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Railwatch 087 - March 2001

Railwatch - It's a

Railfuture is the new name for the Railway Development Society. Campaigns director Alix Stredwick explains:

What a manic time our railways have had recently. Since I last wrote for Railwatch, there's been one trauma after another:

A fuel crisis where some diesel services were left stranded and others were more over-crowded; the awful Hatfield and Selby crashes; nationwide storms; floods; speed restrictions and messed-up timetables and engineering works on an unprecedented scale.

So when are things going to get better? When are we going to see what the real future of rail will be?

Well, we know that the Strategic Rail Authority's national strategy has been postponed until the autumn - a full year after it was first due. And I wonder what Railtrack's yearly network management statement will promise when it comes out this spring.

But even if our railways are still lacking direction, at least your very own RDS is pressing ahead with changes which will make us more effective.

RDS will now be known as Railfuture, although we will keep RDS as the official name. Railfuture is far more media-friendly and will help attract more members. So do look out for Railfuture in the press, on the TV and the radio.

I really must thank all of you who responded to my "action stations" campaign with the Year 2000 Appeal in the autumn.

I asked RDS members to write to their MPs and join in with the national debate about fuel duty. We needed to point out the effects changes in fuel duty would have on rail freight, and how public transport users are far worse off than motorists when you compare the rising costs of fares and petrol.

I received a mainly positive and supportive response from RDS members and it's fair to say that we helped raise the profile of the rail argument.

The outcome of the fuel debate was not as bad as it could have been but we still need to hammer home the need for a level playing field when it comes to the costs of public and private transport. There were of course some RDS members who were against the campaign. I thought it would be a difficult issue to get everybody in the RDS on board, and I totally understand the points that were made. Thanks for letting me know -- we always need feedback from members.

But to those of you who put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard!) and let me have copies of responses received from your MPs, I am truly grateful. You did a wonderful job.

I asked these RDS members to help me out again shortly afterwards. I wanted to get some opinions and information from RDS members without sending out another mailshot to everyone, which would be costly.

So I chose the members who had responded to the fuel duty campaign, as they would be likely to respond again. I asked them for their opinions on various matters, including Railtrack's speed restrictions, and what kind of compensation train companies should be giving. We were meeting with the Association of Train Operating Companies and Railtrack so I also wanted some examples of how RDS members' journeys had been disrupted and how this inconvenience could be mitigated. I received a brilliant response with plenty of examples and ideas which we passed on to ATOC and Railtrack. Many thanks! This kind of exercise helps us to campaign more effectively on behalf of our members.

And yet another thank you to members: a huge thanks to those of you who donated to the Year 2000 Appeal. You have once again given generously, to "keep it going". But we need more funds to keep us on track so please send a donation if you have not done so (and another if you already have!).

Any amount will be useful. Please send cheques payable to RDS to Membership Secretary, Little Close, 13 Arnhill Road, Gretton, Corby, Northants NN17 3DN.

RDS - or should I say Railfuture, has its work cut out to campaign for a bigger and better rail network. We couldn't do it without the support of you the members, and I hope that Railfuture can campaign effectively for the rail future we all want to see.

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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