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Railwatch 070 - December 1996

Great Leap Forward, We Hope

The current state of RDS is rather like that of Liverpool Street station when it was being rebuilt in the late 1980s.

We are reconstructing our organisation in such a way that preserves key features of the old while bringing in new concepts and, at the same time, running as normal a service as possible!

At Liverpool Street, the Victorian roof was preserved. In RDS, the strength of a grass-roots voluntary organisation will be preserved. That means local knowledge, contacts and expertise, are retained in our network of branches, specialist committees and affiliated local rail users' groups.

Our strength enables us to monitor what is happening on a changing railway. The heavy response by our members to the society's autumn passenger survey is a good example. We see what is going on.

We need to improve further our publicity, administration and research, however, to complement that strength. This is why we need a full-time director.

The plan to appoint a director in the spring is the main reason for increasing subscriptions on 1 January. For five years, up to the end of 1995, our subscriptions were held at the same level and growing membership meant that we did not need to raise them. Part of the rise is to meet increased running costs, but most will go towards the director's salary.

Other sources of finance have been, and are being, pursued. Establishing a charitable Rail Development Trust will enable us to apply for grants to assist with research work and make our specialist knowledge more easily accessible.

In order to respond in robust fashion to "over the top" estimates for rail improvements, or to claims that rail investment is not in the public interest, for example, we need to produce data promptly and accurately. We have formed a local council liaison committee and are forming an environmental committee, partly to achieve this improvement. That costs money.

So does the building up of databases of information, sources and contacts. Our International and EU Committee has plans for increasing our effectiveness at European level. Over the past decade, RDS has also built up a team of administrative officers and assistants, now eight strong. These members are paid modest honoraria and we shall still need them when we have a salaried Director, but some of their remits will change to reflects changes in the society. I should like to see each of our growing number of specialist committees receiving some paid assistance. At present, only three of them do.

I also want to see how we can provide administrative back-up to branches. These issues will be addressed during the winter.

Meanwhile, we are doing our best to maintain as normal service as possible, ranging from high-level discussions with Railtrack and English Scottish & Welsh Railways, via the lobbying of prospective parliamentary candidates, to the production and distribution of leaflets for rail commuters.

Our society is living in interesting times. Watch this space.

Note: contact details (postal and email addresses, along with telephone numbers) in old editions of Railwatch out of date. Click CONTACT US for latest contact details.

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