Clause 22

Crossrail Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:30 pm ar 22 Tachwedd 2007.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Licensing

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move amendment No. 38, in clause 22, page 14, line 12, at end insert

‘with the exception of any trains used to transport construction material to sites being used in connection with the scheduled works.’.

We come to a series of clauses that look at railways matters. A number of them concern the obligations of the Office of Rail Regulation and the Secretary of State with regard to the railway assets. The Railways Act 1993 obliges the operators of railway assets to obtain a licence from the Secretary of State, or from the regulator with the consent of the Secretary of State, to operate such assets as train stations, networks or light maintenance depots. Under clause 7 of the 1993 Act, the Secretary of State may grant an exemption from that requirement to be authorised by licence provided that he has consulted with the regulator.

The clause provides that operators of Crossrail-related railway assets will need neither a licence nor a licence exemption during the Crossrail construction period, yet there is the possibility that trains will move construction material and personnel to sites. The Committee will want to understand why the additional power is necessary, given that the Secretary of State already has the power by virtue of the 1993 Act to grant exemptions to operators from the requirement to have a licence. It appears that the only difference being created here is the removal of the obligation from the Secretary of State to consult with the rail regulator before granting such an exemption. I look forward to the Minister’s clarification of whether that is the intent of the clause.

That is the general point relating to the motive behind the clause as a whole. My amendment is slightly more particular. It relates to construction materials being used in the building of Crossrail. If such materials and such personnel are to be transported by rail, I see no reason why the operators of the trains and the related infrastructure—the railway assets—should be excused from the need to have a licence validated by the ORR.

That licensing regime ensures that certain minimum standards are met in terms of efficiency, the environment and most particularly, safety. It is a key regulatory requirement and one that I would be wary of seeing sidestepped for any railway asset, particularly where construction workers may be involved. I look forward to the Minister’s reassurance that those powers are necessary.

Photo of Tom Harris Tom Harris Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I hope I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that there is no need for the amendment.

Clause 22 deals with the period between part of the Crossrail network becoming usable and its opening to fare-paying passengers. During that period, the newly created network may be operated for construction trains, and test trains will be run. The clause removes the need to obtain licences from the ORR to use the network and to run trains in that period. The licensing provisions of the 1993 Act are appropriate to the commercial operation of this, as any other railway, but add no value to developmental stages of a new railway.

The amendment would require the licensing of services carrying construction materials on newly constructed parts of the Crossrail network that have yet to be brought into commercial operation. However, if the hon. Gentleman is concerned about trains being used in the construction of Crossrail and also running on the existing national rail network without a licence, I can reassure him that the clause does not remove the requirement for a licence to be obtained in the usual manner in relation to that network.

The only construction trains that will be exempt from licensing for their entire journey are those contained within the newly constructed parts of the Crossrail network. There is no possible value in trying to apply a licensing regime designed for commercial operations to the running of construction trains within a construction site. I hope that that is enough information to reassure the hon. Gentleman and persuade him to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

The Minister’s opening remarks are certainly extremely useful in confirming that any construction trains being used on the national rail network will still require a licence. However, I am still concerned. I understand entirely that the licensing and regulatory regime that one would use for commercial operation is not appropriate to a construction operation, but, at the same time, are we saying that there is no regulatory or licensing regime being placed on the construction traffic at all? Safety implications must be addressed. Therefore, how can we be clear about the safety of construction workers being guaranteed?

Photo of Tom Harris Tom Harris Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Although the trains will be running exclusively on newly built railway not open to commercial traffic at that time, and will not need to be licensed by the ORR, nevertheless, health and safety legislation will still apply in full force to the whole Crossrail construction site.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am grateful for the Minister’s extra clarification, because it convinces me that I do not need to persuade my colleagues to support me in a Division on the measure. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 22 ordered to stand part of the Bill.