Agenda and draft minutes

Consultation Call, Rail North Committee - Tuesday, 14th November, 2023 11.00 am

Venue: Virtual

Contact: Gary Rich 

Media

Items
No. Item

1.

Welcome and Apologies

The Chair to Welcome Members and the public to the meeting.

Lead: Chair

Additional documents:

Minutes:

1.1          The Chair welcomed Members. In opening the meeting, he highlighted the important role that the Committee has played in expressing concerns about the proposed closure of ticket offices. Members were clear that the closure of offices would have had a significantly greater impact in the North of England than elsewhere due to there not being the same facilities at stations. He emphasised the continuing need for ticket offices in the North as people require ticket office staff to provide assistance in stations due to the amount of disruption and complexities.

 

1.2          Apologies were received from Cllr Browne, Cllr Duncan and Cllr Les.

2.

Declarations of Interest

Members are required to declare any personal, prejudicial or disclosable pecuniary interest they may have relating to items on the agenda and state the nature of such interest.

Lead: Chair

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

2.1          There were no declarations of interest.

3.

Minutes of the Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 103 KB

To consider the approval and signature of the minutes of the previous meeting as a correct record and to consider any requests for updates on matters contained therein.

Lead: Chair

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

3.1          The minutes of the meeting held on 7 June 2023 were considered for their accuracy.

Resolved:

That the minutes of the meeting held on 7 June 2023 be noted.

 

4.

Rail Accessibility Task and Finish Group pdf icon PDF 111 KB

To agree the Terms of Reference for the Task and Finish Group to develop a prioritised action plan.

Lead: David Worsley

Additional documents:

Minutes:

4.1             The Chair highlighted that accessibility to stations is of fundamental importance to many residents that Members represent including disabled and older people.  He stressed the importance of the industry placing a greater focus on standards of accessibility at stations and requested that Members support the establishment of a task and finish group which will  develop a plan for addressing these issues. 

He commented that the fundamental issues of accessibility need to be addressed as well as more innovative ways of funding access improvements such as through greater commercial use of stations, community use, and more devolved responsibility for managing rail stations in order to open up our rail stations to all people .

4.2          Members received the report from the Rail Strategy Manager who then outlined the key aspects of the report.

 

4.3          In relation to the formation of a task and finish group the Chair reminded the Committee that Cllr Swarbrick had volunteered to be a member of the group at the previous meeting and requested volunteers from the North East, Yorkshire and Humber areas.

 

4.4          Members were supportive of the work being undertaken with both Mayor Coppard and Mayor Driscoll stating that they would return to the Chair with nominations for the task and finish group for their areas.

 

The Chair stated that the Great British Rail Transition Team and Network Rail would also be involved in the group.  He then outlined what he believs the group needs to do, stating the need  to look at practical issues in order to make progress. He then highlighted the importance of the role of the industry in doing this and emphasised the need to work differently.  He added that the industry can be difficult to work with in relation to enhancing rail stations which need adaptations and stated that a clear message needs to be sent to them that a different and more flexible approach is required so that  these issues can be dealt with urgently.  

4.5          Mayor Rotheram suggested that train manufactures need to be invited on to the group as there are still manufacturers building rolling stock with step access.  He then highlighted the positive work in the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority on this matter and shared his ambition for a fully accessible network in the area.  He added that they have built a new station which not only takes into consideration people with mobility issues but also factors such as neuro diversity and audio and visual impairments and believes that this is the model that all stations should be working towards.

 

4.6          The Chair mapped out what he believes should be the plan for  more stations becoming accessible and the Committee addressed the issue of funding, with Mayor Rotheram highlighting the ‘access for all’ funding pot as a way of funding the required improvements, although he noted the funding quantum has not changed in a number of years.  He added that the Government will need to be asked for an increase in the quantum funding  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Ticket Office Next Steps pdf icon PDF 93 KB

To consider  the update outlining the outcome of the public consultation on Ticket Office closures and the next steps that Transport for the North intends to undertake.

Lead:  Caroline Young

Additional documents:

Minutes:

5.1             In introducing this item the Chair thanked Members for the cross- party approach taken on this issue as well as the work done by Transport Focus which reflected the feeling of the public.  He also thanked the Government for listening and cancelling the proposals.

 

He highlighted the fact that had the proposal gone ahead, then there would have been a huge loss of staffing presence at stations with some stations in the North having no human presence at the station at any time of the day.

He emphasised the need for innovative thinking on stations regarding accessibility and service standards, leading to them being used to greater effect and benefiting communities. He believes that stations need a more devolved future, so that the possibilities can be fully realised.

5.2          Members received the report from the Rail and Road Director who highlighted the key aspects of the report.

 

5.3          Cllr Hinchcliffe sought assurances that some of the vacancies that the operators had been holding back pending a decision on the closures will now been released.  This will help with some of the staffing issues that are now being experienced and she enquired as to how long this will take. 

 

Together with Cllr Ieronimo Cllr Hinchcliffe questioned whether savings would look to be made from somewhere else within the industry.

5.4          Mayor Rotheram placed on record his thanks to the Chair for the political lead that he took on this matter which helped lead to the reversal of this decision.

 

5.5          The Chair stated that there must be resistance to the narrative that efficiencies need to be made.

 

5.6          The Rail and Road Director highlighted the growth in passenger numbers in the North, believing that this is something that is not highlighted enough.  He made specific reference to the bounce- back in Liverpool where passenger numbers are 140% of pre- Covid levels.  More generally, he stated that recovery levels across major stations in the North are better than those in London.

 

In response to the question on staffing, he emphasised the importance of recording staffing levels as well as available posts and stated that these figures would be captured in the December dashboard for Committee members.   

 

On the issue of funding, he agreed with the Committee that the proposal to close ticket offices appeared to be a cost reduction measure. He believes that this is something the Committee will need to monitor over the next year, as the status quo remains the same for 2024 where there has been no saving, but neither has there been an adverse impact. Additionally, whilst TfN is unaware of any planned cuts concern remains that cuts may be looked for elsewhere.  He assured the Committee that as soon as TfN becomes aware of any such cuts Members will be informed immediately.

5.7          The Chair requested full details mapping out the growth in the North’s railways post-pandemic as he does not want to see the revenue growth in the North being “swept back” into a  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

East Coast Mainline December 2024 Timetable pdf icon PDF 123 KB

For the Committee to consider the proposed timetable changes.

Lead: Jonathan Brown

Additional documents:

Minutes:

6.1             In introducing this item the Chair informed the Committee that this issue is of great concern to Members on the East of the Pennines, particularly those in the North East region.  Additionally, he brought the Committee’s attention to a letter that had been received from the Minister on this just prior to the start of the meeting.   He then highlighted the fact that it is getting close to agreeing arrangements for this timetable change.

 

6.2          Members received the report from the Head of Strategic Rail who outlined the key points within the report.

 

6.3          Members then received a presentation from Mr Simon Leyshon of Network Rail and an update from Mr Rob Warnes of Northern Trains.

 

6.4          The Chief Executive provided the Committee with an update.  He informed Members that he and the Chair of the Transport for the North Board  had met with the Rail Minister and raised concerns about the East Coast Mainline timetable.

 

Prior to commencement of the Committee meeting, a written response had been received from the Minister.  Within the letter the Minister addressed the issues of infrastructure on the East Coast mainline north of York, which is being developed through the Business Case process.  He explained that this work is in the pipeline and therefore a case for investment does not need to be made and subject to the work being completed this will go into delivery. The Minister also provided a recognition of the importance given by the north to increasing services, connectivity and growth of rail services as part of the long term strategy for the North and the need to provide an enhanced service between Newcastle and Manchester.  The final point highlighted the need to strengthen the working relationship and having a stronger voice in the North.

 

6.5          Cllr Gannon acknowledged and recognised the representations made by the industry and then stressed the importance of having an additional hourly service between Newcastle and London because of the benefits it will bring for not only for Newcastle but for the wider national economy as well. 

 

He then provided the Committee with background on this issue explaining that this issue dates back to 2021 where the East Coast Main Line became critically constrained with local trains, cross Pennine trains and freight trains all running on the same line.  This resulted in trains not stopping at a number of important stations across the North East.

In addressing the issues raised in the Minister’s letter he recognised the firm commitment that things will be examined positively; however he believes that something more than reassurances are required. He highlighted the disastrous timetable change of 2018 and the assurances that were given to the North West about infrastructure investment that would be made prior to the implementation of the timetable, which didn’t happen.

He informed the Committee that he believes there are proposals to increase the capacity on the East Coast Main Line and that engineering interventions can be made, of which he requested to see the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Future Infrastructure and Service Development pdf icon PDF 118 KB

To consider how the recent announcement cancelling HS2 Phase 2 impacts existing programmes across the North of England, and how this affects the sequencing of delivery and identification of investment schemes.

To consider the immediate activity of Transport for the North and the wider industry in response to the Government announcement as well as  the next steps needed.

Lead: Charlie French

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair deferred this item until the next meeting.

8.

Rail North Partnership Operational Update pdf icon PDF 398 KB

To receive an update on rail operational matters and updates from the operators and Network Rail.

Lead: Gary Bogan

Additional documents:

Minutes:

8.1             In introducing this item, the Chair highlighted the noticeable improvements in both Northern and TPE. He also informed the Committee that Avanti West Coast will address  concerns about their performance and their announcement of a reduction to the December timetable between London and Manchester which will impact on the public over the Christmas period.

 

8.2          Members received an update from Mr Andy Mellors who outlined the Avanti West Coast recovery plan. He explained that the plan has allowed them to build back the timetable from December 2022, including the restoration of the three trains per hour on the Manchester route. He informed the Committee that the plan is working and delivering significant measurable improvements in performance as well as rebuilding the trust and confidence of customers and communities.

He then highlighted some key areas of work which included: improving train crew availability, expediting drivers through training, tackling structural issues in rostering to make sure that resources align to service requirements and reducing reliance on overtime working.

Additionally, he explained that a third of the Avanti driver workforce is over 55 years old and as a result they are recruiting 70 trainee drivers per year over the coming years, already having  introduced over 100 new drivers into productivity.

He then highlighted the challenges of the last couple of months in relation to punctuality as a result of infrastructure and weather disruption. He stated that they have been working with Network Rail to address these issues.

He  provided the Committee with an explanation as to why they have needed to reduce the timetable between London and Manchester in the run up to Christmas, stating that this is due to residual crew availability issues caused by historic leave agreements that predate the recovery plan. He stated that by working in this way they hope to provide a more reliable service during these weeks. He also informed the Committee that during this period the 11-car Pendolino fleet will be used on the Manchester route.  He explained that in order to address the leave issue going forward they are working with employee representatives to get a better spread of leave throughout the year; negotiations are ongoing and it is hoped that revised annual leave rosters can be secured for the start of January 2024.

8.3          The Chair expressed concerns at how Avanti is currently operating and stated that the railway needs to move to be in a different place in 2024.  He highlighted the fact that only a quarter of Manchester to London trains arrive on time and whilst understanding that some of the issues are out of Avanti’s control, others are.  He was critical of the service being provided for one which is so vital to the economy.  

He then enquired as to how many drivers they currently have and how many are needed to ensure that there is not a repeat of the 2023 issues in 2024.

In response Mr Mellors stated that there are over 600 drivers currently on the books  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Transport for the North Business Plan and Member Contributions 2024/25 pdf icon PDF 102 KB

To consider the update on the Strategic Rail elements of the draft Transport for the North Business Plan 2024/25 and the Department for Transport’s funding allocation for 2024/25.

Lead: David Hoggarth

Additional documents:

Minutes:

This item was deferred until the next meeting.

10.

Exclusion of the Press and Public

To resolve that the public be excluded from the meeting during consideration of Items 11 and 12 on the grounds that:

 

(1)It is likely, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, that if members of the public were present during such item(s), confidential information as defined in S100A(2) of the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended) would be disclosed to them in breach of the obligation of confidence; and/or

(2)it / they involve(s) the likely disclosure of exempt information as set out in the Paragraphs [listed below] of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended) and that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

To resolve that the public be excluded from the meeting during consideration of Items 11 and 12 on the grounds that:

(1)        It is likely, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, that if members of the public were present during such item(s), confidential information as defined in S100A(2) of the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended) would be disclosed to them in breach of the obligation of confidence; and/or

(2)        it / they involve(s) the likely disclosure of exempt information as set out in the Paragraphs [listed below] of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended) and that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

11.

Transpennine Express Recovery: Nova 3 Options

To consider the options and seek Members views based on Transport for the North’s analysis.

Lead: Caroline Young

Minutes:

11.1       The report was received by Members who were then invited to ask questions and make comments.

 

Resolved:

That the report be noted.

 

12.

Manchester Configuration State 2 Service Options

For the Committee to consider the update and options.

Lead: Adam Timewell

Minutes:

12.1       The report was received by Members who were then invited to ask questions and make comments.

 

Resolved:

That the report be noted.