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Don Foster, Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, speaks for the party nationally on Transport.
 
 

Cuts To Rail Services Fail Passengers
Cuts by the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) in the name of increasing reliability is storing up problems for the future, said Don Foster MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Secretary. Passengers will not receive long promised new stations and services.

Main ImageThe SRA today published their restructured strategy for British railways, updating their Strategic Plan launched last January. Don Foster MP, said:

"Only a year ago the SRA provided an agenda for future delivery in the railway system. Now that agenda will be torn up and the Government’s 10 Year Transport Plan is in tatters. Even small-scale local plans to sort out small-scale local problems are to be axed.

"Under Labour rail delays have doubled and cancellations are up by 50%. Railway passengers will suffer and so will drivers. Some of the rail service cuts will add thousands of extra cars to our roads, contributing to road congestion. Reduced rail freight grants will add millions of additional lorry journeys on our roads. Government claims to be interested in a joined up transport system are bogus.

"Whilst the SRA forces passengers and contractors to accept cuts its own staff numbers and use of consultants escalate.

"Cutting improvement plans on our railways in the name of reliability is a false economy and storing up problems for the future. British rail passengers have years of inadequate, unreliable train services ahead of them."

ENDS

Notes to Editors



1.The Effect of cuts to small-scale passenger projects

The Strategic Rail Authority’s report confirmed that The Rail Passenger Partnership (RPP) scheme will be frozen until the middle of 2005.

The RPP scheme is designed to support schemes to promote transport integration and encourage shifts from road to rail, which are not commercially viable for a train operator without public support.

The fund, for regional priorities, was set up to support projects such as: Longer trains - New train services (including Sunday services) - Better interchange facilities, access to stations and new and extended car parks - New stations

The Rail Passenger Partnership (RPP) fund was allocated £400m over a period of 10 years from 7th December 2001; approximately £40m per annum. Since this time £41m worth of funding has been approved, covering 37 schemes (the most recent being on 4th November 2002 (£100,000 for a new travel centre at Ludlow)

The SRA announced in their Strategic Plan of 14th January 2002 that 30 different major schemes related to capacity were being assessed for RPP funding, however only 4 of these 30 have been given funding during the last year.

Freezing the RPP means that these 26 schemes are under threat, as follows:

* RPP proposal Output TOC
* Sheffield Station Redevelopment and refurbishment of Grade II listed Sheffieldstation and environs, together with better integration withSupertram, local bus network and city centre. Midland Mainline
* Bury St Edmunds Restoration of passenger-operated lifts, improved stationforecourt. Anglia Railways (AR)
* Diss station interchange Upgrade of passenger facilities, including those for interchangeand accessibility. AR
* Camberwell station New station (CSE and Thameslink), new Herne Hill –Blackfriars shuttle to provide additional capacity. Connex South Eastern
* Stratford station Extended platform and revised signalling to allow more peakservices to stop at this station. FGE
* Braintree line Line capacity improvements (platform extensions and passingloop) and improved access at Braintree Freeport. FGE
* West London Line Improved services; new stations at Shepherd’s Bush and Chelsea Harbour. Silverlink
* Chandler’s Ford station New station, with car and cycle parking. London & SE
* Finsbury Park Interchange Expansion of the bus facility to improve interchange. WAGN
* North East Yorkshire Rail Scheme Two new railway stations and a regular service between Strensall, Haxby and York. Arriva trains northern
* Ashington, Blyth and Tyne Two trains per hour between Newcastle Central and Ashington Central, calling at Bedlington, Newsham and Backworth. Arriva trains northern
* Leamside Line Re-opening of the Leamside line with three new stations Arriva trains northern
* Durham Coast Line – Phase II Four new stations and the extension of half hourly services beyond Hartlepool to Middlesbrough. Arriva trains northern
* Tees – Tyne Express Direct service between Middlesbrough and Newcastle with a journey time of less than one hour Arriva trains northern
* Ilkeston New station at Ilkeston. Central
* Birmingham – Stratford-upon- Avon semi-fast Provision of seven additional return services between Birmingham and Stratford-upon-Avon per day. Central
* South Nottinghamshire Rail Network New rail services and stations in the Nottingham travel-to-work area Central
* Frankley extension Extend Cross-City services to new stations at Rubery and Frankley. Central
* Allerton Interchange A multi-modal interchange providing access to local bus andlocal, regional and national rail networks, and a gateway toLiverpool John Lennon Airport. FNW
* Peak capacity enhancements Optimising the deployment of new and additional trains. FNW
* Cumbria Coast Line A package of measures including the doubling of weekdayservice frequency, improving facilities, customer informationservices and additional Sunday and late evening services. FNW
* Windermere Branch LineUpgrade Infrastructure enhancements and the provision of two trainsper hour on the branch. FNW
* Blackpool North – Manchester Service enhancements, new hourly off-peak service Blackpool North – Manchester Victoria. FNW
* Airdrie – Bathgate Bus Link Bus link between rail services at Airdrie and Bathgate operating at a half hourly frequency during the day and hourly at evenings and weekends. Scotrail
* Barry Island – Aberdare Strengthening morning services. Wales & Borders
* Ebbw Vale Reintroduction of passenger services. Wales & Borders

· So at least 17 new stations will not be opened and at least 13 schemes which would increase capacity and the number of services running will not happen

· The impact of these schemes on passenger numbers can be great however. For example, it is estimated that the North York scheme would result in the removal of 1.2 million car kilometres per year:

- New Stations: Rail halts at Haxby and Strensall

- Impact of Scheme: By 2005/2006 the North East York Rail Scheme would carry approximately -1000 passengers per day, resulting in the removal of 1.2 million car kilometres per year, resulting in reduced congestion

- Cost of Scheme: The total capital cost of the scheme is £2,429,749

(Feasibility Study Conducted for City of York)

2.The Effect of cutting back on Rail Freight Grants

On 17th January 2003, the SRA stated that "it is very unlikely that the rail freight industry can expect any further rail freight grants next year (2003/4)"

As the Rail Freight Group have calculated a reduction " … of grants will require an additional 2,000 lorries to move the extra traffic." The will mean at least 1million extra lorry journeys per annum.

3.SRA Cost and Staff Numbers have escalated over the last year

· The number of staff in the SRA were as follows:

31st March 2001: 284
31st March 2002: 354
1st April 2003 (estimated): 568
(Source: Parliamentary Question Answers)

· Amount Spent by the SRA on contracts:

The Strategic Rail Authority's spending on consultants has soared by five times over the past nine months at a time when Richard Bowker, the chairman, has been berating the rail industry for its failure to keep costs under control.

Since April 2002 the SRA spent close to £18m on external consultants, a huge leap from the £2m it spent in the first five months after it was set up in February 2001 as the Government's new railway executive.

The largest single payment was £3m to Lazard, the City adviser, with the remainder split fairly evenly between technical advisers such as WS Atkins and Arups and financial advisers such as KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Information from Parliamentary Answers – available on request.


Printed (hosted) by David Bellotti on behalf of Don Foster (Liberal Democrat) both at 31 James Street West, Bath BA1 2BT.
 
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