Network Rail rebuffed on lavatory levy
Daily Telegraph: 30 Oct 2008
By David Millward, Transport Editor
Rail bosses want to impose a £7.2 million “lavatory levy” to cover the cost of clearing effluent off the lines.
Network Rail said it needed to charge operators for the damage done to the country’s track by the toilet waste which is being dumped on it from passing trains.
Its plea for the cash formed part of the negotiations with the Office of Rail Regulation over the money which the company said it needed to implement a raft of improvements by 2014.
But this has been turned down by the ORR.
Network Rail, which is responsible for maintaining the country’s track, said that toilet waste was corrosive and toxic.
“We asked for this money to cover the extra cost of clearing the muck from our tracks. It is not only unsightly but also over a period of time can damage the lines and components,” said a Network Rail.
“At the moment we need high powered jets and chemicals to clean the mess and this is a very expensive process.”
While modern carriages are fitted with effluent tanks which are emptied safely at the depot, the same is not true of older rolling stock, such as on the refurbished InterCity 125s.
However Network Rail’s plea for the cash triggered prolonged haggling with train operators.
There was a dispute over how many carriages could be held responsible for causing the damage and how much it would cost to repair.
Eventually the ORR said that the infrastructure company had “not convincingly demonstrated that it would incur additional costs”.
The ORR has also told Network Rail that it should carry out the raft of improvements it has promised between 2009-14 for £26.7 billion, £2.4 billion less than the company had asked for.
Already, as a result, a swathe of projects affecting millions of passengers have been ditched.
They include extra capacity on key commuter lines, such as that between Didcot and Oxford, extra carriages on some services into Liverpool Street and projects to ease bottlenecks near Swindon, Redhill and Crewe.
Other proposed upgrades could also be at risk as a result of the Office of Rail Regulation’s demand for significant “efficiency savings”.
Despite the cash gap, some schemes will definitely go ahead. Those which are safe include work to ease bottlenecks around London Bridge, rebuilding Birmingham New Street station and providing extra capacity on the east coast main line.
In addition the ORR has demanded a 20 per cent drop in the number of late and cancelled trains.
The ORR’s decision has also ordered Network Rail to improve its efficiency by 21 per cent, eight per cent more than that offered by the infrastructure company.
Theresa Villiers, the Tory transport spokesman backed the regulator.
“Network Rail needs to up its game on efficiency and value for money if it is going to deliver the new capacity that passengers are crying out for,” she said.
“The regulator needs to be tough on Network Rail to ensure that the interests of passengers are protected.”
“But Labour must also deliver on the promises it has made on tackling chronic levels of overcrowding on the rail network - a problem they have been far too slow to wake up to.”