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Railwatch 079 - April 1999

Railwatch - RDS and politicians

As General Secretary, I recently wrote two letters to Government ministers. One letter praised the decision to initiate a fresh and wide-ranging study into North of London Eurostars, in a bid to have these long-awaited services introduced.

The other criticised lack of legislation in the Queen's Speech to set up a Strategic Rail Authority.

Theses two letters illustrate our attitude toward the politicians. The RDS constitution prohibits us from being allied to any political party.

Theoretically, if one party were giving us all that we wanted, we could come out in unflinching support for it.

In the real world that is unlikely. We have to look at each party's policies from the rail user's viewpoint and support or criticise as necessary.

But we need to go further. We need to foster cross-party agreement wherever possible, at national and at local level. In the 1980s — a confrontational era nationally — we saw councillors of all parties working together to put forward a package to save the Reedham-Yarmouth line in East Norfolk.

I was reminded of this in October when I listened to the Mayor of Mulhouse, in France, setting out his proposals for light rail in and around the city.

He stressed that his aim was consensus between all the parties and interest groups, and if it was necessary to wait an extra year or two to bring his plans to fruition, than that was a price worth paying.

Members of our parliamentary liaison committee have been approaching MPs of all parties seeking support for a Route Protection Bill.

David Bigg and Paul Krebs of the Committee have met Conservative Transport spokesman Bernard Jenkin MP, who assured them of his support for an integrated transport system — though not surprisingly he also had his disagreements with the Government. A subsequent constructive meeting took place with Liberal Democrat spokesman Norman Baker MP, discussing the Wealden Line reopening, threats of service reductions on three lines, and the problem of parallel bus services driving away rail operators' business.

A considerable number of MPs of all parties have also been sent our anniversary book Developing Rail and we know from the feedback that this has given them many ideas.

In this period, nearly half way between general elections, we need to be discussing our long-term ideas on issues ranging from transport finance to strategic development with all parties and seeking consensus wherever possible.

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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