Clause 34

Part of Crossrail Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 27 November 2007.

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Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport) 11:00, 27 November 2007

We move on to a clause that deals with the impact of the Crossrail project on the existing railway franchise agreements. The amendments are very much in line with one another as they deal with exactly the same issue. The clause gives the Secretary of State the power to terminate a franchise if the parties to the franchise cannot agree on how it is to be modified to deal with the consequences of the Crossrail project, and only in those circumstances.

I can understand that some sort of external arbitration will be necessary if such a situation arises. After all, none of us wants the construction or operation of  Crossrail to be held up by a disagreement between two sides to an existing franchise where that franchise agreement will have an impact on Crossrail. However, giving the casting vote in such a dispute to the Secretary of State is not necessarily the solution to the problem. The power to mediate in such disputes should be given to the ORR, which is transparently more of an independent and impartial expert body than the Secretary of State and so perfectly suited to carry out this role.

Amendment No. 19 would change the wording of subsection (3) so that instead of terminating the franchise himself, the Secretary of State will instruct the ORR to review the agreement and try to mediate to achieve an equitable solution. It would therefore revise a subsequent subsection to reflect the change made by amendment No. 18. I hope the Minister will look favourably on the suggestion that the Secretary of State should not mediate and that the ORR, as an impartial and expert body, should take on that role.