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Railwatch 078 - December 1998

Railwatch - Rail for regeneration

The problem of councils and officials who mistakenly still believe that roads are good for regeneration was raised by Richard Pout of RDS London and South East branch.

Dr Paul Salveson of the TR&IN consultancy said: "Many officials still believe that roads are the key to regeneration. They are wrong.

"In Germany and the US, light rail has been identified as being an excellent tool for regenerating an area.

"But local government in this country cannot deliver this kind of scheme. It needs a regional structure and passenger transport executive-type powers."

He said the way to influence regional planning at the moment was through regional government offices although some are still road-orientated.

Regional rail

But civil servants are not really accountable and so Regional Development Agencies start up this year with regeneration powers.

New regional planning guidance will be issued (from the regional government offices). The regional transport strategy will be worked out over the next few months with a conference in each region.

Richard Crane said: "User groups need to address these problems. They need to appoimt someone who can keep on top of what is happening. Perhaps they should aim to recruit someone from a local authority, someone who knows his way around the subject."

Richard also warned against the present trend to build a rail line for just one specific user.

He said: "New lines should be designed so that all kinds of rail traffic can use them. Long distance trains ought to be able to run on local lines and freight should be able to run through too. That way, the overall cost of running a railway is reduced."

Richard Pout said that often the younger officers were good but senior council officials were steeped in a culture of road building. David Redgewell of Severnside reminded delegates that they should also be thinking of the new regional planning set-up.

He said: "We need to work with other organisations to get rail into the regional plans which will last for 15 years."

Station access

John Stewart led a workshop session, dealing with pedestrian and cycle access to stations.

One of the ideas from that workshop was that RDS should produce a booklet showing good and bad practice.

He said: "It is a good time to be campaigning on this issue because of the importance given to walking and cycling in the integrated transport White Paper."

Ray Jones of the Cotswold Line Promotion Group asked why RDS did not try to attend the conferences organised by the political parties, perhaps by organising fringe meetings.

Dr Salveson said the Community Rail Partnerships had staged fringe meetings and said RDS could try doing the same.

Special offers

G K Atkinson of Shrewsbury rail users complained about Virgin ticket offers which sometimes ran for only 12 weeks and were given little or no publicity.

"By the time people find out about them, they are withdrawn," he said.

Mr Crane said: "I have no confidence in ATOC for delivering the goods on these special offers."

Dr Salveson said: "Trial offers can be very useful and Virgin should be better at getting the information across. Perhaps the rail industry should have a presence in the High Street.

"Rail shops could offer information and ticket sales."

Shirley Dex said: "A list of special offers should be available somewhere."

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