Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Action needed to tackle overcrowded trains and soaring fares

Conservative proposals unveiled to improve Lincolnshire's railways

Giles McNeill, Conservative County Council candidate for the Nettleham & Saxilby division, added his backing to new Conservative plans to make rail services across Lincolnshire and Britain better. The proposals include giving Lincolnshire County Council the power to work in partnership with train firms to help deliver local rail improvements, and practical steps to increase investment in new trains and services.

By contrast, under the current Government, overcrowding is becoming an ever greater problem on the railways, and East Midlands Trains is increasing fares by 6% on season tickets and 7% on leisure fares this year.

The proposals, unveiled in a Conservative rail review, call for:

Longer, better franchises: Short franchises discourage private sector investment in better trains. Instead, 15-20 year franchises should be the norm to give greater certainty and encourage investment in new and better trains.

Innovation in local rail improvements: Funding for smaller scale capacity enhancements, currently dealt with by Network Rail, should be contestable and open to other providers, including train operating companies, local councils and Community Rail Partnerships.

A moratorium on building on disused rail paths: Any disused railway lines still in public ownership should be conserved for the moment, to keep alive the possibility of reopening them to rail travel in the future. Protecting these corridors will also allow their use by pedestrians and cyclists in the interim.

Setting the pace on high speed rail: There should be a new high speed line connecting Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, London and Heathrow. This would be the first step in a national high speed network which would see the line extended to Newcastle and Scotland with further new lines linking up major cities across the UK.

A new Passenger Champion: Passengers should have a one-stop-shop to complain to when things go wrong and to represent their interests; it would have the power to bang heads together to ensure that performance is improved, regardless of where the fault lies.

Giles said:
“The Government now has more control over the railways than in the days of British Rail. But after a decade of Labour, our railways are becoming more and more overcrowded and increasingly expensive, with fares soaring this year.

“We desperately need new capacity with longer trains, longer platforms and additional lines. These practical proposals would give a greater say for local people and less for Whitehall bureaucrats.”
Below, Theresa Villiers, the Shadow Transport Secretary, sets out our long-term vision for Britain’s railways and explains the changes a Conservative Government will make to improve rail services for passengers.

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