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Railwatch 074 - December 1997

Organising research for rail

The issue of lorries full of household waste trundling through local villages was raised at a meeting of one of our affiliated local associations which I recently addressed.

The landfill site to which they were travelling was close to a railway line and it would have benefited many communities, and the environment, if the waste was taken on the main part of its journey by train. We need access to facts and figures to persuade officials to act in such cases.

The same meeting discussed a disused railway and the benefits of reopening it rather than turning it into a road. Would a restored train service attract more people out of their cars than a bus shuttle? Would the railway do more to create high quality jobs and regenerate the local economy, as well as reducing noise and air pollution?

In certain circumstances light rail could be a better solution to a transport problem. In RDS we have no rigid dogma that says all railways must be conventional heavy tracks. But we need clear objective evidence of what is best in which circumstances.

Research has been done, in some parts of the country, into such issues. The results need to be made easily available to campaigners, interested bodies and professionals everywhere. Where research has not been done, or is out of date, it needs to be commissioned or updated. The results need to be disseminated through conferences, publications, libraries and databases. That is why our society is setting up the Railway Development Trust. Its objects, approved at our special general meeting last winter, are "to carry out research into, and to advance the education of the public within the United Kingdom, about matters relating to rail usage and its improvement and development as an essential part of an integrated transport system for the benefit of the public, and its impact on society, the environment and economic activity; and to undertake any ancillary activities designed to promote these objects."

We are grateful to Mary Acland-Hood for much of the groundwork in drawing up a trust deed. Steps are now being taken to have the trust registered as a charity. The sum of £220, already donated by members and held in reserve, will then be transferred to the trust, which will then be free to raise its own funds in ways that other charities do, including from sources not normally available to RDS itself. The trust will be governed by seven trustees who will be RDS members. Members of the society will be kept informed of what the trust is doing.

Initial work funded by the trust is likely to include cataloguing the many reports and other documents amassed by RDS over the years - ranging from surveys of likely usage of reopened stations to government consultation papers on environmental matters.

RDS research officer John Saunders has already done a considerable amount of work on this. We are exploring the possibilities of storing the material - perhaps by renting rooms in a railway station - and of how information technology can help us. RDS itself, or one of our affiliated bodies, is likely to commission the trust to carry out research and publish the results. Our society contains members with a wealth of knowledge and experience in many fields. We hope the trust will help them develop their talents in the cause of environmentally friendly transport.

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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