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Railwatch 086 - November 2000

Railwatch - National railcard needed right now

Rail Users Conference 2000

Increasing train cancellations, delays and overcrowding were highlighted when the official rail passenger watchdog Stewart Francis addressed the RDS rail users conference on 7 October. But he told the 100 delegates: "Service delivery does not just mean keeping to the timetable."

He said the walk-on fares issue, capacity problems and the case for a national railcard must also be addressed. Mr Francis, who is chairman of the Rail Passengers Council, said he looked forward to working more closely with RDS and local users groups.

In the afternoon, many useful ideas came out of workshops on bus-rail and air-rail integration and we hope to take these forward over the coming year. Jonathan Denby, corporate affairs manager of Anglia Railways, sponsors of the conference, described his company's progress on several fronts - customer service, innovation, partnership, and developing a better railway. He told delegates: "Our vision is very similar to yours and we have many shared aims."

The increasing demand for rail services was described by Chris Austin, external relations director of the Strategic Rail Authority. Over the past five years, passenger usage had increased by 30% and freight tonne-miles by 40%.

He was enthusiastic in explaining how the SRA planned to cope with the demand. He explained in detail the proposals for improving the Chiltern Line and said the SRA was also prepared to look at reopenings and microfranchising.

There will be £7billion available for a rail modernisation fund which will allow direct investment in the Railtrack network, which should be good news for cities like Birmingham and Manchester. He said the Rail Passenger Partnership fund should allow projects to go ahead which BR would not have been able to implement. Together all these measures should finally lay the ghost of Beeching, he said.

At the workshop on rail-air integration, Alan Crowhurst pointed out the need for wider platforms when people with heavy luggage are trying to get through quickly. He cited Reading as a problem station and said when Gatwick is rebuilt it would need wider platforms. He said he was surprised that Gatwick had been named as a Station of the Year, pointing out that it was often very difficult to find information.

He also spoke about the poor storage facilities on many of Centro's trains. This is a problem on may other trains which supposedly "serve" airports.

The disreputable state of many station lavatories is also a problem. In Railtrack surveys at major stations in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham and London, passengers always mentioned proper toilets as an essential requirement.

For a full report of the conference, send £1.50 (payable to RDS) to John Lee, The Birches, Eye Lane, East Rudham Norfolk PE31 8RH. A report of the presentation by Chris Austin is available from Richard Pout, 105 Crouch Hill, Hornsey, London N8 9RD. Please send an sae.

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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