SHRUG response to the Strategic Rail Authority's consultation on rail capacity utilisation

Covering note to the SRA

Responses to individual questions

Question 1 (a) SRA’s assessment of capacity utilisation issues correct? (b) Other issues to be taken into account? (c) Could the declared aims be improved?

Clearcut improvements

90 trains to Gatwick in 2002, none in 1967

146 trains to Bristol in 2002, 35 in 1967

Clearcut deterioration

Approximately half-hourly day-long services to New Milton and Christchurch (total population over 100,000) seven days a week in 1967. In 2002, Christchurch has only an hourly service on Sundays; the Mondays-Saturdays service to both stations comprises two trains an hour, 7-9 minutes apart, off-peak, and hourly evening services. One of the hourly off-peak services has a layover time of up to 24 minutes at Brockenhurst. In 1967 both trains ran direct.

Clearcut excess

In 1967 there were 2 trains an hour to Brockenhurst (population 3,000), with hourly connection to Lymington (population 25,000). In 2002, SWT (the major operator) offers no robust connections, so virtually all trains from Southampton (5 per hour off-peak) stop at Brockenhurst for hit-and-miss connections. The total off-peak service from the station is 12 trains per hour, making it almost certainly the best-served village in Britain.

Question 2 Any other factors which impact on capacity utilisation?

Question 3 Appraisal factors comprehensive?

Question 4 Alterations or additions to Statement of Principles?

Question 5 Alterations or additions to measures to implement the Capacity Utilisation Project?

Question 6 Continuing roles of Railtrack and the train operators?

Question 7 Could the proposals for the National Network Utilisation Strategy be improved?

Question 8 Comments on the proposals for Route Utilisation Strategies?

Question 9 Changes to proposals to develop illustrative forward timetables?

Such timetables are an excellent idea, but illustrations should be publicised, at least via the Internet, so that users can comment on perceived advantages / difficulties. This is consistent with the consultative approach of Government Green Papers and pilot exercises. It is also a natural next step from this current consultation exercise. Members of the public are probably more likely to comment on possible products than on principles.

Question 10 Could implementation proposals be improved?

It is good that the SRA will "encourage operators to optimise the services that they may offer to their customers", but this doesn’t seem to fit very easily with the rationing of capacity or operators acting "under commercial incentives to identify the needs of their customers". There is scope therefore for clearer prioritisation.