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Railwatch 086 - November 2000

Have they done well?

The events of mid September - the fuel crisis - showed how dependent many people are on the motor car and pointed to the need for alternatives - one of which is expanding the rail network.

I wrote to the Prime Minister expressing appreciation for the firm stand taken over the fuel blockades and agreeing that issues like fuel taxation must be decided by rational debate rather than the actions of small groups. I added: "We trust that the Government will not take any fiscal measures to the disadvantage of public transport users."

Most of my spare time in September, however, was spent putting finishing touches to the latest RDS book, Have They Done Well? In it, we look at a selection of the many stations and lines added to the rail network over the past 25 years.

Over 300 communities have been made less dependent on the motor car through reopenings or new stations during that period. There have been some obvious successes. The Cannock line had been expected to generate between 3,800 and 5,000 journeys per week prior to reopening in 1989. In fact, within three years its weekly usage was 5,700 and within nine years 7,500.

The Swanage Railway is carrying large numbers of holidaymakers and day trippers and playing an effective role in reducing car travel in the beautiful Purbeck peninsula, and the line will be even more effective when its trains run through to Wareham on the main line.

Individual stations are doing well. Chafford Hundred is proving a popular alternative to the motor car for shoppers at the Lakeside complex in Essex while at Saltaire, West Yorkshire, usage has steadily increased, not only by local commuters but also by tourists.

These are among the examples described in our book which, under the umbrella of our Reopenings and New Railways Committee, has drawn upon the knowledge of dozens of RDS members - itself reflecting one of the strengths of our organisation.

But, while RDS is a cheerleader for rail transport, it is not an automatic cheer leader for any particular rail company or political party. Our contributors therefore make constructive criticisms. For example, the reopened station at Conwy in North Wales has a wealth of tourist attractions within 500 yards. Yet its service is infrequent and, for visitors from England, there are few through trains and connections are often inconvenient.

The Robin Hood Line from Nottingham to Mansfield and Worksop was an impressive technical achievement - but why on earth cannot the political decision be made to integrate it fully into the Central or Northern Spirit franchise? The present arrangement means a higher fare from Mansfield to Nottingham than from Derby to Nottingham over a comparable distance. Our new book has much in it to stimulate decision makers and opinion formers as well as rail campaigners.

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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