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Railwatch 075 - April 1998

Fighting for rail on all fronts

RDS officers have been making repeated forays into the corridors of power with the aim of improving current rail services and ensuring that rail takes a key role in the new transport era.

Following a meeting with Transport Minister Glenda Jackson in the summer, we have concentrated on officials.

One team - Paul Clark, Bill Collins and Jeremy Sleightholm - met officials from the Franchise Director's office in December just after the Government gave the Franchise Director new objectives which include helping disabled travellers, reducing congestion and tougher monitoring of rail operators.

We discussed these issues as well as experimental rail services, and services run jointly by train operators. We also raised the provision of bus links in place of trains, such as the coach link from Lincoln to Newark which competes with Central Trains.

Our next port of call was the Rail Regulator in January and this time the RDS team included John Bigny, Bill Collins, Peter Lawrence and James Towler.

We stressed the need for Railtrack to invest more in "minor works" and voiced concerns about poor maintenance in certain areas of the country. We also raised the thorny question of investment in new rail routes.

Other topics included the national rail enquiry service and stressed that although official statistics showed that performance was improving, complaints were actually increasing, particularly about the quality of information on offer.

In February, Michael Caton, David Bigg, Ray King and Nat Taplin went to see Railtrack. They had a wide-ranging discussion with passenger director Brian Burdsall and Paul Molyneux, head of product development.

We were told the new Network Management Statement was due out on 25 March and would contain a great deal more detail and information about Railtrack's plans.

We raised a host of issues, including East-West links, the West Coast main line and former branch lines threatened by busways. Luton-Dunstable and Cambridge-St Ives were used as examples.

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