 about residual BR property which I moved on the first Committee day. I do not know whether the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, is aware—I mentioned it at the time—that Network Rail has two types of land holding—railway lands and property. The railway lands are within the regulatory regime under which Network Rail operates, so they should not be disposed of except with the regulator's permission—a process must be gone through.

However, the noble Viscount has a point about getting both types of land holdings identified. Network Rail, although it is not officially in the public sector, gets most of its money from the public sector so there is therefore a public interest. Such identification could easily be done by putting the information that he requires in the Rail Regulator's information room, which is one of the commitments that the regulator has made. The noble Viscount is right: the objective must be that, if the land has any chance of future railway use—for a car park, new line, siding or whatever—it should be retained for such and not sold off for building two-storey flats or something, because you can never get it back.

Lord Davies of Oldham

The amendment, when moved in another place, was conceived of as a probing amendment. A useful debate took place, and then the amendment was withdrawn. I hope that I am able to persuade the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, to follow that strategy with regard to his amendment once I have given an explanation—which I hope will meet the points that he made in moving the amendment and those of my noble friend Lord Berkeley. It may be helpful if I explain the background to the management and disposal of railway land.

At privatisation, ownership of operational railway land was transferred to Railtrack plc—now Network Rail Infrastructure Limited. The British Railways Board retained the non-operational land and buildings. That estate was transferred to BRB (Residuary) Ltd, a subsidiary of the Strategic Rail Authority, on the SRA's establishment on 1 February 2001. As part of the periodic review process, Network Rail is encouraged to maximise its income from all sources, including the redevelopment of its land and property, by exploiting appropriate disposal opportunities. However, a balance is needed to ensure that future rail development opportunities are not sacrificed—a point that my noble friend sought to emphasise with regard to this amendment and on preceding amendments dealing with closures—to produce short-term financial gain through disposals. Network Rail is regulated by the Office of Rail Regulation, and it must seek that body's consent before making arrangements for land disposal.

Network Rail's forecast income from property was closely scrutinised by ORR as part of the access charges review of 2003 to ensure that Network Rail was maximising the revenue generating potential from its property portfolio.

In the conclusions to the review, the ORR determined that Network Rail should earn £1.2 billion in property income over the five years from 1 April 2004—£50 million more than Network Rail had forecast. That is a challenging target for Network Rail. It is clearly best for Network Rail to determine, first, how best to manage its property portfolio on a day-to-day basis to optimise revenue from it, without compromising its core business of operating, maintaining and renewing the rail network; and, secondly, to decide how long such land and property should be retained. Indeed, it may sometimes be appropriate for land to be held for more than 18 months—the period cited in the amendment—pending possible future development. It would not be sensible for government servants to get involved in such decisions.

The ORR, therefore, already regulates and monitors the disposal of Network Rail's land and property. Network Rail's network licence includes a condition, imposed by the Rail Regulator, which prevents the disposal of land by Network Rail unless the ORR consents to the disposal. In reaching a decision, the ORR will consult various railway industry stakeholders for their views. Consent is likely to be refused, if the land may be important to the continuing operation and further development of the network and services relating to railways.

The purpose of the licence condition is to ensure that the parts of the Network Rail property portfolio that may be required for the future development of the railway are retained for that purpose, which is the most important of the considerations. Where consent for disposal is given—that may be in an individual case or in accordance with a general consent covering specified categories of land—the decision on whether, when and how land should be disposed of is a commercial one for Network Rail. The licence condition therefore aims to protect the public interest while allowing Network Rail an appropriate and specified degree of freedom to deal with its land assets in the ordinary course of its business.

The general consent is intended to permit, without requiring individual consents, a large class of disposals that would not have any appreciable effect on the future development of the railway. They include disposals routinely required in the rail industry—leases to station operators, construction and leases to operate light maintenance depots.

I hope that it will be recognised that there is a tight structure in this framework on property disposal in which the Office of Rail Regulation plays its proper role in safeguarding the public interest. On that basis, I hope that the noble Viscount will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Viscount Astor

The Minister really addressed his remarks more to disposal than to use, which was part of my amendment. The thrust of my argument is that there does not seem to be adequate incentive for the development of rail estate. It is perfectly possible to build an office on top of a car park which pays for the car park, and there are plenty of examples like that. We should focus on the development potential, keeping the assets within the network rather than disposal. The Minister did not really address that, and I am not clear about how we focus Network Rail's energies on that. I understand that the Office of the Rail Regulator would not have a remit in this case because it is purely about disposals.

This is something that needs to be thought through a little better. Whether it could be achieved through some form of directional guidance to the Secretary of State is perhaps something that we will need to consider. I am grateful to the Minister for his reply, but I wonder whether he might consider use and development between now and the next stage. If he has anything further to add, he could write to me before Report. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave. withdrawn.

Clause 39 [Quality contracts schemes in connection with service modifications]:

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Fookes)

I remind the Committee that if Amendment No. 71 is agreed to I cannot call Amendment No. 72 because of pre-emption.

Lord Bradshaw

moved Amendment No. 71: Page 42, line 9, leave out from "securing" to end of line 11 and insert "either—

  1. (i) that making a quality contracts scheme is an appropriate way of securing that the transport needs of the potential users of a relevant railway service that has been or is to be reduced or discontinued are met; or
  2. (ii) that the operation of local services is more closely integrated with a relevant railway service where this contributes to meeting the transport needs of potential users of the relevant railway service."

The noble Lord said: The amendment is a relatively simple one, and it is unlikely to be used unless finances get very tight and passenger transport executives get short of money. It refers to the making of quality contract schemes, where several branch services would be withdrawn and they would be obliged to make substitute bus services run in their place. That would probably put the passenger transport executive in a position in which it might wish to implement bus quality contracts. In theory, the existing powers to make quality contracts where they are the only practical way of implementing bus strategies should provide the necessary power to require the integration of bus services with rail where that would otherwise not occur. However, the "only practicable way" test makes current quality contract powers difficult to use.

The drafting refers to local bus services, as referred to in the Transport Act 2000, being more closely integrated with the relevant railway services. In the context of quality contracts, the debate on Clause 39 in the Standing Committee is relevant because the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Mr McNulty, referred to the July 2004 White Paper on transport. He said: We have provided what he seeks to achieve, which is to look at the introduction of quality bus contracts where there is an offer by an authority to put its bus services into the wider integrated transport solution and vision for its area. That is not simply reducing the period to six months. That is not simply the rather narrow provisions of the Transport Act 2000, which effectively had the contracts as a last resort, although we think that they go beyond that. In the context of a fully integrated and comprehensive transport strategy for an area, we have said to authorities that we would consider allowing them to go down the route of the quality bus contract".—[Official Report, Commons Standing Committee A, 13/1/05; cols. 246–247.]

That acknowledges the narrowness of Section 124 of the Transport Act 2000. However, the White Paper contains no additional proposals to relax the provisions of that section but refers only to the DFT supporting authorities and providing transport innovation fund funding for proposals that combine bus enhancements, probably through a quality contract, with measures to reduce congestion. It is not clear how a more supportive approach in the DFT, even if it is set out in published guidance, will necessarily overcome the "only practicable way" test in the previous legislation.

The amendment would also ensure that street-running tramways and other guided transport systems, excluding trolleybuses, were included in the definition of a railway for the purpose of quality contract provisions. I beg to move.

Lord Snape

How does the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, envisage these powers being used? Can he give us any specific examples? I remind noble Lords of the declaration of interest that I made at the start of the Committee: I work for the National Express Group, which operates stage carriage services as well as trains, particularly in the west Midlands.

Noble Lords will be aware that the bus industry as a whole has expressed its opposition to the principle of quality contracts. I suspect that the clause that we are discussing is an artful way round those objections and that the phrase that my noble friend used—"democratically elected authorities"—means that they can have their quality contract, provided that they get rid of some of their trains. Am I being unduly suspicious? Can my noble friend give us any examples of how he thinks that the clause, whether or not it is amended, will be implemented?

5 P.m.

Viscount Astor

My Amendment No. 72 is grouped with this. I tabled it purely so that I could ask the Minister a question. There may be instances where a service is closed. When it comes to quality contracts schemes, what can be done to make sure that a bus service can be closely integrated with an existing local railway network in the event of the closure of part of the network? Following the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Snape, I should like to understand better how the quality contract schemes will work? Will there be two services running in parallel? Clearly they have to be integrated to provide a sensible scheme for passengers.

Lord Davies of Oldham

Both amendments are similar in purpose and effect although different in detail. Both would considerably widen the scope for passenger transport authorities to develop quality contracts schemes for bus services without having to demonstrate that such schemes are the only practicable way of meeting policy objectives.

Local bus services outside London have been deregulated since 1986. Routes, frequencies and fares are largely determined by the operators, though with a power for local authorities to fill the gaps by subsidising socially necessary services that the market is not able to provide. The Transport Act 2000 created various opportunities for local authorities, including the PTAs, to take a more active role in improving the standard of bus services. The most radical of these measures is the quality contracts scheme.

Quality contracts schemes suspend the deregulated market in bus services within a defined area, and allow the authority to specify routes, frequencies, timings and fares of services in the area covered by the scheme. The authority must invite tenders for the contracts to provide these services.

A quality contracts scheme therefore imposes a considerable restraint on operators in the area, particularly those who do not win contracts. It is a powerful tool and we expect it to be used with considerable care. For that reason, exacting criteria were included in the Transport Act 2000 to ensure that transport authorities were satisfied, and could satisfy the Secretary of State, that they could not achieve the same objectives within the framework of the deregulated market.

The purpose of Clause 39 is to facilitate the replacement of rail services by bus where this makes economic sense. This clause is not the trigger for a rail closure, but if a closure or service reduction is embarked on, it increases the potential for finding a suitable bus replacement in a circumstance that is, most probably, outside the scope of the authority's bus strategy, so the usual test relating to the bus strategy would not work. That is why we have this clause.

A further consideration is that where a quality contracts scheme will replace a franchised rail service rather than a deregulated bus service, it is not necessary to offer so much protection to commercial operators. There might be some impact on commercial services at the margin but there would also be opportunities for bus operators to take over the passengers who had previously relied on rail.

If either Amendments Nos. 71 or 72 were accepted, we would no longer be concerned solely with replacing rail by bus but with bringing connecting bus services within a franchising system in the name of integration. I note the ordinance of forbearance that my noble friend Lord Snape applied by not talking about integration proposed by the other side of the Committee, and I shall resist the temptation too. That would certainly be a much more radical incursion into the commercial networks developed by the operators and would go a long way beyond anything that was contemplated in The Future of Transport and The Future of Rail White Papers that we published last summer.

It is not necessary to amend the Transport Act powers for this purpose. If a passenger transport authority or any other local authority sees a need for improving integration between the modes, and has adopted it as part of the bus strategy and concludes that it cannot satisfactorily implement that policy without quality contracts, it is open to the authority after local consultation to approach the Secretary of State with a scheme. Such schemes will be looked at on their merits.

However, if the phrase "only practicable way" were removed, we should also remove the incentive on PTEs to seek partnership agreements with operators, which on the whole secure much better value for money and allow the parties to work together to overcome the problems that really thwart bus operation, such as traffic congestion. It would encourage the tendency of certain local authorities to want to control everything and to ignore the positive input in planning that operators can provide with their knowledge of the local market.

Those are the reasons why we cannot accept the amendments. They significantly extend a concept that is defined in fairly narrow terms, which is required and used by the bus industry, into a framework that would cause great difficulty in ensuring that Clause 38 worked. It is on that basis that I hope the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Snape

I wrote down the elegant phrase that my noble friend used. Will he confirm that—to use his own words—in order to facilitate the replacement of rail services by buses the authorities concerned must satisfy the Secretary of State, whereas if they just want to withdraw the rail services they do not? Is there not a slight inconsistency there?

Lord Davies of Oldham

We are talking about specific quality contracts. My noble friend will recognise that in the Transport Act these are defined and drawn up in very specific terms. That is why there is an extra sanction relating to them.

Lord Bradshaw: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 72 and 73 not moved.]

Clause 39 agreed to.

Clause 40 [Substitute road services]:

Viscount Astor

moved Amendment No. 74: Page 44, line 9, at end insert— ( ) A substitute bus service for a discontinued railway passenger service shall be guaranteed by the relevant national authority for a period of at least five years from the date of the discontinuation of the railway service, and such a guarantee shall include a frequency of service not less than that previously provided by the railway service.

( ) The timetable of a substitute bus service for a discontinued railway passenger service shall be—

  1. (a) published in the national rail timetable; and
  2. (b) co-ordinated as far as is reasonably practicable with previously connecting rail services at either end of the bus journey such that comparable connections can be maintained."

The noble Viscount said: I apologise to the Committee for the complication of my amendment, which I hardly understand myself. I shall confine myself to asking the Minister a simple question, which is the thought behind the amendment. I am concerned that in the event of a closure of a rail service, public transport is not lost altogether; that there is a substitute service. I should be very grateful for an assurance from the Minister. I beg to move.

Lord Bradshaw

I support the amendment. If a bus service is substituted for a discontinued railway passenger service, I would ask that it is designed imaginatively; that somebody does not send the bus in a sort of zigzag up and down roads to stations where nobody is; and that we put on a bus service that people are likely to use. I hope that there will not be many cases. I hope that attempts will be made to make the bus service as attractive as possible.

Lord Berkeley

This is a useful amendment. I do not know whether it goes far enough. One has only to think about trying to make journeys over a reasonable distance outside the south-east commuting area by public transport—they are pretty low anyway. How do you find a way of using a bus, a train, another train and another bus in an area that you do not know well, let alone when suddenly the service is closed and there is a so-called "replacement bus service"? This is what the Department of Transport's Transport Direct computerised service is supposed to do. I have raised the point on a number of occasions that it does not actually work properly.

This is a brave attempt by the noble Viscount to make sure that buses substituting for rail services remain on the timetable. In fact, it should be like the Swiss system, where every bus is on the timetable and you can guarantee a connection. Oh that it worked here, with or without quality contracts.

Lord Snape

We have been down this road on many occasions. How many substitute bus services that were introduced in the wake of the rail closures in the 1960s and early 1970s are still running today?

Lord Davies of Oldham

I have the answer to that in my back pocket; I do not have the slightest difficulty in responding to that question. I hear what my noble friend says. Of course I sympathise with the sentiments behind the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor. That is why he has attracted a degree of support across the Committee. However, we do not think it appropriate to set out in legislation requirements for publicising timetables or co-ordinating services. It is just not appropriate to require that all such services be provided for five years and at a specified minimum frequency. To be effective and efficient, substitute road services must be tailored to meet the specific local circumstances. As my noble friend Lord Berkeley indicated, you must have regard to the locality. A 10-minute rail journey could easily be translated into one of an hour and a half by bus if the bus is obliged to do everything that the train is able to do in terms of connections but by vastly different and tortuous routes. We recognise the difficulties.

Of course it is part of our closures guidance to require those who make closure proposals to assess reasonable alternative transport provision such as substitute road services. No doubt these will also be considered as part of the consultation carried out in accordance with Schedule 7. I hope that closure proposals referred to the Office of Rail Regulation will include details of such services that the body making the proposal intended to secure or provide, where appropriate. That would allow the Office of Rail Regulation to impose a closure requirement, if it issued a closure ratification notice, so putting the relevant body under an obligation to provide the substitute road services it said it would. This is bearing in mind what my noble friend Lord Snape sought to indicate—it is easier to promise than to deliver. If we are looking for alternatives to the rail system, it is important to guarantee that there is proper evaluation of the alternate strategy. I recognise the value of the debate, but it would not be appropriate for the amendment to be included in the clause.

Lord Berkeley

I was interested to hear my noble friend say that the Office of Rail Regulation could stipulate that an alternative bus service had to be provided. Who would make sure that that happened during the specified period? Does the rail regulator have jurisdiction over who runs bus services and where? If he does and can impose hefty fines if the people responsible do not do what they are supposed to do, as well as publishing timetables, that might be acceptable.

Lord Davies of Oldham

The Office of Rail Regulation would have had the opportunity of examining in full what the alternative would be and would seek to obtain assurances on it. That would be the whole point of whether there was a closure notice or not. Subsequent to that, the Office of Rail Regulation having laid down conditions, the operator has to meet the requirements that he has undertaken.

Lord Berkeley

And if he does not?

5.15 p.m.

Viscount Astor

While the Minister is considering his reply, I am concerned about the rural community having no service at all. I should like him to confirm whether I have understood correctly that the Office of Rail Regulation can allow a closure if the regulator could get assurances from, say, the local authority, that it was either going to put on a bus service or issue a franchise for a bus service to take its place. Is that how it would work in those circumstances?

Lord Davies of Oldham

I am happy to confirm that there is an order-making power which the ORR could follow through to ensure that the conditions which it had imposed were fulfilled.

Viscount Astor

I am grateful to the Minister. That satisfies our concerns that there will be an alternative service that is reasonable and meets the requirements of those who suddenly lose their service. We want to make sure that those living in such areas are not suddenly bereft of any public service transport at all. That is the point we were all trying to make. I am grateful for the Minister's response and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 40 agreed to.

Clause 41 agreed to.

Clause 42 [Closures guidance]:

Lord Berkeley

moved Amendment No. 75: Page 46, line 29, at end insert— (5A) Guidance published under this section shall include guidance on the consideration of the impact of any proposed closure on the interests set out in subsection (5B), and criteria for assessing—

  1. (a) the acceptability of such impacts;
  2. (b) the necessity of mitigating the impacts; and
  3. (c) the adequacy of such mitigation that is proposed.

(5B) The interests referred to in subsection (5A) are the interests of—

  1. (a) the providers of services for the carriage of goods by railway;
  2. (b) the providers of services for the carriage of passengers by railway otherwise than under a franchise agreement; and
  3. (c) investors or likely investors in the services referred to in paragraphs (a) and (b)."

The noble Lord said: We have not spoken to this clause because we decided to separate it from the Amendment No. 66 group. I shall not detain the Committee long because I have covered most of the issues I wanted to cover on those amendments. I think that Amendment No. 77 is similar.

My main concern is that in the closure procedures in this part of the Bill proper appraisals are made for all the impacts that might occur; mitigating measures and so on. Interest would be required to be given to those who provide what you might call a "private sector" part of the industry, which are rail freight, the non-franchised passenger people and the investors. On that basis, I beg to move.

Viscount Astor

My Amendment No. 77 is grouped with this amendment, but I shall not be speaking to Amendment No. 78 because the Minister dealt with that at an earlier stage. The amendment follows the principles of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. It is about consultation. I have put in as an idea "relevant local authority associations" and "the rail freight industry". I might as well have put in the noble Lords, Lord Snape and Lord Berkeley, as consultees instead. That would have entirely satisfied the matter. I imagine that the Minister will be able to give me an assurance that at least perhaps all those bodies and people will be consulted.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I have some objection to the opposition giving inducements to my noble friends to make more contributions. Their rewards need to be no greater than they are at present from what I can see in the way of incentives.

I say to my noble friend that of course we understand the point he makes in Amendment No. 75. We recognise the necessity to protect the interests of freight operators and those who provide non-franchise passenger services in the new closures procedures. But we do not want the Bill to be prescriptive about the guidance on closures and what it should and should not contain. It needs to have some flexibility to take account of developments over time. The latest note on closure guidance, which I indicated had been circulated, makes it clear that the assessment of any closure will look at the impact on all rail users and operators, including freight operators, as necessary.

We do not think there is a need for a statutory duty that local authority associations and, indeed, the freight industry itself must be consulted on the content of the closures guidance. Our firm intention, which underpins everything about the Bill, is that they should be, and will he, consulted. We recognise and welcome their significant contribution to the development of the railways. That is why there is no need to specify in the Bill that they will be consulted.

I hope that Members of the Committee will be satisfied with my response and that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Berkeley

I am grateful to my noble friend for that short explanation. I think that we have covered the necessary ground. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 76 to 78 not moved.]

Clause 42 agreed to.

Clause 43 agreed to.

Clause 44 [Interpretation of Part 4]:

[Amendments Nos. 79 and 80 not moved.]

Clause 44 agreed to.

Viscount Astor

moved Amendment No. 81 After Clause 44, insert the following new clause— "NETWORK ENHANCEMENTS

  1. (1) Any of the bodies listed in this Part who are given the power to propose the discontinuation of a passenger service or to close a station in consequence of provisions contained in this Part, may propose to the national authority the improvement of or enhancement to an existing service or facility.
  2. (2) Such a proposal may include the laying of additional track, including the extension of a line beyond its existing limits.
  3. (3) The appropriate national authority shall respond to any proposal made to it within three months and shall publish its decision."

The noble Viscount said: Part 4 is largely about closure procedures. Further to the Minister's remark earlier about developing and expanding the network, we think that the opportunity should not be missed to allude to that in the legislation. Network modification should be allowed to include proposals to make improvements and enhancements. This is an opportunity that should not be missed to include an appropriate mechanism for network enhancement. It would also help to dispel the impression, which am sure the Minister did not mean to give, that the legislation is overwhelmingly about service reductions and closures. I beg to move.

Lord Snape

I congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, on the contents of the amendment. I could not hope to match the eloquence of my noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham, but I am sure that he will readily reciprocate the sentiments behind the amendment. He has pointed out to us that noble Lords on both sides of the Committee have been gloomy about the railway's prospects. Here at last is a ray of sunshine about to fall upon us all, particularly in the West Midlands, where the passenger transport executive is anxious to see the quadrupling of the railway line between Coventry and Wolverhampton because of the amount of congestion there. It seems a splendid scheme that ought to be readily adopted. I hope that my noble friend, with his customary enthusiasm for seeing the brighter side of life, will feel able to accept this well worded amendment.

Lord Berkeley

I, too, support the amendment. Among the 22 clauses on closures it is great to have a proposed clause on growth. It would be nice if everybody knew about it. Given the difficulty of putting in a small connection or railway line that is caused by legislation such as the Transport and Works Act 1992, or a hybrid Bill for big projects, Network Rail, the rail regulator and everything else, it would be absolutely great if it were as simple as proposed.

Lord Davies of Oldham

Of course I always regard my noble friend Lord Snape as bringing a little ray of sunshine into proceedings, as he has done again on this occasion. But I am afraid that I will bring a small cloud on to the horizon—nothing that would in any way cause real distress. Nevertheless, I cannot accept the amendment, not because I do not share the sentiments behind it, like the rest of the Committee, in its recognition of the capacity of the railway for enhancement. We all recognise that there are opportunities ahead that we expect and hope will be seized. With the Government's commitment, the resources will be made available.

The amendment provides an obvious symmetry. It balances the network modification provisions of the Bill, which, as noble Lords indicated, are concerned overwhelmingly with closure. But the reason why they are included in the Bill, and why provisions on network enhancement do not need to be included, is that we require the provision of statutory protection of those whose services might be discontinued under the proposals, or whose networks and stations might be closed.

Protection that is necessary in adverse circumstances is clearly not necessary with the concept of enhancement. Those concerned would welcome improvements to the services, so we do not need the balancing factor with regard to enhancement or improvement that we inevitably need for modifications that reduce services.

Rail funding authorities already have ways in which they can propose enhancements of the network or improvements to services. Many have done so to good effect. At the risk of boring the Committee with what every Member well knows as a result of their assiduous attention to the Government's achievements, the West Coast Main Line upgrade now costs almost £8 billion and is reaching its final stage. The southern region new trains project's power upgrade and other works cost over £600 million. The Chiltern Evergreen project, valued at £75 million, improves services between London Marylebone and Bicester. I shall give a Scottish example so that the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, may feel included in these virtues: the reopening of the Larkhall to Milngavie line in Strathclyde. There is an upgrade in the Vale of Glamorgan to provide additional services and stations at £16 million.

Enhancement is going on apace. That is a reflection of the resources that have been made available. Funding authorities can make enhancement proposals directly to operators, Network Rail or the train operating companies. Alternatively, they can do so as part of more formal processes such as route utilisation strategies, which Network Rail will be carrying out in the future, or in consultation about franchise specifications. So we do not need powers for enhancement and we do not need protection against it because, like all Members of the Committee, all members of the public will welcome them.

Lord Berkeley

That was a very good list of achievements of the railways, public and private sector. I like the use of the word "enhancement" but I still worry about the word "modification". If you have your leg cut off, in this parlance it would be leg modification. I worry about that word in this context. Anyway, it was a very interesting explanation.

Viscount Astor

I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation. I think that I understand the concept, about which he talks, of how improvements to existing services would work. I am not entirely clear what the process would be if someone wanted either to extend the line or to introduce a new line. Presumably, that would go through the Office of Rail Regulation. Indeed, would the rail regulator itself look at it? We know that the rail regulator will have not only powers but the ability to carry out reviews and do other things. I presume that the rail regulator could come up with its own scheme, perhaps pressed by public pressure, for Network Rail and the train operating companies to look at a new service. It could work that way round as well.

Perhaps I have got it wrong; if so, the Minister might write to me. I am grateful for his response. There will certainly be situations where services will be improved, and there may be some where new services are put on. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Clause 45 agreed to.

5.30 p.m.

Schedule 9 agreed to.

Clause 46 agreed to.

Clause 47 [Code of practice for disabled rail users in Scotland]:

[Amendment No. 82 not moved.]

Clause 47 agreed to.

Clauses 48 to 50 agreed to.

Clause 51 [Duty of Passenger Transport Executives to advise Secretary of State]:

Lord Berkeley

moved Amendment No. 83: Page 56, line 4, at end insert "passenger

The noble Lord said: This is a simple amendment. Given the fact that "railway services" at line 5 on page 56 is defined as covering passengers and freight, I cannot see why the passenger transport executives should be required to give advice to the Secretary of State on matters to do with freight. I do not know how much they know about freight but I do not think that the PTEs' remit covers freight. Therefore, I thought that it would be useful to insert the word "passenger" to clarify the matter. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham

The Government envisage that the vast majority of requests in relation to this duty would relate to passenger services, as my noble friend indicated. However, passenger transport executives have a responsibility to consider transport in its entirety within their metropolitan area. It is therefore possible that they may wish to give advice on freight matters. The Secretary of State might be grateful for that.

I do not believe that a request of that kind would present problems. The Secretary of State would generally request advice on freight service matters only where such matters clearly impacted on the PTEs' role in promoting public transport within their areas. He would take this advice into account alongside that sought from a number of other relevant sources, including the freight industry. Therefore, I do not think that my noble friend need worry about this matter. I understand that his amendment aims to make specific reference to passenger services only. However, one could envisage instances in which a PTE could be expected to give advice on an aspect of freight services although I recognise that would be infrequent. I do not believe that the amendment is merited. I hope that my noble friend will accept those comments.

Lord Berkeley

I am grateful to my noble friend. I wish that I always shared his optimism. I believe that generally the advice from PTEs regarding freight is, "We do not need freight; that way we can get more of our passenger trains on the line". However, I hear what my noble friend says. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 51 agreed to.

Lord Rotherwick

moved Amendment No. 84: After Clause 51, insert the following new clause—


  1. (1) No train operating company may install on-board television sets in their passenger services unless they have consulted with 70% of their regular customers, and half of them have consented to the idea.
  2. (2) No train operating company may run a train unless half of the carriages provided are free from on-board television sets."

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 84 is designed to crack down on what can only be considered as a growing menace on our railways. Indeed, it would appear that train operating companies have acquired a new weapon in their war against the passenger—compulsory TV—to add to uncleaned trains, overcrowding, malfunctioning air conditioning and questionable tea and coffee. Already train journeys are subject to unintelligible announcements, leaking personal stereos, mobile phone conversations, portable DVD players and various other bleeping devices.

Most noble Lords will have experienced the brief "package" to which we are subjected on the Heathrow Express—something that one usually experiences early in the morning and which contains nothing but the repeat news, the repeat news and the repeat news. Often it does not get through to you because by that stage you are just about finished. However, I can only describe the prospect of having to listen to and watch the same clip over and over again on a particularly long journey as akin to some form of water torture. Indeed, I am informed that in fact this nightmare vision is already happening on the commuter lines in Birmingham, as I am sure some members of the Committee can well attest to.

Many passengers use their train journeys for work, reading or quiet contemplation and the spread of these devices would make that almost impossible. If you simply want to read a book or a newspaper it is tough enough as it is, even in the so-called "quiet carriages".

Few of us have the same taste in entertainment. Indeed, members of my family hardly ever want to watch the television programmes that I watch and declare that their choice is always better. Moreover, installing televisions in trains and on other forms of public transport would be a major development in the intrusion of both the media and noise pollution into our environment. Indeed, I am sure that if I looked hard enough I could probably find some European law out there which is designed to safeguard us from such intrusion.

On a serious point, the train operators run a public service and receive enormous amounts of taxpayers' money to do so. Indeed, I cannot help but think that they would be better advised to concentrate their energies on getting the trains to run on time and keeping them clean. I beg to move.

Lord Bradshaw

I support the amendment. I believe that people who travel on trains often do not do so of their own volition. A train journey is a derived demand. You are there because you have to be there and you are captive. It is a gross intrusion of liberty that people who are captive should be subjected to advertisements in particular and to other unwanted noise and interference.

The amendment seeks to provide that half a train's carriages should be free from on-board television sets. That would at least provide a reasonable refuge for people who would otherwise be subjected to what they do not want to listen to. In so many places now, such as hospitals and anywhere where you have to wait, you are subjected to banal advertisements, noise and music. I believe that people would be very grateful to get some relief from that. Therefore, I am very pleased to support this amendment.

Lord Snape

I hesitate to defend Central Trains, which is part of the National Express Group, but it is a guilty party in this regard. As the noble Lord rightly said, commuters in the Birmingham area are subjected to televisions, as he puts it. I share some of the views that have been expressed on the other side of the Committee. I would particularly share them if parliamentary proceedings were all that was televised. I suspect that would result in our suffering even greater unpopularity than we do at the present time. However, I understand that the feedback from passengers using those trains where television sets are provided is extremely positive. Something like 70 per cent of the responses that the National Express Group has received were in favour of on-board televisions. Like noble Lords who have spoken, I cannot quite understand why that is.

We in your Lordships' House are not subject to the vagaries of public opinion so I suppose we could say that, whether people like it or not, we shall withdraw the provision. However, I fear that this is an ever growing trend. The only words of consolation I can offer the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, is that I believe it is better to have advertisements and cartoons than the one-sided mobile telephone conversations which are inflicted upon us all.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I am surprised that noble Lords on the other side of the Committee should introduce the nanny state. Presumably that is because nanny is very keen on turning the television off to enable young people, and adults for that matter, to engage in more worthwhile pursuits. We are not in favour of the nanny state and therefore we do not propose to intrude in what at the end of the day are railway operating companies' decisions. They operate in the commercial market, as my noble friend said. If they introduced a measure that was hugely unpopular and which resulted in a drop in fares and passengers, they would speedily change their stance on the matter.

In a more private capacity I agree with various points that have been made by noble Lords on both sides of the Committee. Passengers suffer a number of grievously irksome intrusions on trains these days. I remember being regaled for two and a half hours by a mobile phone conversation conducted by a French businessman. He spoke of his successful signing of a contract in Manchester that day. By the time I arrived at Euston I was in a position to undercut him and make a small fortune. However, he seemed to be completely unabashed at going into that kind of detail. I do not think that other passengers found that conversation quite as absorbing as I did. We have all had such experiences.

However, the facilities that are extended to passengers on trains must surely be a matter for the operators of train services to determine. In addition to the general principle the proposed new clause raises some real problems. First, there is no definition of the "regular customers" who, it is proposed, would have to be consulted on a proposal to install television. Does that group comprise just season ticket holders? They would certainly expect to be included. But what about passengers who make a journey regularly once a week or once a month? Where is the line drawn regarding who one consults?

Secondly, the proposed new clause would prohibit operators running a train unless half the carriages were free from TV screens. That would create a problem for train operators in circumstances where they suddenly found that they had to withdraw a carriage from service and then discovered that they had the wrong proportion of carriages free from TV screens. Is it suggested that the service should be discontinued because two out of the three carriages or seven out of the eight carriages or whatever had television sets? The proposed new clause is well intended. I have no doubt that we should seek to enhance rail passengers' comfort. That comfort may or may not be enhanced by the provision of television screens. However, that is for passengers to judge according to the fare that they pay and the train operators to decide on the basis of their market research in that respect. It is surely not a matter for the Government to impose.

Lord Rotherwick

I thank noble Lords for expressing varying views. We were trying to represent the 30 per cent of customers who consider that they are having to put up with this provision. I notice that at airports very few people tend to gather in the television area. Most people seem to gather at the opposite end of the building. I can only hope that Central Trains offers an on/off button so that those of us who do not want to watch television can get our own way, if we so wish, with the agreement of the other passengers. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Rotherwick

moved Amendment No. 85: After Clause 51, insert the following new clause—


  1. (1) Network Rail and the appropriate highway authority shall be under a duty to co-operate to ensure the safety and access needs of level crossing users (including pedestrians, cyclists, equestrians and people with mobility and sensory impairment).
  2. (2) In carrying out this duty Network Rail and the appropriate highway authority shall have regard to guidance issued by the appropriate national authority."

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 85 would require Network Rail and the highway authority responsible for level crossings to co-operate to ensure the safety of those using them. In doing so they would have to have regard to the statutory guidance issued by the Secretary of State or the Welsh National Assembly government.

We believe that safety at level crossings is a safety issue which requires urgent attention. The problems faced by blind and partially sighted people at level crossings fall into three broad areas: knowing when they have arrived at a level crossing; knowing when it is safe to cross; and once crossing, knowing that they remain safe and are following the correct line of travel.

Knowing when they have arrived at a level crossing is increasingly difficult for blind and partially sighted people because half barriers are now used. If a person is walking on the right hand side of the road, there is nothing physically to stop him or her from walking on to the tracks. In addition, it is difficult to judge the safe time to cross. Audible signals are generally no longer used to signify that a train is approaching and there are no pedestrian crossing facilities.

Once crossing, people cannot tell if they are safe, and following the correct line of travel is not easy. A directional path—either tactile or visual—is necessary to guide people, and audible clues could also be used for this purpose.

The following quote from the Royal National Institute of the Blind highlights the problem faced by those partially sighted persons when attempting to traverse a level crossing: I don't know when I am approaching a level crossing, whether it is safe to cross, or while I am crossing whether it remains safe. Therefore, although I am a reasonably confident guide dog owner who usually travels on my own I need assistance to use level crossings".

Although there are many possible solutions to these problems, including full barriers, tactile paving and audible clues, more research needs to be done on how these can be linked to signalling. Implementing solutions will require a partnership approach between local authorities and Network Rail, because level crossings cover both highways and railway track. We understand that the safety of each level crossing was recently assessed, but we are not sure how much these assessments took on board the needs of blind and partially sighted pedestrians. We suggest that the department produces statutory guidance about how to make level crossings safe and then requires highway authorities and Network Rail to work in partnership to examine the safety of every level crossing, including for people with physical and sensory impairments.

The Joint Committee on Mobility of Blind and Partially Sighted People raised this with the Minister, Tony McNulty MP, when they met in 2004. He agreed to facilitate setting up a meeting with key parties, including rail and local government, to consider this issue. We are pleased that this will now take place on 16 March 2005. However, perhaps the Minister could give us an update on the Government's current thinking. We would welcome this issue, which affects everyone's safety, being taken forward as a matter of urgency. I beg to move.

Lord Berkeley

I certainly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, that something needs to be done about level crossings. Virtually all the accidents that happen at level crossings are caused by road users rather than the railway. The noble Lord has identified some of the problems. I have also been in discussion with Network Rail and various other organisations. I have been advised that some amendments to make changes to the current legislation on level crossings should go into the Road Safety Bill, if it ever gets to this place, rather than this Bill.

One of the key amendments which I shall be moving, and on which I would welcome the support of the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, and other members of the Committee, proposes that it should be the responsibility of the Highways Authority to look after the road highways pavement part of the level crossing. There is the example of putting a bus stop 10 metres beyond a level crossing so the traffic builds up. There are equal problems for pedestrians, as the noble Lord has identified.

At present, Network Rail has responsibility for the actual road in the middle. If the Highways Authority does not take any notice of Network Rail's advice, there is nothing that Network Rail can do, whereas if the authority was responsible for the complete road and something happened, it would be its fault.

A similar related issue is that if a planning authority allows a development where the only road access is across a level crossing, Network Rail is not even a statutory consultee, even though such a development could have a very serious effect on the amount of road traffic using the crossing.

There is a lot of work to do on this. My noble friend may say that it is too early and that more work needs to be done. I do not think that it is too early; this is a very serious problem and enough work has been done by various organisations to deal with it now. However, I have been advised that such provisions should not be in this Bill.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie

Level crossing safety is certainly worthy of further discussion and thought. I note that in the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine railway, three level crossings are being closed and a new bridge built over the railway to prevent the kind of accidents about which we are worried.

We have already established that the duty of care on the railway managers is greater than would be expected from the road network managers. That is exemplified by the way in which the news media will inevitably describe an accident on a level crossing in the form "Train hits car", when, in fact, the reverse is true and the car hit the train. Newspapers either deliberately get it wrong or expect the train to the "bad one". That is not satisfactory.

Lord Tunnicliffe

I speak in support not particularly of the amendment but of the general concern. I declare my interest as chairman of the Rail Safety and Standards Board.

One of the most useful things that we do for the industry is an annual modelling of risk on the railways. Our latest model, published recently, says that about 81 people will die on the railway each year, the overwhelming majority—just under 48—of whom will be trespassers. The next biggest category is people who will die in level crossing incidents. Our estimates are that, on average, the number is just over 10, which is twice as big as the next biggest category. Of those 10, one will be a passenger; that is, the consequence of the incident will be a derailment or some damage to the train that kills a passenger. One fifth will be a driver—any averaging system will end up with such things—who is likely to be the most involved person in such an incident. The rest—over nine—will be members of the public; that is, pedestrians, car passengers and so on.

So, I urge my noble friend the Minister to accept, in general rather than just in the context of the Bill, that this is an area that the industry and government need to take seriously, particularly if there are to be better relations between road and rail authorities. It is a serious source of risk on the railway. I am not sure how much we can do about it, but we have an overwhelming duty to do all that is reasonably practical.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I am grateful to the noble Lord who moved the amendment and to all others who spoke in the debate. We recognise that safety at level crossings is important to all. There are particular difficulties for those who are handicapped in some way, and we are aware of the representation from the Royal National Institute of the Blind.

I shall not accept the new clause. My noble friend Lord Snape and I are veterans of the mid-1970s and know about hybridity, the horror of all parliamentary legislation. We remember hot summer nights turning into morning while we wrestled with a Bill that had been defined late in the day as having a hybrid quality. The new clause would render this Bill hybrid, and I have no intention of revisiting the horrors of the 1970s in that context or of accepting a new clause that would raise that spectre. In more general terms, of course, I accept the sentiment behind the new clause. I emphasise that the Health and Safety Executive, on behalf of the Secretary of State, specifies the protective arrangements at individual level crossings to which the public have access. That is done through statutory orders, made under the Level Crossings Act 1983. Under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, the rail infrastructure manager—normally, Network Rail—is responsible for reducing risks to crossing users as far as is reasonably practical. Railway infrastructure managers need to work closely with the local highway authorities, a point that has been made in the debate.

Level crossing orders are made following requests by the infrastructure manager to enable the original gates on public road level crossings to be replaced with lights or barriers and after consultation with local planning and highway authorities. The orders specify only items, including signs and road markings, that the rail infrastructure manager is required to provide and maintain. The HSE's railway inspectorate provides guidance on types of crossing and other equipment at level crossings.

The issue of whether tactile surfaces, which are, as the noble Lord indicated when moving the amendment, of particular benefit to the partially sighted or unsighted, are required is assessed formally only when an order is requested for a crossing to be improved. There are no restrictions, however, to prevent the crossing operator or highway authority providing tactile surfaces when required at other crossings. Each public road level crossing which is modified or renewed should normally be provided with tactile surfaces on each approach unless there is very low pedestrian usage or no identifiable footpath on the road approach. Tactile surfaces are installed in accordance with DfT guidance.

The crossing operator is not responsible for the placement of the surface, but I understand that a standard paragraph has been inserted in some recent level crossing orders that requires the crossing operator to seek the co-operation of the local highway authority to provide and maintain the tactile surface. Audible warnings are provided which start before the barriers lower and continue until either full barriers have been lowered or, where full barriers are not provided, until the train passes.

We recognise that there is always scope for making level crossings safer and for encouraging improved cooperation between road and rail authorities. That is why we applaud the establishment of the National Level Crossing Safety Group, an important national forum for discussing and progressing issues relating to level crossing safety. The group was created by the Rail Safety and Standards Board, the HSE and Network Rail in 2002. In addition to the rail industry, its representation includes members from a wide variety of organisations with an interest in level crossing safety. These include the police, the Highways Agency, organisations as varied as the British Horse Society, the Ramblers' Association and the Rail Passengers' Council, which represents the interests of those who travel by train.

The group is keen to involve organisations representing those with mobility or disability needs. It has invited representatives from the Joint Committee on Mobility for Blind and Partially Sighted People and the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee to its June meeting to discuss how these organisations can become more involved in level crossing issues. We have not the slightest doubt that both these bodies are extremely well placed to advance the interests of the disabled and have been very vigorous regarding rail legislation and disabled legislation which contains a rail component.

With a mechanism in place for consultation on these issues, we have no doubt that the expressions of concern about level crossing safety are well placed in the sense that we can never be too careful or too concerned in this respect. The Government share that concern; they have a mechanism in place and expect the situation to continue to improve. However, we cannot accept this new clause.

Lord Rotherwick

I make no apology for bringing forward this amendment on level crossing safety, especially in the light of the figures given by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe. They will obviously give everybody cause for concern and ensure that people strive harder to make level crossings safer. However, I accept that the amendment is a casualty of hybridity. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Berkeley

moved Amendment No. 86: After Clause 51, insert the following new clause—


The Secretary of State shall make regulations requiring—

  1. (a) any person selling rail tickets for use in the UK, and
  2. (b) any person providing facilities in the UK for the use and verification of those rail tickets,
to make such arrangements as are necessary to allow those rail tickets to be purchased, used and verified through interoperable smart media of a type, and meeting the specification, set out in regulations.

The noble Lord said: The amendment is designed to require the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring those selling rail tickets to have one common system of smartcards—interoperable smart media, as it says in the amendment.

This may not seem a terribly important amendment, but it is vital for the travelling public. We are moving to a situation where more authorities, such as PTEs and TfL, have introduced the smartcard. TfL's Oyster card is incredibly successful, and everybody must welcome it. The specification of the new Integrated Transport Smartcard Organisation—ITSO—is supposed to be used for transport ticketing. There is now an Integrated Transport Smartcard Organisation specification for ticketing. It may be late in the day, but it exists now. The problem is that the Oyster card and some other systems do not fit it. We have a situation where everybody will order their own type of smart card and they will not be interoperable, even with that of the next-door city.

6 p.m.

I understand that the new franchises for Chiltern and C2C require them to introduce smartcards as a franchise commitment. That is fine, but they have not done so because, I am told, the person at the Strategic Rail Authority who is responsible for handling this has left for Australia, or somewhere, and has not been replaced. Companies are clearly not introducing smartcards because it is expensive, complicated and difficult. However, I hope that they will introduce them to the Integrated Transport Smartcard Organisation specification.

Now that the Department for Transport is taking full responsibility for the passenger railway and has some role over TfL, if only in the financing, I hope that my noble friend will agree that it is very important that one system is introduced UK-wide before more PTEs and other franchises go for different systems on the basis of the lowest cost. Otherwise, we will get a mishmash of different, totally incompatible systems that will take many years to unravel, if and when the time comes to do so. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I am grateful to my noble friend for this amendment because it gives me the chance to emphasise that the Government are fully behind the concept that integrated ticketing should be expanded as rapidly as possible. It has clear benefits in efficiency and convenience. As my noble friend indicated, the Oyster card system in London is a success, and across the country there are other schemes to implement smartcard-based ticketing on local public transport services.

We are encouraged by the progress that is being made but we agree with my noble friend that ensuring as much uniformity as possible is an important issue. We recognise the key role played by the Integrated Transport Smartcard Organisation and welcome the publication, in March last year, of its standards specification that fulfils the objective that my noble friend so accurately described.

We are working in partnership with the rail sector and TfL to give increased impetus to the introduction of nationally interoperable smartcards on the railways. An example of this is the inclusion in the new franchise template of commitments to ensure that smartcard tickets that are introduced are compliant with the specification to which I referred a few moments ago. I believe that this partnership approach will hit the objectives that I share with my noble friend in a more timely and efficient manner than putting such a requirement in legislation. I hope that my noble friend will recognise that we are fully committed to progress in this respect and that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment on these assurances.

Lord Berkeley

I am grateful to my noble friend. This provided an opportunity for him to make that important progress report and commitment. There is still concern about what will happen to those PTEs—for example, TfL—that have used an alternative system that is not compliant with the new specification. Such PTEs will probably say that if the Government want them to change, they will need lots of money to do so. What is my noble friend's view on that? I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Snape had to leave. He mentioned that Central has a system that is non-compliant; presumably, because it was ordered before the specification came out. At some stage, I hope, all these early systems will be brought into the fold. I wonder how it will be done.

Lord Davies of Oldham

When I emphasise the concept of partnership, it is also the advice being given. The department is talking to Transport for London about enabling Oyster to be made compatible with the specifications. We recognise the significance of the points raised by the noble Lord.

Lord Berkeley

I am very grateful to my noble friend for that additional explanation. I beg Leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Berkeley

moved Amendment No. 87: After Clause 51, insert the following new clause—

"RAIL ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION BRANCH Section 9(4)(b) and (c) of the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 (c. 20) is repealed.

The noble Lord said: This amendment could be placed anywhere in the Bill, but I have tabled it here. Its purpose is to ask my noble friend to clarify the intentions behind the setting up of the Railway Accident Investigation Branch. That was done under the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003.

As I saw it—and I think that other noble Lords will agree—the purpose of setting up the RAIB was to enable an organisation to undertake a quick investigation of an accident and come up with explanations and ideas for ensuring that it did not happen again, without going into blame. The idea was to find the cause of an accident and prevent it happening again.

There was an enormous amount of debate because the British Transport Police and the Health and Safety Commission were very unhappy. They felt that if the RAIB was able to take evidence on a confidential basis from people involved, they would still need to have that information in case they wanted to take action against any individual. It was recognised at the time that, if that was likely to happen, no individual who had been involved would give any information because it could be used in evidence against them. My understanding was that the compromise that was reached is to be found in Section 9 of the Act, to which my amendment refers. It meant that if the Health and Safety Commission or the British Transport Police wanted to get hold of that confidential information, they would have to get a court order to receive it.

I have done some investigation into how frequently that has happened in similar industries. The most similar organisation is the CAA for air. I was informed that nobody has gone to court in living memory to get evidence that the CAA has obtained confidentially to use in action against someone who had charges laid against him.

My attention was drawn to this by a letter quoted in the March 2005 edition of The Railway Magazine. It was from the Health and Safety Executive to the Rail Accident Investigation Branch. It stated that, notwithstanding the intentions in setting up the RAIB under the Railways and Transport Safety Act, it was the Health and Safety Executive's intention to apply to court, on every occasion when legal proceedings are under consideration in order to check the reliability of potential witnesses". In other words, if it thought that anything had any chance of being involved in future court action, it would, as a matter of course, go to court and require the evidence to be produced. I understand that in the past year the HSE would have done that 12 times. The CAA has never done it.

I believe that although this was put in the Bill as a compromise—and I thought that it was reasonable at the time—this action by the Health and Safety Executive is totally unreasonable. It will destroy the purpose of the Rail Accident Investigation Branch. We might as well close it down. Nobody will give his confidential opinion about how an accident happened if he knows that, as a matter of course, the HSE will be banging on the court door the next day saying, "Give us that evidence so that we can prosecute the person who gave it".

I hope that it is not necessary to press this amendment because I hope that my noble friend will say in his reply that he will instruct the Health and Safety Executive to go back in its box and play it the same way as the Civil Aviation Authority does. Give the Rail Regulator a chance to do it his way in the new structure. I am convinced that the outcome will be a better and safer railway. As it stands at the moment, this matter is extremely serious. I beg to move.

Lord Bradshaw

This is an issue on which the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and I have not colluded, but I am very disturbed by what he has said. I was present when the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 was debated and it was my clear understanding that the evidence presented to the Rail Accident Investigation Branch would not be accessible and would not be used in court unless a criminal activity was discovered in the course of the investigation.

We all know from railway accidents that much of the evidence has to be discovered very quickly—for example, brake pressures. It does not preserve itself and has to be quickly established. That evidence is often necessary to discover what has happened. It is also necessary that people speak frankly to whoever is carrying out the investigation and that those people rest secure in the fact that their conversations will not be disclosed to anybody else.

That was the basis on which we supported the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003. We were going for a fresh start where the purpose of an accident investigation was not to lay the blame at somebody's door, but to find out what had happened and, as quickly as possible, to make sure that the lessons that were discovered were promulgated throughout the industry and not held up by sub judice rules, which often last for years while people are pursued by litigation.

I shall be very disturbed if that letter—I am sure that the reading is correct—shows that the Health and Safety Executive is putting such a high priority on prosecution and such a low one on discovering the causes of accidents and the promotion of safety.

When I was in academic life, I spent part of my time on the question of compliance. In almost every case, it is best achieved by building up trust between the people who are responsible for enforcement and those who are being regulated. I believed that a new era was starting. I should be very sorry to believe that either the Health and Safety Executive or the British Transport Police are using it in some way to get at people. If what the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, spoke about becomes well known in the industry, a huge amount of damage will be done and much of the work of the Government, in trying to put railway safety on a good footing, will be undermined.

6.15 p.m.

Obviously, we cannot press the amendment here, but if the Minister cannot satisfy us now, I hope that he can come back to us before Report and let us know that this problem has been bottomed. It cannot rest on correspondence in the enthusiast press.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I am grateful to my noble friend for raising this issue in his amendment and to the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, who speaks with authority on these issues. I assure them and the Committee that it is not the intention of the Government that witness statements taken by the Rail Accident Investigation Board should be released to other organisations unless there is a court order. We think that a court would only agree in exceptional circumstances. That is the position intended by the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003, to which both noble Lords referred, which created the RAIB and set out its primary powers.

As the Committee will be aware, rail accidents are, at present, investigated by the Health and Safety Executive. After the Ladbroke Grove rail crash, the public inquiry chaired by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Cullen, recommended that a "no blame" rail accident investigation body should be established, with a brief to find the root cause of accidents and to make recommendations to prevent future incidents. Powers to investigate breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and other legislation were to remain with the HSE and the police.

Subsequent to the recommendations of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Cullen, a European rail safety directive also required that member states establish "no blame" rail accident investigation bodies. The model is one that both noble Lords have referred to, particularly my noble friend Lord Berkeley. It already works well for the air industry and for marine accidents, where there are well-established and well-respected bodies.

For the Rail Accident Investigation Board to be effective it is essential that those most closely involved with the cause of an accident feel confident enough to be open and honest with the board, without the fear that any statement they might make might be passed to another investigation body, such as the police or the Health and Safety Executive, which has the power to mount a prosecution.

The board is consulting with the rail industry on draft regulations to underpin the provisions of the 2003 Act. It is intended that the regulations will make clear that a statement to RAIB from a witness who wished to remain confidential would remain confidential to the board unless the person concerned agrees to its release or the organisation seeking its disclosure obtains a court order.

That is the position with the established air and marine accident investigation bodies. As my noble friend indicated, the courts have been reluctant to agree to the release of witness statements. I think that my noble friend mentioned that the Air Accidents Investigation Branch has not had any court orders made against it.

However, it is essential that the Rail Accident Investigation Board be given the flexibility to be able to share evidence, not only to avoid duplication and to speed up investigations, but also to assist it to improve the safety of railways and prevent railway accidents. The regulations are expected to be ready to be laid before Parliament this month. The Secretary of State has announced that he expects the board to become operational on 13 June, except in the Channel Tunnel where it is expected that it will become operational on 1 October.

We entirely take on board the representations made by the noble Lords. They have made an important point and we intend to see it dealt with through the regulations, as I have indicated.

Lord Berkeley

I am grateful to my noble friend for that comfort. On previous occasions, we discussed the role of the Health and Safety Executive in advising the Office of the Rail Regulator as he takes over the responsibility for railway safety. I hope that my noble friend can assure me that the letter from Mr Callaghan, the chair of the Health and Safety Commission, which seems to contradict most of what he has said, will not be part of the advice. I urge him to request Mr Callaghan to withdraw the letter. It is totally contrary to what the Minister has said. I hope that if Mr Callaghan withdraws the letter, the good parts of the HSE—it is important that they give advice in handing over—will not be clouded by it. I am afraid that I must quote the letter in more detail: In the interests of criminal justice, HSE will need to make an application on every occasion when legal proceedings are under consideration in order to check the reliability of potential witnesses". I urge my noble friend to ensure that none of that appears anywhere in the regulations or in other documentation for the new order.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I hear what my noble friend says. He has made his point with great force.

Lord Berkeley

I am very grateful to my noble friend and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bradshaw

moved Amendment No. 87A: After Clause 51, insert the following new clause—

"DUTY TO CONSULT It will be a condition of each franchise for the passenger railway for the franchise to establish at his expense a representative body of rail users and to consult with such a body four times a year.

The noble Lord said: Although the Minister may feel that this amendment is another attempt to frustrate things, it is actually an attempt to be helpful. I must apologise that it is placed here, because it should have been moved earlier.

I know that the Rail Passengers' Council is concerned about how it will know what is going on in the regions because the regional rail passenger committees are to be abolished by the Bill, and I cannot say that I can mount much in the way of a defence of them. They are almost unknown to 90 per cent of rail users, and those who do know of them know them as the complaints committee or something of the sort.

I declare a small interest, as I am a member of a stakeholder board of one of the franchise companies. The consultation that that company has with the stakeholders—who are all regular users of the railway, drawn from throughout the area, who represent first and standard-class travellers and all types of uses—fulfils a useful function in considering changes to the timetable and in what is offered to passengers. It is chaired by the managing director of the franchise company, and I think that our views are taken reasonably seriously.

I know that a number of franchises already have passenger representative bodies of various sorts. It seems to me that it would be simplest to include as a condition in each franchise that each company should establish some form of representative body that meets quarterly to provide an opportunity for the company to consult regular users who have expressed an interest in the railway. I wonder whether this is an opportunity to put in the Bill a duty to consult to provide a reasonable substitute for the area committees. This amendment would not cost the Government anything; it simply puts the requirement into the franchise agreement. I beg to move.

Viscount Astor

I have some sympathy with the intentions behind the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, but I do not think that I can support it for a number of reasons. I do not think that the measure should be included in the Bill, although it would constitute good practice on the part of the franchisees. Indeed, it may constitute part of their franchise agreement. We have talked a lot about the rail system in this country but we have not said a great deal about the train operating companies which, after all, are very successful and invest large amounts of money in the system. They have not been very well represented. They rarely get the praise that they deserve. I refer to the ones that do deserve praise as we all know that some do not. Following the line of thought of the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, is it the intention that the train operating companies will have a representative, as it were, on the Rail Passengers Council and Committees? That is a national body. Will there be representatives from other parts of the industry on that? Will the train operating companies be represented on that body? I shall be interested to hear the Minister's reply.

At the end of the day, it is for the franchisees to develop a close relationship with their customers, which they will want to develop to have a successful business. As I say, I am sympathetic to the thoughts behind the amendment, but I do not consider that it is suitable for inclusion in the Bill. It might help if the Government explained their thinking on how the interaction between all these various bodies will work.

Lord Berkeley

I think that this is a good idea. The rail passengers committees are being abolished. Therefore, passengers who wish to raise issues have to write to the central Rail Passengers Council or to their own franchise operator. I see merit in imposing a requirement on franchise operators of the kind that we are discussing. I am sure that the good ones will follow this practice anyway. However, it would be nice to encourage some of the less good operators to set up representative bodies of rail users and consult them from time to time. It should not cost very much and it should not involve too much bureaucracy. Most passenger issues—with the exception of matters that are the fault of Network Rail—are a matter for the franchise operator concerned to try to resolve. Therefore, it seems logical to establish such representative bodies. This idea is worth considering.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I am grateful to the noble Lord who moved the amendment and to others who participated in this short debate. They are right to say that it is important that the passenger should be at the absolute centre of the rail industry's work and at the centre of the Bill.

We are able to aid the passenger not just through the Bill but also through the other measures that we outlined in our rail White Paper. The Government agree with the comments made today that the overriding objective is to make the railway more efficient and more responsive to passengers' needs. That was the burden of the remarks made today. Many train operating companies are responsive to passengers' needs. As the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, indicated, they understand the benefits that continuing dialogue with their customers can bring to their business. They have that in common with many businesses across a wide range of industries. That is why, as has been mentioned, some operators already have consultative passenger groups and work closely to ensure that their services meet the needs of their customers. For example, since 2001, Chiltern Trains has had a passengers' advisory board, which the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, is likely to know very well. It meets four times a year and is made up of representatives from the 14 local rail user groups that exist within the franchise, local authorities, and the Chiltern managing director. ScotRail has a stakeholder board with passenger representation, while GNER has four commuter forums which meet regularly.

We welcome the fact that train operators are taking this approach. We would like to see it more widespread. It is not just a matter for train companies as independent businesses—but whether they set up these bodies is a matter for them. We acknowledge that there is a need to drive up passenger representation. We are undertaking that as part of the Bill by reforming the Rail Passengers Council. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, is sadly correct that certain committees are just not recognised as functional and do not mean anything to anyone in terms of rail passenger interests. The current structure has some successes, of course, but the federal structure encourages a variety of different approaches. There has been confusion for the travelling public. The vast majority of the travelling public do not know of the existence of such representative bodies, which is an indication of their failure to meet the objectives that we would wish them to meet.

6.30 p.m.

Under the proposals, the RPC will be reformed as a single national body to enable it to drive up its profile with passengers. It will be a strong voice for the passengers, independent of the industry and of government and will have a national focus.

The local roots of the body are vital. Those will be maintained in the new organisation. The key to this will be the passenger link managers, who will be senior members of staff, focused on and based on particular franchises. They will meet regularly with the train companies which operate the franchises that the body covers, passenger groups and Network Rail. It is anticipated that they would meet with the train operating companies far more regularly than the four times a year which is set out in the amendment. We think that contact needs to be more frequent than that. They will set up their own group of passenger advocates—passengers knowledgeable and experienced in the issues of particular franchises to help to inform their work.

The council's ambition is that the passenger link managers will be the key interlocutors between passengers and the rail industry. Key to the role will be the fact that the body is independent of government and the rail industry. That will enable it to be focused on representing the passenger.

Although, as will be seen from my response, I share the amendment's ambitions of establishing a greater role for the passenger regarding the railway, the amendment would inadvertently cut across the strategy which the Bill envisages. We want to drive up the profile of the RPC and create a credible voice for passenger interests.

The amendment could encourage train operators not to engage with the independent RPC but with the passenger groups that they have set up. The amendment also does not require the representative bodies established to work together or talk to each other. That risks a degree of fragmentation.

So, although I share the objectives behind the amendment and the sentiments expressed in support of it in the Committee, I feel that the amendment attempts to address an issue which we seek to address through the Rail Passengers Council. I hope that on that basis the noble Lord is able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Bradshaw

I thank the Minister for that reply. I shall give him a couple of years and perhaps we will return to the issue. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 52 agreed to.

Schedule 10 agreed to.

Clause 53 agreed to.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

moved Amendment No. 88: After Clause 53, insert the following new clause—

"DEPOSIT OF RAILWAY RECORDS The Secretary of State shall come to an agreement with the trustees of the Science Museum to ensure the provision of a place of deposit for records generated within the railway industry which are not public records for the purposes of the Public Records Act 1958 (c. 51).

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 88, I should declare an unpaid interest as chairman of the Railway Heritage Committee. The amendment is necessary because the national archives at Kew house a record of Britain's railways from their inception to the mid-1990s, but the records of the industry since the privatisation of the railway have no place of deposit because they are not public records.

So the purpose of the new clause is to require the Secretary of State to work with the trustees of the Science Museum—that is, in effect the National Railway Museum (NRM) at York—to secure a place of deposit for the archive of the railway industry.

Unless that is done, there is a risk that the records of perhaps the most turbulent and historically important period of railway history in recent times will be lost to future generations. I should make clear that the Railway Heritage Committee strongly supports the setting up of a railway industry national archive, and wants to see it based at the NRM in York. The NRM is keen to oblige and wants to provide the space necessary as part of a broader project aimed at providing good basic accommodation and much enhanced public access for its existing archive and library collections.

At present, the material is housed in very low-standard accommodation, which is getting worse, and much of it is inaccessible to the public, despite the ever-increasing public demand for access. The project, which is termed the "Search Engine", was costed at just under £4 million in 2004 and is currently the subject of a very protracted fund-raising campaign by the National Railway Museum.

The project is strongly supported by the Science Museum and the chairman of the board of trustees, the noble Lord, Lord Waldegrave of North Hill, who unfortunately cannot be present today. He has asked me to read to the Committee part of a letter he wrote to Andrew Scott, the head of the National Railway Museum. In the letter the noble Lord, Lord Waldegrave, says that he is all for the amendment, if it encourages the Department for Transport to take some responsibility for the funding of the Railway Industry National Archive. What the Department cannot do is simply say that NMSI [National Museum of Science and Industry] or NRM can absorb this in existing budgets".

The current position is that around half the funds are to hand, with significant sums committed by the Higher Education Funding Council via the University of York and from the National Museum of Science and Industry.

The NRM can fund £460,000 itself and from private sponsors, but the project still requires something approaching £2 million. It has been turned down once by the Heritage Lottery Fund, although discussions with the fund are continuing and with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Everyone in the industry agrees that the railway industry national archive is an important project. We would like to be able to go to the train operators to ask them for help, but they find it difficult to make charitable donations if they are in receipt of a government subsidy. If we leave the matter too long the changes that take place in the industry, as companies come and go, will mean that the records cannot be kept. For example, Connex, Arriva Northern, Thames Trains, and Railtrack of course, have all disappeared from the scene already. If we do not have a properly funded national archive, that record material will be lost.

So I hope very much that my noble friend will take this opportunity to indicate that the Government support the project; and that the Department for Transport is willing to get involved and help find the funding to facilitate what is seen as one of the most important railway heritage projects of the present time. I beg to move.

Lord Bradshaw

I support what the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, has said. There is a very valuable record which is in some danger of being lost. As companies go out of business, it is surprising how quickly people's memories fade. People are dissipated to other places and these records are lost. It is important that the funding is found to make this project come about.

Lord Crathorne

I support the amendment. As we have heard, railway archives up to the mid-1990s are housed and beautifully kept at Kew. The amendment would secure the archives resulting from privatisation. There is no question that, when companies change hands, the new company says, "What on earth are we going to do with the old records? We have no real use for them." There is a possibility that some of them will end up in the tip. If it is made easy for people to pass on their records to an organisation, that will happen.

The railway industry national archive is a project, about which everyone is very excited, to establish a place for the deposit of the archive of Britain's railway industry. York is an ideal place for that. I visit the railway museum regularly and attend events there. I was there last week with the Duke of York, who thoroughly enjoyed his visit.

A point that was perhaps not fully made by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, is that York has the only academic centre in the world devoted to railway history. That exists nowhere else. The centre is spread between the University of York and the National Railway Museum. I should just like to say what a wonderful, enthusiastic and professional staff the museum has. We are not talking about it today as a visitor attraction, but it is an enormously significant visitor attraction.

The recent history of the railways has, as the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, said, been particularly turbulent. It is important that those records are kept for historians and for the public. At the moment, there is no way that the pubic have any access to those records. I hope that the Minister will look favourably on what, I think, is an excellent amendment.

Lord Berkeley

I, too, support the amendment and agree with all noble Lords who have spoken to it. One reflects, after what my noble friend Lord Faulkner said, that the poor old railways are between a rock and a hard place. The passenger TOCs cannot make a charitable donation, they say, because they receive government money, but then the Government will say that everybody is in the private sector and, therefore, they are not part of public records. What can they do?

I would argue that successive governments have created the structure, for better or for worse, but they have a duty to deal with the consequences of it. I spent several years after the Channel Tunnel was built trying to create an archive, a record or maybe a museum of some of the exciting things that were done during the construction, the financing and the operation of the tunnel. That should be part of this record, unless it was done in France, because who knows what will happen to the finances of that link? They will all get lost, if they have not been already. Certainly, the NRM, when offered it, did not have the resources to take much.

I have one last word on the matter. The biggest problem with such a project is that one does not recognise the historical significance of something until it is too late to collect the stuff that you do not have. You have to take things on trust and perhaps after 10 or 20 years chuck out some of the things. If you leave it until it is all gone—Connex has gone, and Eurotunnel has moved on—it will be too late. So I hope that my noble friend will have something interesting and positive to say about the amendment.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Faulkner for moving the amendment and to noble Lords who have contributed to this short debate on a subject that, we all recognise, is very important. The history of the railway is an important dimension of the history of the industrialisation of Britain in a significant way. The railway has formed a great part of the lives of the British people for nearly 200 years. Perhaps it is a little over 200 years, when I think of the very first conception of the railway.

I recognise the force with which the case is made and congratulate noble Lords on their advocacy. They could not present a better cause. They will, however, recognise that the Science Museum is an independent body, incorporated under statute. Its function is to promote the public's enjoyment and understanding of science and technology and the development of those subjects. It has a duty to care for, preserve and add to the objects in its collection. The trustees operate a family of museums. They are responsible for the National Railway Museum in York, about which the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, made such felicitous comments. All of us who have visited that museum regard it as one of the great museum experiences.

The Science Museum receives grant-in-aid from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, but, unlike the British Library, for example, the museum is not a designated place for the deposit of published material, nor is it funded for that purpose. However, under its governing legislation, the museum may receive archival material and other objects from the rail industry and other sources.

The Government believe that the preservation of the archival material relating to our national history is very important. The history of our railways, which have shaped our lives in so many ways, is an important part of that. However, the decision to add objects to the collection is a matter for the trustees of the Science Museum. We believe that they must remain free to determine the scope of their collections and the use of the funds available to them. We are not in a position—nor should we seek to be—to constrain the discretion of the trustees to accept or refuse material as they see fit.

I understand that the National Railway Museum is interested in establishing a railway industry national archive. I am aware that creating such an archive would be a matter for the trustees of the Science Museum. There is nothing to prevent the privatised rail companies offering their papers to the trustees, should they choose to do so, nor is there anything to prevent the trustees accepting them. Primary legislation is therefore unnecessary.

The subtext of the amendment is resources. That battle has to be waged in other fora, on other occasions. I am sure that it will be listened to with great sympathy. We all recognise the significance of railway history to national history, but it would not be suitable for us to inscribe in primary legislation a significant interference with the discretion and rights of the trustees of the Science Museum. So, although I congratulate my noble friend and others on having taken advantage of the occasion to advance a significant cause—I wish them well in their prosecution of it elsewhere—this Bill is not the place for such an amendment, and I have to ask my noble friend to withdraw it.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

I thank my noble friend Lord Berkeley, the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, who has joined our Committee to speak so eloquently on the subject. His contribution to life in Yorkshire is well known, and his contribution to tourism, while perhaps not as great as that of the National Railway Museum, is substantial, and I appreciated what he had to say.

I am not sure how the trustees of the Science Museum will respond to my noble friend's reply. The letter that I have had from the chairman of the trustees, the noble Lord, Lord Waldegrave, makes it clear that he wants a partnership which involves the Department for Transport taking an interest in the railway national archive. I agree with my noble friend that this is not the moment to pursue this, but I hope that we can continue the discussions in the future. I am grateful to him for what he said about how he values the importance of railway archives. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 11 agreed to.

Clauses 54 to 57 agreed to.

Clause 58 [Consequential amendments and repeals]:

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendment No. 89: Page 59, line 11, at end insert— (1A) The Secretary of State may make a scheme making such modifications of the provisions of any licence or licence exemption granted under section 7(3) of the 1993 Act as appear to him to be necessary or expedient in consequence of any provision falling within subsection (1B) by virtue of which—

  1. (a) functions are transferred (with or without modifications) from one person to another; or
  2. (b) functions corresponding (with or without modifications) to functions previously conferred on one person become functions of another.
(1B) Those provisions are—
  1. (a) section 1 and Schedule 1;
  2. (b) section 2 and Schedule 3;
  3. (c) section 21 and Schedule 6; and
  4. (d) section 47.
(1C) A scheme under subsection (1A) may include provision for things done by or in relation to a person who previously had a function to be treated as done by or in relation to the person on whom that function, or the corresponding function, is conferred by virtue of this Act. (1D) Where a scheme under subsection (1A) makes a modification of the provisions of a licence or licence exemption, the Secretary of State must—
  1. (a) in the case of a modification of the provisions of a licence, notify the licence holder; and
  2. GC 358
  3. (b) in the case of a modification of the provisions of a licence exemption granted under section 7(3) of the 1993 Act, give such notice as he considers appropriate for bringing the modification to the attention of persons likely to be affected by it."

The noble Lord said: The amendment enables the Secretary of State to make a scheme to modify existing railway operating licences and licence exemptions granted under the Railway Act 1993, where necessary, in consequence of certain provisions of this Bill.

The purpose of the amendment is to avoid the need for licences to be amended individually or for separate applications to be made for replacement exemptions. Although such changes could be made on a case-bycase basis, that would involve an administrative burden on all parties and the potential for delay. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 58, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 12 [Other minor and consequential amendments]:

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendment No. 90: Page 137, line 28, leave out "In

The noble Lord said: During the debate at Second Reading, and following an intervention from my noble friend Lord Faulkner, who chairs the Railway Heritage Committee, I undertook to consider whether it would be appropriate for the powers of the committee to be extended. The Government have now had the opportunity to consider the issue and have accepted that the committee's remit should be extended. They have therefore tabled these amendments.

The Railway Heritage Committee, which was established under the Railway Heritage Act 1996, has the important role of ensuring that significant railway records or artefacts are preserved for posterity. It does so by "designating" such assets, which ensures, except in certain limited circumstances, that the owner of the asset may dispose of it only with the permission of the committee.

However, the committee's designation of railway records or artefacts is relevant only to the persons to whom the Act applies, as listed in Section 1 of the Act. That list includes companies formerly owned by the British Railways Board, any publicly owned railway company and any franchise operator. However, some owners of railway records and artefacts have emerged since the legislation was enacted and are not caught by the Act. Examples of such bodies include the Railway Safety and Standards Board, Heathrow Express and any former franchisee.

The Government want the committee to continue its role in respect of the preservation of our railway heritage. Indeed, the Bill already provides for responsibility for the Railway Heritage Committee to transfer to the department, in view of the proposed abolition of the Strategic Rail Authority, which currently sponsors the Committee. I can also confirm that when that transfer takes place, the committee will become a non-departmental public body of the Department for Transport. However, the Government fully accept that, if the committee is to exercise its functions effectively, it is appropriate for its remit to cover the whole railway industry. That should include new companies and bodies that have emerged over the past few years since the establishment of the committee in 1996. There is, however, a problem in defining such a wider remit. It is difficult to identify a suitably restrictive class of body to which the requirements should be extended that would catch the variety of bodies excluded at present and any appropriate future bodies.

The Government have therefore tabled these amendments, which would provide for a general order-making power to allow the Secretary of State to include additional bodies within the scope of the 1996 Act. Any such orders would be subject to the negative resolution procedure. We have of course considered not only the public interests of maintaining railway heritage but the interests of those people who may, through the operation of that power, become newly subject to the provisions in the 1996 Act. In connection with this I should like to mention the statutory guidance that the Secretary of State gives to the committee under the Act. The guidance, to which the committee must have regard, provides for the committee to ensure that private bodies subject to the committee's powers are given fair market value for any assets disposed of and that, if parties are unable to agree, the terms of the transfer should be subject to arbitration.

In practice therefore, to the extent that this power is used to make them subject to the provisions of the 1996 Act, the rights of private holders of railway records and artefacts will be properly protected. But I want to make it clear that the order-making power would be used sensibly. For example, it is not intended that the order-making power would be used to catch private collectors of railway memorabilia. The Government will look to the committee for advice on which bodies to include within its remit. Indeed, it is intended that the formal agreement between the department and the committee when it becomes a non-departmental public body, will set out the advisory role expected of the committee.

A further safeguard incorporated in these amendments is a requirement that, before exercising the order-making power, the Secretary of State would have to consult any existing body that might be made. subject to the Act as a result. That will provide the opportunity for such a body to make representations should it consider that inclusion within the committee's remit was not appropriate.

With that explanation and assurance, I hope my noble friend will agree that we have met the objectives to which he gave voice at Second Reading and has been articulate about on other occasions, and that he will feel able to accept the Government's position.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

My joy at the decision by my noble friend to table these amendments is unconfined. I would like to thank him and his honourable friend in the other place, Mr Tony McNulty, with whom we had a discussion early on, for moving them and listening so carefully to what we had to say. The formula that he has proposed in these amendments is exactly that which the members of the committee decided was the most appropriate. We spent a lot of time last summer looking at what our future role and status would be given that we were going to become orphans with the abolition of the Strategic Rail Authority. The non-departmental public body way was the one that every member of the committee felt was the most appropriate, with a continuing power to designate artefacts and records and with an ability to advise the Minister on railway preservation and heritage issues.

My noble friend has outlined exactly how that will work and it complies precisely with what we wanted. We are deeply grateful to him. We will do our best not to let him down.

Lord Berkeley

Before my noble friend responds, following the discussion about the funding of railway archives, does any money come with this new structure?

Lord Davies of Oldham

The previous amendment would involve substantial resources. That is why I indicated that that case has to be made elsewhere. However, we recognise that the department will be responsible for establishing this body, so, of course, it will be meeting some of the costs of that establishment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendments Nos. 91 and 92: Page 137, line 28, after "applies)" insert "is to become subsection (1) of that section and is amended as follows Page 137. line 31, at end insert— ( ) In that section, after that subsection insert— (2) The Secretary of State may, by order made by statutory instrument, modify subsection (1) by adding a body or a description of body to the list of bodies to which this Act applies. (3) Before making an order under subsection (2), the Secretary of State must consult the bodies that appear to him to be the ones that will become bodies to which this Act applies on the coming into force of the order. (4) A statutory instrument containing an order under subsection (2) shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Berkeleymoved Amendment No. 93:

Page 140, line 26, at end insert—

"Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 (c. 20)

19 In section 34 of the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 (compulsory police services), at end insert—

"(6) In this section "railway services" does not include services for the carriage of goods by rail.""

The noble Lord said: I will be as quick as I can in moving this amendment. This amendment would remove freight operators from the duty to pay the British Transport Police. British Transport Police's budget has increased by 35 per cent in the past year, which in any organisation is pretty extreme. The freight operators cannot understand—it is a mystery—how the costs are attributed and allocated. I do not know whether my noble friend can help me with that. Maybe he cannot because it is so secret, but it needs to be transparent.

The case has to be made that freight does not actually use British Transport Police services. If the freight is on the main network, that is covered by Network Rail's contribution. Rail freight terminals are not included in the BTP's responsibility and rail freight does not want to use stations or the underground.

The idea would be that freight operators, if they wanted the use of BTP services, would pay for it as requested. Rather than thrust a 35 per cent increase in budget upon freight operators when they hardly ever use the service, it would be much better to have a system where operators asked for what they wanted and paid for it as and when. In the mean time, it is time that the BTP produced transparency into why it needed that increase and what it was spent on. I beg to move.

7 p.m.

Lord Bradshaw

I do not know about freight operators or the British Transport Police's relevance to them. However, I know that the costs that the British Transport Police now charge include VAT, for the first time, I think. That results in a huge increase in costs. There are also problems with the pension fund of BT police, the need to increase technology and to fight terrorist activity. That might account for some of the increases. However, in general, is it normal when you avail yourself of the services of the police to receive a VAT bill?

Lord Davies of Oldham

I have had one or two questions directed at me during this Committee stage but I am taken aback by that one. I shall respond to the one that I can answer. VAT is included; it is an additional impost.

I hear what my noble friend says about freight operators. He is right that they have occasion to use the services of the British Transport Police much less than other sectors of the railway. It is obvious that passenger operators will have much greater use. It is reasonable that freight operators should not pay British Transport Police charges at the same level as passenger operators.

However, let me describe the situation at present. The level of charges for freight operators comes to less than 1 per cent of the total British Transport Police budget, compared to nearly 50 per cent provided by passenger operators and nearly 25 per cent each from Network Rail and London Underground. So, although I hear my noble friend's plea in absolute terms that there should be no costs at all, that would be difficult to sustain against the issues of security and safety on the railways and the role of the British Transport Police. The demands made at present are a very small part of the budget.

I hope that on that basis my noble friend will feel able to withdraw the amendment. I am sure that he recognises that the policing service has some benefits for freight operators. For instance, dealing with trespass and vandalism on the line and a quick service recovery following incidents on the line, including suicide and train accidents, have a direct impact on all rail operations, including freight. It has an impact on maintaining freight operators' schedules. I have listened carefully to my noble friend's case but the Government believe that freight operators should pay a part towards the British Transport Police.

Lord Berkeley

I am afraid that I am not satisfied with my noble friend's statement. Yes, there is vandalism, but most of it happens on branch lines, and the operators have long since given up calling BTP, because there are so few of them; they use the local police, who do not charge, with or without VAT. Freight operators are in the private sector, and, although the cost may constitute 1 per cent of a very inflated BTP budget, it is still over £1 million. We will have to return to the matter again and again, but for the moment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 12, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 13 [Repeals]:

Lord Berkeley

moved Amendment No. 94: Page 146, line 27, column 2, at beginning insert "Section 17.

The noble Lord said: This a very quick attempt to raise the issue of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link which will be finished quite soon. It is supposed to be designed for freight and assurances were given in the Select Committees of this House and the other place that it would be. Some passing loops have been put in, although very grudgingly. It was built so that any freight that goes up the link will cause more wear and tear than it should do, but, if that decision was made and assurances to Parliament were given, the company should pay the cost.

The financing is a mess, but maybe that does not matter. However, the problem is that the project is being financed on the back of guaranteed revenue from eight Eurostars every hour and eight local services. Therefore, when freight tries to apply for a train pass up this line, it is told that it is full up with 16 trains an hour. We say, "Well the Kent services will not be running for about five years and Eurostar is running between one and three an hour, which will probably not increase very much unless someone makes a big change, so what is the problem?" We are told, "Eurostar has bought everything and you must apply to Eurostar for a pass, which you have to buy every day for 50 years"—the probable length of the concession.

How does freight get on the line? It is completely separate from the rest of the network. London and Continental has a pivotal role in massaging government-guaranteed funds from one direction and paying them out in another. It is all a closed loop. Freight would benefit from the high-gauge route as far as Dagenham and Barking and on to the West Coast Main Line and a lot of people want to use it. This amendment would reinstate Section 17 of the Railways Act 1993, which allows train operators effectively to apply to the regulator to require the network operator—which should be Network Rail, although it is a different part of Network Rail which is separate—to give access rights on reasonable terms. In other words, the amendment would reinstate the Channel Tunnel Rail Link as part of the rest of the railway. I think that that is included in the ambitions of this Government which I fully support.

I hope that, when the Government finally get around to implementing the open access regulations, they will ensure that the regulations apply fully to the rail link. In that case, this amendment will probably not be required. Frankly, it would be much better if the rail link was made part of the network rather than being a kind of separate add-on for which you have to go through a separate administration and separate bureaucracy. Just think, to run a train from Daventry to Paris, you have to apply to Network Rail for one licence, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link for the next, Eurotunnel for the third and SNCF for a fourth—so much for integrated transport.

I am interested to hear what my noble friend has to say, and I guarantee to withdraw the amendment at the end. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I am delighted to hear that my noble fiend intends to withdraw the amendment because I was not going to accept it. I am aware of the importance that the freight community attaches to open access to the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. It is a very important issue. However, as my noble friend is all too well aware, to comply with EU requirements, changes need to be made to the arrangements around granting access and transit rights to the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. That would also include strengthening the regulatory regime compared with the current position under the 1998 railway regulations.

Open access, subject to regulatory supervision, is a requirement of European law, especially under the directives that make up the first rail package. The Government intend to transpose the requirements of the first rail package by the end of 2005. Of course, we will consult wildly-that was a slip of the tongue; we will consult widely with stakeholders before making any regulations to transpose these directives.

We will not only consult widely, but inclusively. As my noble friend knows, there is an open door for him to approach officials of the department to discuss these issues.

I believe that it is better to wait for the outcome of the consultation and the final provisions in the transposition regulations rather than seek to pre-empt them, which the amendment would do. I hope, with those assurances that we are making progress, that my noble friend will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Berkeley

I am very grateful to my noble friend. I accept that the Government are making good progress. I look forward to the consultations. I am sure that the direction in which he is planning to take these things is the right one. On that basis I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 13 agreed to.

Clause 59 [Short title, commencement and extent]:

Lord Davies of Oldhammoved Amendment No. 95:

Page 59, line 21, at end insert—

"( ) section 21,"

The noble Lord said: This is a technical amendment to extend the power to make transitional provisions and savings in Clause 59(3). At the moment, this power allows the Secretary of State to make transitional arrangements in connection with the coming into force of Part 4 of the Bill and the provisions that repeal Sections 37 to 49 and Schedule 5 to the Railways Act 1993.

The amendment extends the power to cover also Clause 21, which deals with rail passengers committees. That will allow the Secretary of State to make transitional provisions in connection with the abolition of rail passengers committees. That may be appropriate if, as is likely, the committees are to be abolished under Clause 21, before the new network modification provisions in Part 4 come into force.

Obviously, until the network modification provisions come into force, the 1993 Act closure provisions remain in place. The committees have functions in respect of the existing closure provisions under the 1993 Act. In the event of the committees being abolished, it would be necessary to make provision for those functions to pass to another body for the transitional period. Under those transitional provisions the role of the committees in any closure proceedings would be undertaken by the new Great Britain-wide Rail Passengers' Council or by LTUC in London for the short period until the network modification provisions commence. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 59, as amended, agreed to.

Bill reported with amendments.

Committee adjourned at twelve minutes past seven o'clock.