Railwatch

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Railwatch 072 - July 1997

Waiting for a rail strategy

Transport Minister Glenda Jackson gave a clear indication in the Commons that the powers of the Rail Regulator and the Franchise Director are to be amended.

She has asked both officials to review the powers they have at present. Once those reports are available, the Government can decide what changes it wants in the way they operate.

It may mean a new National Rail Authority, as promised in the Labour manifesto, would take over some of their powers.

"We believe the tools presently available to regulators are inadequate and have already begun to seek ways of strengthening them in the interests of passengers," Ms Jackson said in May.

One of the major tasks of a national rail authority would be to co-ordinate and plan strategic developments.

Great Western, Midland Mainline and Virgin CrossCountry have all pushed electrification off the agenda.

But the national need for a programme of electrification is as strong as ever.

And of course the rail network must be the backbone of a national public transport plan.

A national rail authority is more than ever necessary as individual train companies make changes to long-established practices at the expense of network benefits.

Midland Mainline has stopped painting yellow lines on coaches to indicate where first class is and Anglia has axed Super Saver tickets.

Network maps have been removed by other operators.

And one of BR's most successful concepts - InterCity, which has been copied throughout the world - is under threat.

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