To consider the update of the Strategic Rail Director on the issues of rail reform and rail performance.
Lead: David Hoggarth
6.1 Members received the report from the Strategic Rail Director who highlighted the key aspects of his report.
6.2 Cllr O’Hara enquired about how strong the budget will be for overall plan and whether this will also include the branch lines. /The Strategic Rail Director reassured the Committee that the TfN plan will encompass everything across the North. He explained that currently when budgets and funding are being looked at there has been an emphasis on looking at cost reduction and focusing on the largest passenger flows and revenues. He stated that this is a very narrow view. He further explained that the rail network contributes to the social inclusion policy and is more than just about creating revenue.
6.3 Members were informed that some work will be undertaken highlighting the role of rail in the North which will be available shortly. He stated that the Rail North Committee is concerned that there won’t be enough money not only to support the existing services but future growth. He said that TfN wants to use its evidence base to argue the case that if there is investment in rail in the North there will be more revenue, which will, in turn, reduce the subsidy and deliver wider benefits.
6.4 Cllr Davison raised the issue that the report doesn’t take into account the new dynamic of homeworking and this has affected both rail and road. He questioned the capability of Network Rail to deliver any plans due to their lack of signaling staff and engineers.
6.5 The Chair stated that he is a believer imperfect action and believes that we’re currently stuck in a position of perfect inaction. He highlighted the reference to the 121 short term wins on reliability and suggested that the Committee Members should look at speaking with their MPs and ask them to take a Northern perspective on the railways.
6.6 Cllr Hughes hopes that TfN will continue to argue for modal shift. He also raised the issue of Double Devolution and requested further information on this. He stated that he hoped that TfN would continue lobbying for a stronger role and a proper budget.
6.7 On this issue of Double Devolution the Strategic Rail Director explained that TfN are able to set up Regional Business Units. He also highlighted TfN’s powers to set fares and this can be used locally to integrate fares.
6.8 Cllr Salter expressed concern that rail might not recover post covid. On the issue of infrastructure, he stated that the Government needs to focus its investment on infrastructure in the North. He also questioned how involved TfN are in the Training Academy. A request was also made for an update on the current position with regards to Great British Rail (GBR).
In response to Cllr Salter the Strategic Rail Director explained that the current picture with regards to rail is mixed, whilst commuting numbers are low during the early and later parts of the week mid-week commuting numbers are higher with leisure and weekend rail travel back to 100% or more than pre Covid. He stated that going back to where things were pre covid is not the answer and there is now a need to be creative and to adapt to how things have changed.
Regarding the Training Academy he stated that TfN are involved in this through the Rail North Partnership and are working closely with Northern and are playing a strong co-ordinating role and exploring a funding package for it through the Rail North Partnership. On the issue of GBR the Strategic Rail Director stated that TfN are not clear on the current position and the legislation has been delayed.
6.9 Regarding the Training Academy Cllr Furley asked if a variety of jobs would be covered.
The Strategic Rail Director explained that the focus will initially be on drivers but this can be extended to other areas.
6.10 The Chair stated that the Centre of excellence for training is really important. He also highlighted climate change and the need for modal shift and the importance of trains in the decarbonisation agenda.
That the report be noted.