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Railwatch 080 - July 1999

Joined-up rail services

The busy Ipswich-Liverpool Street line enjoys frequent trains provided by both Anglia and Great Eastern. That is potentially a good selling point when wooing motorists off the parallel A12.

A few weeks ago, I was on a London-bound train delayed at Colchester for 20 minutes while police were called to remove a passenger who had a ticket only valid on the other operator's services.

The fragmented system introduced on our railways in 1994 encourages this sort of thing. As users, we welcome efforts by operators to bring in new business, but customers also need to be presented with a system that is not unduly complicated.

To the average passenger, on parts of the network where two or more operators compete, a train is a train is a train. Having to work out which ticket is valid on whose services can be a disincentive.

The recent RDS report Easy Rail Travel compiled by our passenger committee and shepherded through to completion by David Croot, urges that as a general rule, all tickets should be available on all train operating companies' trains. The report has gone to all TOCs, to rail users' consultative committees, key politicians and others with a responsibility for making rail travel as easy and attractive as possible. We are receiving feedback which the passenger committee is considering and discussing with relevant bodies.

Many of us welcomed Anglia Railways' proposal for a Crosslink service from Ipswich to Northampton and Basingstoke and beyond. It must be well integrated with other services, however. We have urged that Network Cards must be valid on it, for example, and have been assured that they will be.

Light Rapid Transit schemes should also be well integrated with the rest of the network. Even if this is not easily done physically, there should be joint publicity and ticketing. Our reopenings and new railways committee has been preparing a report on this and, while work has been put on the back burner pending more urgent issues like bustitution, it remains part of our agenda.

In Newcastle recently, I sampled the excellent Metro link to the airport, and was told by members of our North East branch that there are proposals to run conventional trains from the main line network over it as well. Meanwhile, through ticketing can be encouraged. There is also scope for preserved lines to be better integrated with the rest of the network. North Midland branch secretary Bill Collins and I have written letters to the planning authorities in support of proposals by the Great Central Railway (Nottingham) Ltd to extend northwards to an interchange with the proposed line 2 of the Nottingham LRT system.

Our East Anglian Branch, and many individual members, have actively supported the Mid Norfolk Railway which has been accepting freight trains off the Railtrack network at Wymondham and is now running a passenger service to its own halt in the town.

The next step will be extension to the mainline station, and a commuter service to Norwich is part of the plan. Further developments, suggested in our Easy Rail Travel report, include through ticketing between preserved lines and the main network.

We have a diverse rail system in this country - but the more its diverse players co-operate, the more likely it is likely that the potential customer will be attracted to rail as a mode of transport.

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