Hampshire County Council
Executive Member - Environment: South Hampshire and Resource Management
18 January 2006
Renewal of the South Western Rail Franchise
Report of the Director of Environment
Contact: Michael Hedderly, ext 5492 email: email@example.com
1.1 The County Council has been invited to comment on two consultation documents in its role as a rail industry stakeholder. These are:
(i) The South Western Main Line Route Utilisation Strategy, issued by Network Rail on behalf of the rail industry as a draft for consultation.
(ii) The South Western Franchise Consultation Document, issued by the newly established Rail Group within the Department for Transport, which has taken on the franchise specification and award functions of the now defunct Strategic Rail Authority. The outcome of the current consultation exercise being undertaken by the Department will be the Invitation to Tender to be issued to the five pre-qualified bidders in mid-March 2006.
1.2 In view of the wide geographical area covered by the proposals in these documents, and the mutual interests shared with the unitary authorities of Southampton and Portsmouth over many aspects, it is considered beneficial not only to coordinate responses, but ideally to present joint responses to Network Rail and the Department for Transport (DfT) respectively.
1.3 The deadlines for response to these consultation documents are 6 January and 13 January 2006 respectively. However, an extension has been granted to enable the Executive Member for Environment: South Hampshire and Resource Management to formally approve the County Council responses.
2. Corporate Strategy
2.1 This report supports Aims 3 and 5 (Achieving Economic Prosperity and Improving Services) of the Corporate Strategy by showing the extent to which the rail industry, through its Route Utilisation Strategy and franchise proposals, is seeking to introduce efficiencies and improve services, thereby contributing to the economic prosperity of the region. At the same time certain aspects have been identified which are likely to have an adverse impact.
3. South West Main Line Route Utilisation Study
3.1 The objective of the nationwide set of Route Utilisation Studies (RUSs), which will be complete by 2007, is to establish network capacity both now and for the future. In this Network Rail is responding to Network Licence Condition 7, which requires it to `facilitate effective and efficient use of the network', and to EU Directive 2001/14, which requires a railway infrastructure manager to `carry out capacity analysis' on congested routes and to `produce a capacity enhancement plan'.
3.2 In striving to meet the outputs specified for the railway by the DfT through the granting of franchises, the RUSs will address the practical requirements of funders and other stakeholders by seeking to balance capacity, passenger and freight demand, operational performance and cost. (A separate nationwide Freight Utilisation Strategy is expected to be published early in 2007.)
3.3 The RUSs will form the basis for the development and delivery of timetables, infrastructure maintenance and renewals for the network. They will also underpin the development of the franchise specification and will contribute to the Government's High Level Output Specification (recommendations for enhancing and/or improving the network) which is currently in preparation.
3.4 The South West Main Line RUS covers services on the lines from London Waterloo to Portsmouth, Weymouth and Exeter (via Salisbury), plus Salisbury-Southampton-Portsmouth, Reading-Basingstoke, the Alton line and various suburban lines served from Waterloo.
3.5 The timeframe of the South West Main Line RUS is that of the duration of the South Western franchise 2007 to 2017.
3.6 Other work streams to which the RUS has linkages are:
(i) South Western franchise replacement, which is scheduled to be let in February 2007.
(ii) Franchises which interface with the South Western - notably the Greater Western (relet from April 2006) and South Central, expected to begin in 2009.
(iii) The future of Waterloo International Terminal after 2007, once Eurostar services are transferred to St Pancras. The DfT has started a review process aimed at determining the most appropriate future usage for the site.
(iv) The railway Regional Planning Assessments (RPAs) whose objective is to develop an understanding of the priorities for development of the railway over the next 5-20 years in the wide context of planning policy and strategy at the regional scale. The RPAs have a longer time horizon than the RUSs and aim to establish the objectives for the railway within the wider transport system in meeting regional needs. The South West Main Line scope area will be covered by three RPAs, of which the most relevant one for Hampshire is the Southern RPA covering South London, Surrey, Berkshire (part), Sussex and Hampshire.
(v) The review of Network Rail's engineering track possessions strategy by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), which will assess whether the current policy of fewer, longer possessions is efficient from a whole-industry perspective. The ORR study, which is due imminently, will also examine Network Rail's processes for mitigating the impact of possessions such as the impact of accurate and timely information on capability and capacity of alternative routes.
Key Issues Identified in the South West Main Line Route Utilisation Study
3.7 Passenger demand has increased significantly since the mid-1990s with the number of journeys for the main operator, South West Trains, increasing from 118 million in 1997/98 to 144 million in 2003/04, which represents a growth of approximately 22%.
3.8 Around 80% of journeys in the morning peak (07.00-10.00) are commuting journeys. The target overcrowding measure of 3% of Passengers in Excess of Capacity (PIXC) has been consistently exceeded since the 1990s, being typically in the range of 4-5% on average across the morning and evening peaks combined, and more severe during the morning peak which is within more compressed time bands.
3.9 Rail freight demand is primarily focused around the flows from Southampton Docks to the North of England. Demand has been consistent over the last few years and is considered to be adequately accommodated by the existing network. However, the failure to upgrade a route to sufficient permitted clearance (known as W10 loading gauge) to accept taller (9ft 6in) containers on standard height platform wagons threatens rail's share of container transport to and from Southampton. Taller containers are increasing significantly as a proportion of the total in deep sea maritime trade.
3.10 Rail network capacity is heavily utilised in many key sections of the South West Main Line RUS area. This constrains the extent to which additional services can be introduced and has a significant impact on performance of services. Locations which are particularly constrained include London Waterloo, the section of line between Clapham Junction and Waterloo, the Woking Junction area, the Portsmouth area and sections of the West of England line beyond Salisbury. All of these to a greater or lesser degree affect the performance and quality of service experienced by passengers from Hampshire, Portsmouth and Southampton.
3.11 Demand forecasting work has indicated continued substantial growth in passenger demand across the majority of services within the South West Main Line area, with a predicted 23% increase over the period 2003 to 2016 in passenger kilometres travelled when unconstrained by service capacity and 19% growth when overcrowding constraints are applied.
3.12 Freight growth is predicted to be in the region of 15-20% by 2017, spread across the three main commodity groups of intermodal (principally containers), aggregates and automotive. Whilst this level of growth could almost certainly be absorbed by the existing network, it would place some additional pressure on operational performance.
3.13 Significant growth is predicted in the proportion of freight traffic comprising the taller containers, which will require selective enhancement of the infrastructure to provide adequate clearances if rail is to remain competitive for this traffic.
3.14 The new timetable introduced by South West Trains in December 2004 has made a significant contribution to performance, but the complicated interaction of different companies' services (both passenger and freight) in the Portsmouth and Southampton areas continues to give rise to timetable-driven performance issues.
3.15 In the South Western RUS, Network Rail's chosen strategic approach to managing the network is to identify the `gaps' between what is currently deliverable in terms of train service frequency and performance and the level which is required to meet future demand and aspirations. A series of options is then presented and analysed for each `gap'.
3.16 Eleven significant `gaps' are identified, of which ten have particular relevance for Hampshire, Portsmouth and Southampton. These are itemised in 3.17 below, along with the suggested responses based on the collective views of the County Council, Southampton City Council and Portsmouth City Council (referred to as `the authorities' below).
Summary of Main Points in Draft Response to Network Rail
3.17 In general, the authorities support the approach and methodology adopted and agree with Network Rail's conclusions as to the problems and issues to be addressed within the timescale covered by the strategy.
3.18 As regards the specific `gaps' identified:
(i) Overcrowding of the Network in the Peak Period (Gap 1)
Response - In order to cope with an anticipated 20% increase, additional train capacity will be necessary. Given that the number of additional train paths that can be accommodated is limited, the options of longer trains and a degree of peak capacity management need to be considered as a package in order to deliver the additional capacity. It is recognised that longer trains will incur additional rolling stock resources and platform lengthening at selected stations.
The possible use of double-deck stock should be investigated, for example on Waterloo-Basingstoke services, though it is recognised that considerable infrastructure expenditure would be incurred in order to provide the necessary height clearances.
The possible use of the Waterloo International platforms after 2007 to provide Eurostar-length `Peak Buster' trains serving only Woking, Basingstoke, Winchester, Southampton Airport (Parkway), Southampton Central, Bournemouth and Poole should also be investigated - necessarily a `limited stop' service because of the need to provide platforms of the appropriate length at all stations served.
The above are necessarily medium to long-term measures. The degree of sophistication offered by modern booking and ticketing systems means that more sensitive pricing could be applied to particular time bands or peak journeys, offering a new tool for peak management. Additional shoulder peak services, plus positive pricing incentives to attract users to these, would seem the best approach to overcrowding in the short term.
In addition to background demand growth referred to in the consultation document, housing growth in southern Hampshire is likely to confirm the Major Development Area west of Waterlooville, which will have an effect on demand from stations between Petersfield and Portsmouth Harbour, for travel both towards Guildford and London, and towards Portsmouth itself.
Similarly, new housing developments are expected along the line of the M27 (which will create additional demand at stations between Portsmouth and Southampton) and in the Eastleigh/Hedge End areaShould stopping all stations services be mentioned..
Demand for rail services is historically very sensitive to changes in the national economy. The forecast growth levels quoted in the strategy, therefore, could prove unrealistic if the economy falters. Given the timescale involved, it is worth bearing in mind that it is unlikely that growth will be at a steady rate over the years to 2017
(ii) The balance between Performance, Service Level and Capacity (Gap 2)
Response - The timetable in operation since December 2004 has been successful in improving train punctuality and reliability, as well as allowing a high frequency of peak services. However, Network Rail believes the changes have restricted capacity for additional services and increased some journey times. The deceleration of services is undoubtedly true - journeys are around five minutes slower generally from London to all Hampshire destinations compared with previous timetables. In the case of the Alton line, the effects of more generous allowances for station stops (`dwell time'), additional calls at Surrey stations and extra time allowances to fit in with other services mean that some trains are up to 15 minutes slower overall. The County Council has already made representations to South West Trains regarding this situation, but it has not proved possible under current rules for the timings to be accelerated.
The County Council is pleased to note that Network Rail intends to review the rules which contribute to timetable development in order to seek increased capacity while maintaining performance improvements, and hopes this will enable services to be accelerated while providing scope for the introduction of additional trains.
Network Rail has embarked on a review of stopping patterns so as to provide an appropriate future level of service in line with usage, in order to maximise network capacity. While the County Council supports this general approach, the implications for stations with low usage will have to be consulted on and the future timetable carefully managed to ensure that a useful basic service is retained.
(iii) Station Car Parking Capacity (Gap 3)
(According to the RUS, current car parking capacity is not adequate to satisfy predicted demand. Increasing car parking capacity at stations where capacity is being fully utilised will enhance customer facilities and provide for demand that is known to exist. Network Rail recognises that this course of action needs to be investigated in conjunction with local authorities to ensure account is taken of local transport policy. Southampton Airport Parkway and Winchfield are identified in the RUS as stations with both the demand and available space to investigate car park expansion schemes.)
Response - The County Council recognises the capacity problems at station car parks throughout the county, most of which are full by 08.30. This is a positive disincentive for potential off-peak travel customers. While the provision of additional parking is not the only solution to be explored in facilitating access to rail services, the `greener' alternatives of improved walking and cycling access to stations and integrated transport initiatives with bus services have largely been exploited already at Hampshire stations. To make any significant impact on the problem, more needs to be done to explore possible car park extensions, selectively, at stations and the County Council welcomes the opportunity to work with Network Rail and the Train Operating Companies to develop solutions.
(iv) Waterloo Station Capacity Problems (Gap 4)
Passenger congestion at the London terminal is obviously a source of concern for all customers using the services. The County Council notes that short term mitigation measures are being developed (removal of retail outlets, relocation of display screens and alterations to access and egress) which should alleviate the situation; that more comprehensive studies are in hand for longer term improvements to the interchange with London Underground; and that the major redevelopment of Waterloo station is being evaluated.
The opportunity to provide additional capacity by re-utilising for domestic services the International platforms at Waterloo once Eurostar services are transferred to St Pancras in 2007 is deservedly receiving attention. The County Council's comments on how these platforms could be used in future are contained in paragraph 3.17 (i) above.
(v) Clapham Junction - Trains Calling (Gap 5)
(Main line trains currently cannot call at Clapham Junction in the peak because the effect of doing so is to reduce throughput of trains on the line - basically each call `costs' a train path. The platform layout on the `fast lines' (platforms 7 and 8) used by Hampshire services is also restricted by length and curvature. Network Rail is giving consideration to remodelling platforms 7 and 8 and providing platform extensions to overcome these problems. The complete remodelling of track and platform layout at Clapham Junction is seen not only as very expensive but too disruptive to operations to be contemplated at the present time. It could conceivably be incorporated more cost-effectively at the time of the signalling renewal proposed to take place in 2025.
Response - The County Council is in favour of the remodelling of platforms 7 and 8 to enable more main line trains serving Hampshire to call at Clapham Junction in the peak. The importance of the Clapham Junction interchange as a gateway for passengers travelling to Victoria as well as East Croydon, Watford and the North London line is well understood.
So far as off-peak services are concerned, the Council's aspiration for two trains per hour on the Southampton/Bournemouth line to call at Clapham Junction was realised in the December 2004 timetable, though it is unfortunate their spacing is not half-hourly. The hourly calls by both Portsmouth (via Guildford), Salisbury and Alton services constitute an acceptable frequency level.
The Council notes Transport for London's aspiration to stop all South West Main Line services at Clapham Junction but considers that so far as medium and longer-distance services are concerned, such as those serving Hampshire stations, `automatic' calls at Clapham Junction would be overkill and would unnecessarily delay the bulk of passengers as well as costing train paths. The Council's preferred approach is to provide a balance with perhaps half the medium/long distance services making Clapham Junction calls off-peak (as now), with the addition of selected trains in the peak as remodelling allows.
(vi) Capacity Constraints at Woking Junction (Gap 6)
Response - The County Council accepts that the constraint produced by the at-grade junction of the Portsmouth and Bournemouth main lines at Woking Junction is the major obstacle to increasing capacity on both lines. The need to reduce conflicting movements there drives the timetable. The Council concurs with the RUS's contention that further reductions in service levels in order to mitigate conflicting moves would have a detrimental effect on crowding levels and ought not to be pursued.
In the Council's view, in order to provide a solution to the problems the only course open is to develop the concept of grade separation, with the Up Portsmouth line carried on a flyover across the formation to join the Up Main Line without conflicting with the Down lines. (Had World War II not intervened the Southern Railway would have implemented this as the last of the series of flying junctions it installed from Raynes Park westwards). The Council notes that a cost/benefit analysis is being carried out by Network Rail on the estimated £50-£100 million price for this work and hopes that a positive result will emerge, otherwise a period of stagnation and growing overcrowding, detrimental to the region's economy, seems inevitable.
A grade-separated junction is essential if journey times, capacity and performance are to be improved to match increased demand deriving from planned housing growth in the south Hampshire area. Benefits accruing to the scheme would include not only improved journey times for existing users but also additional rail use and revenue resulting from these improvements.
(vii) Accommodating 9ft 6 in Containers on the Network (Gap 7)
Response - The County Council strongly supports the proposal to upgrade the Southampton-Reading-Midlands route, both via Winchester and the diversionary route via Romsey and Andover, to accommodate the growing proportion of taller containers in use in the maritime trade. Without this enhancement to the network, rail's market share of container traffic through Southampton Docks will undoubtedly fall.
The County Council, together with Southampton City Council, has been in joint discussions with the DfT regarding a possible financial contribution from the Transport Innovation Fund.
(viii) Balance of Services in the Portsmouth Area (Gap 8)
The County Council views any further proposal to truncate services at Portsmouth & Southsea rather than running through to Portsmouth Harbour as a detrimental step, not only because of interchange with the Gosport ferry and the Isle of Wight services, but because of the potential of Gunwharf Quays in general and the Spinnaker Tower in particular to attract off-peak rail business from places in the Portsmouth hinterland and beyond, such as Hedge End, Swanwick, Fareham, Cosham and Havant.
The need to change trains is a deterrent, particularly on short journeys. (A new direct access is needed from the east side of Portsmouth Harbour station straight into the Gunwharf complex to obviate a long walk.)
There are obviously limits to the number of services which can be accommodated on the double line between Portsmouth & Southsea and platformed at Portsmouth Harbour, but perhaps an extension of the existing reversible working could be instituted to include both lines between Fratton and Portsmouth Harbour? This deserves serious consideration, along with the reinstatement of Platform 2 at the Harbour station which is likely to provide operational benefits in flexibility which are far beyond anything which allocating specific platforms to service groups (Network Rail's preferred solution) will achieve, and which have probably been undervalued in analyses so far carried out.
Far from reducing train services the authorities would like to see a doubling in the frequency of Southampton-Portsmouth local services off-peak, to half-hourly. The A27/M27 corridor is an area of expanding travel demand and with new housing developments anticipated, there is scope for additional rail travel if a sufficiently attractive service can be provided.
(ix) Capacity on the West of England Line (Gap 9)
Response - The County Council supports the provision of an hourly service from Waterloo to Exeter, serving Basingstoke and Andover. It accepts the view put forward in the RUS that in order to introduce any additional train services on the route, the provision of eight miles of new (doubled) track is a necessary prerequisite, together with associated signalling, etc at a total cost of £25 million. This should enable a robust and reliable timetable to be introduced providing value for money.
(x) Balance of Services in the Southampton Area (Gap 10)
The Southampton area suffers from the highest delay per train of any part of the South West Main Line RUS area. This is the result of a number of factors, in particular the mix of services using the area, many of which have travelled long distances over different routes. These comprise freight, cross-country passenger, commuter and local services. Network Rail has carried out a timetable exercise which suggests that a range of options exist to improve service performance, such as combining services and reducing the number of trains which terminate at Southampton Central.
Network Rail has assumed that the freight, cross-country passenger and mainline services will remain in their current frequency, therefore local services are under scrutiny in terms of their stopping patterns and usage., Emerging proposals will be consulted on with stakeholders.)
Response - While appreciating the difficulties of operating the present service, the County Council is of the view that the proposals for the replacement South West franchise go some way to alleviating the situation, in that the hourly Waterloo-Southampton terminating services will be extended to Bournemouth.
In performance terms, it seems perverse for local services to become the victim of potential cuts when their record is better than that of long distance and freight services.
The County Council has expressed to the DfT, under the franchise consultation, its firm opposition to any truncation of the Romsey-Totton service under the new franchise. The present service performs a useful role in providing a suburban service across the Southampton conurbation. If it were withdrawn south of Eastleigh as proposed, additional calls would be necessary in semi-fast services in order to provide a service at the intermediate stations. Patronage from Romsey and Chandler's Ford would be drastically reduced by the loss of the through service; from Chandler's Ford for example 92% of passengers are for stations south of Eastleigh and would be required to change trains in the course of an average eight-mile journey. These passengers are not captive to the railway and is anticipated most would return to the private car.
Rather than reducing the local services, the County Council believes that a proportion of the Freightliner services operating from the Southampton Maritime Container Terminal and Millbrook Terminal could be routed via Romsey and the Laverstock Loop to free up paths through Southampton Tunnel. It is recognised that freight services to and from Southampton Western Docks cannot conveniently be re-routed due to the characteristics of the layout, but would still need to use the route through Southampton Tunnel.
It is suggested that the unused bay platform (No. 5) at Southampton Central could be resignalled for passenger use (it currently has only subsidiary signals). It could be used by Bristol services terminating at Southampton to free up the through platforms. As mentioned under the item (viii) above, the authorities would like to see a half-hourly off peak local service between Southampton and Portsmouth, doubling the current frequency. The opportunity should be taken to provide good connections at St Denys between the Swanwick line and the main line to avoid local passengers having to make the additional journey into Southampton and back.
The challenge for Network Rail will be to manage operation of the resultant service pattern in a more effective way. In the County Council's view the overall service should not be downgraded or `thinned out' just to make it easier to operate, in a situation where passenger demand is growing.
3.19 There are three infrastructure items not mentioned in the RUS which in the view of the authorities need to be considered in the RUS:
(i) Reinstatement of double line between Eastleigh South and West Junctions (the `Portsmouth single line')
The existence of a short stretch of single line where the Portsmouth line diverges at Eastleigh is an operational constriction which restricts line capacity and is a source of delay. The parallel Jubilee siding could be converted to a reversible running line and with additional pointwork at Eastleigh West junction could provide a confliction-free access to/from platform 3.
(ii) Eastleigh Chord
The County Council has had preliminary discussions with Network Rail regarding the possibility of a chord line being constructed linking the Botley line to the Southampton main line immediately to the south of Eastleigh. The closure of the Alstom Works has given impetus to this proposal, since it will now be possible for such a chord line to be constructed at grade.
The rationale for the proposal is the ability for trains from Portsmouth to Cardiff to serve Southampton Airport, with its spectacular growth potential through low-cost airlines, as well as Southampton Central. In conjunction with the chord proposal, studies have also been conducted by Network Rail into the possibility of opening out Tapnage Tunnel and installing double-track as far as Fareham Tunnel No. 1.
The County Council would wish to see consideration of the Eastleigh Chord and associated works proposal included in the RUS.
(iii) Alton line infrastructure enhancement
The single line section of the Alton line, beyond Farnham, is a source of delay and restricts operational flexibility and line capacity. The oil siding at Holybourne is served by a connection from the single line between Bentley and Alton. Line occupation by the daily oil train occupies the track with run-round movements at Alton, causing a gap in the scheduled half-hourly passenger service.
Within the timescale of the RUS, rail connection of the adjacent Onyx re-cycling facility at Holybourne is an aspiration of the County Council in order to reduce the amount of HGV movements on the road network. A possible flow of recycled paper traffic has been identified between Holybourne and Shotton (Deeside) and EWS have been investigating potential service possibilities and tariffs.
For reasons both of operational flexibility and to cater for additional freight movements to and from Holybourne, provision of a loop line or section of double track to permit freight trains to work within the sidings independent of the running line would be a useful enhancement, as would doubling of the short section from Farnham to Wrecclesham road bridge. The latter would provide more flexibility by enabling double-ended access at Farnham carriage sidings.
The County Council's view is that potential enhancements between Farnham and Alton could bring significant performance benefits and should therefore be included in the RUS.
4. South Western Franchise Consultation Document
4.1 The South Western franchise is due to commence on 4 February 2007 and is of 10 year duration, the last three years being dependent on satisfactory performance. The new franchise combines two existing franchises - South West Trains and Island Line. An Invitation to Tender (ITT) will be issued in March 2006 to the five short-listed companies who have pre-qualified. These are:
(i) Arriva Trains South West Limited (Arriva plc)
(ii) First South Western Limited (FirstGroup plc)
(iii) Great South Western Railway Company Limited (a joint venture between GNER holdings and MTR Corporation Limited of Hong Kong)
(iv) Trafalgar Trains Limited (National Express Group plc)
(v) Stagecoach South Western Trains Limited (Stagecoach Group plc) - (the incumbent)
The ITT will be developed from the consultation draft, as amended by those elements resulting from feedback by stakeholders and other respondents which the DfT is minded to accept. Bidders are required to submit a tender compliant with a base specification, plus a High Return Alternative Tender, which would achieve the lowest possible cost and maximise return to the Government, while complying with the franchise objectives.
Bidders may also submit an Alternative tender, which would improve efficiency while maintaining quality, decrease journey times, improve performance more quickly and achieve more business growth. However, the successful bidder will be selected on the basis of its Base Case specification submission only.
5. Key issues identified in the South Western Main Line Franchise Consultation Document
5.1 The five key objectives for the franchise are:
(i) To meet affordability targets for the railway
(ii) To improve performance in terms of punctuality and reliability
(iii) To accommodate current and continued demand growth
(iv) To reflect stakeholder requirements and aspirations
(v) To optimise the use of the network, staff and rolling stock
Each of the above is broken down into a series of specific measures or tasks.
5.2 The Base Case includes inter alia commitment to a specification of train services as a Service Level Commitment (SLC) . There are two levels of SLC:- SLC1 which will operate with effect from February 2007 and SLC2 which will operate from December 2007.
5.3 The December 2004 timetable will form the basis of SLC1, with certain changes, as follows, with the County Council's draft response to each::
(i) Withdrawal of Brockenhurst-Wareham stopping service in favour of extending the Waterloo-Southampton semi-fast service to/from Bournemouth and the Waterloo-Poole service to/from Weymouth. These extended services would pick up the stops of the withdrawn train.
Response - The County Council supports this proposal in principle so long as the replacement services at Sway, New Milton and Hinton Admiral are suitably timed. The proposal will result in additional direct services from Farnborough, Fleet, Basingstoke, Winchester and Eastleigh to Bournemouth and Weymouth, as well as faster journey times.
(ii) Acceleration of the existing Waterloo-Weymouth service facilitated by the transfer of certain stops to the extended Southampton and Poole services.
Response - The County Council supports this proposal.
(iii) Truncating through services to Devon and Cornwall from Waterloo at Exeter and withdrawing current through SWT Bristol services beyond Salisbury.
Response - The County Council accepts the proposal in principle but considers that the merit of continuing with through portions of selected trains to Plymouth, Paignton and Penzance on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays should be investigated, including the Portsmouth-Plymouth service.
(iv) Removing through journeys between Reading and Brighton, since most trips are between intermediate urban areas rather than through journeys.
Response - see under 4.10 below
(v) Cutting back the present Romsey-Totton service via Chandler's Ford to operate as a shuttle between Romsey and Eastleigh only.
Response - see under 4.3-4.9 below.
The DfT's justification for these proposed changes is that they improve the financial position of the rail industry and enable resources to be more efficiently deployed to meet the market needs served by the franchise. Comments on each of these proposals are given separately below.
Bidders are exhorted to explore ways of utilising Smartcard and other technology to review retailing strategy and to offer new products including time tickets that are priced according to time of travel.
The base specification states that proposals will be sought for additional station gating at several Hampshire stations. Those mentioned in this context are Southampton Airport Parkway, Winchester, Aldershot, Andover and Fleet.
6. Summary of main points in draft response to Department for Transport
6.1 In general, the authorities consider the franchise document to be well-framed and providing a degree of stability in service provision which is to be welcomed. At the same time there is scope for innovative thinking in order to alleviate peak capacity problems. The particular items which call for comment are as follows.
Romsey-Totton service via Chandler's Ford
6.2 There is an immediate concern regarding the DfT's proposal to discontinue through services from Romsey to the Southampton conurbation via Chandler's Ford, in favour of a shuttle service between Romsey and Eastleigh, where passengers travelling south would be required to change trains.
6.3 The County Council has objected to the DfT in Reflecting Leaderís letterthe strongest terms to the proposed modification of the service on the Chandler's Ford line, by letter from the Leader dated 03 January.
6.4 Statistics show that 92% of passengers using Chandler's Ford are travelling to or from stations south of Eastleigh and presently enjoy a through service; 79% are for Southampton Central itself. If this proposal is put into effect it will lead to a mass desertion from train to private car, due to the loss of this convenient service.
6.5 From surveys undertaken prior to the station opening, 41% of Chandler's Ford's customers previously travelled by car and 35% by bus. It would be a disastrous blow to public transport in South Hampshire if the service at Chandler's Ford became so unattractive that newly won customers were to abandon the railway and add to the congestion on the local roads. Moreover it would send entirely the wrong signals about the relevance of public transport generally in modern society.
6.6 Hampshire County Council, as owners of the station - which was funded through local development and from Council funds to an amount in excess of £3 million, has a legitimate interest in the continuing success of this station. The downgrading of the service which is proposed in the Consultation Document is considered unacceptable.
6.7 The County Council and Southampton City Council believe that providing good viable alternatives and taking cars off the road wherever possible is a good thing - for commuters, for residents and for the environment and this was the motivation behind Hampshire County Council's substantial investment in constructing Chandler's Ford station.
6.8 There is considerable local opposition to the DfT's proposal and a well-patronised Public Meeting was held on 04 January in Chandler's Ford, organised through the auspices of the Hampshire Economic Partnership, to oppose the change and press for retention of the present pattern of through services from Romsey to Totton.. Approximately 150 local residents were present and the attendees included a businessman who had relocated his business from Southampton to Chandler's Ford and received planning permission on the strength of a Green Travel Plan based on the ability of his employees to access Chandler's Ford easily by rail from local stations around Southampton.
Curtailment of through services from Reading to Brighton
6.9 The DfT contends that there is little justification in these trains continuing to serve Reading once every three hours because analysis of passenger loadings suggests there is very little through business from Reading, and Reading-Basingstoke is adequately served by three trains per hour. In subsequent discussion with DfT officers, it is clear that the service may not even be retained from Basingstoke, but may start further south. From the County Council's perspective, the Council would need to be convinced that there is no justification for the Brighton service continuing to serve Basingstoke. It offers the only through service from Basingstoke and Winchester to Havant and Chichester, as well as Brighton. It might be possible to turn the train round using the turn-back siding at Winchester, but the Council would not support any further contraction of the route. Currently the Reading/Basingstoke to Brighton hourly service provides Shawford's service in the off-peak..
Southampton-Portsmouth Local Service
6.10 It is disappointing that the opportunity has not been taken in the specification to double the off-peak service frequency between Southampton and Portsmouth to half-hourly. This is something for which the authorities have been arguing for a considerable period. Given the populations of Portsmouth and Southampton at either end, plus Fareham (110,000) in between, an hourly stopping service is not considered adequate. (The hourly fast service provided currently by Wessex Trains is of limited seating capacity.)
Station Car Parking
6.11 It is clear that the issue of increasing station car parking on a selective basis must be seriously addressed if there is to be any capacity provided to cater for off-peak business, let alone peak requirements.
7. Community Rail
7.1 The County Council supports the aspiration of designating the Lymington branch as a Community Rail Line.
7.2 Community Rail initiatives for the Lymington line and possibly for individual stations elsewhere in the county are to be encouraged in order to improve `buy-in' by local communities. This will impact favourably on vandalism and anti-social behaviour, incidence of which can often be a deterrent to using rail services.
8. Impact Assessments
8.1 The impact of the Route Utilisation Strategy and the franchise renewal (which is for a 10 year period) will have a significant impact on the rail network's capacity to deal with continuing growth in passenger numbers and freight carried in the period under consideration, which runs through to 2016.
That the Executive Member for Environment: South Hampshire and Resource Management approves the proposed key points for inclusion in the responses to the South Western Main Line Route Utilisation Study and the South Western Franchise Consultation Document.
Section 100 D - Local Government Act 1972 - background papers
The following documents disclose facts or matters on which this report, or an important part of it, is based and has been relied upon to a material extent in the preparation of this report.
NB the list excludes:
Documents which disclose exempt or confidential information as defined in the Act.
South Western Main Line Route Utilisation Strategy consultation document
South Western Franchise consultation document
Letter from the Leader dated 3 January 2006