Railwatch

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Railwatch 075 - April 1998

A new dawn for rail

Rail campaigners are waiting hopefully for Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to unveil his White Paper on the future of transport.

The Government has already pledged that there will be a strategic rail authority with a strong consumer representation and has also signalled unofficially that there will be better ways of funding rail improvement schemes.

RDS is hoping that Labour will choose our Cambridge-Oxford East-West link scheme as its flagship project.

We have always argued that this scheme would be a validation test for any new transport policy and we are hoping the Labour policy will give a boost to the Ivanhoe, Robin Hood, and Huddersfield-Halifax lines, and many other schemes like Uckfield-Lewes.

Railtrack has failed to deliver sensible rail schemes like these and has fallen behind on basic maintenance. Yet now it seems to be cash-rich enough to get involved in the Channel Tunnel fast link.

The Railway Reform Group, which includes Railwatch contributor Peter Rayner, has called for responsibility for the national timetable to be taken away from Railtrack and given to the Strategic Rail Authority.

The group calls for Railtrack to be funded directly by the SRA instead of via access charges from operators.

The SRA should lease the rolling stock leaving operators with fewer financial responsibilities. The group calls for a national railcard offering discounted travel.

Save Our Railways has also produced a Charter for Rail to put "Beeching into reverse" and give all towns with a population of more than 23,000 a rail service.

Despite a welter of complaints, some train operators are trying to be positive.

Virgin is close to the "biggest ever" order for new trains for the West Coast and Cross Country routes. South West Trains and Central are also buying new trains. Central has cut fares.

North West Trains has new services from London Euston to Manchester Airport and also to Rochdale and Blackpool from the May timetable.

Note: contact details (postal and email addresses, along with telephone numbers) in old editions of Railwatch out of date.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