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Increased rail capacity welcome, but not at passengers' cost

24 July 2007
Transport 2000 [1] is pleased the Govermment has heeded the call of its rail mascot, Sardine Man [2], and the call of thousands of disgruntled commuters, and begun to take action to tackle overcrowding on the railways through its Rail White Paper, published today [3]. Improving major bottleneck stations like Reading and Birmingham New Street will mean more and longer freight and passenger trains can run. But Transport 2000 is not convinced that this White Paper goes far enough to deliver a doubling of freight and passenger capacity by 2030, as promised.

The Government has also adopted Transport 2000’s concept of station travel plans, which are plans for getting people to the station by means other than private cars. We await pilot studies.

However, Jason Torrance, Transport 2000’s campaigns director, points to areas of concern:

"We welcome the Government’s long-term rail strategy but passengers should not be forced to pay for the improvements through yet more fares hikes. If people are to be given real travel choices, the cost of travelling by rail must be reduced to give a real alternative to the car and plane.

"The Government is making the right sounds about improving the environmental record of rail, but it needs to be much clearer about how it will do this. Infill electrification of the rail system would speed up services and enable Network Rail, already the biggest consumer of non-domestic electricity, to use its purchasing power to increase the volume of electricity from renewable sources. Rail stations could also become eco-stations, generating their own power using renewable energy."

Notes for editors

[1] Transport 2000 is an independent campaigning and research body that represents the key transport interests of around 40 environmental groups, transport organisations and transport unions. We bring together people who seek to reduce the environmental and social effects of transport through encouraging less use of cars, lorries and planes and more use of rail, buses, trams, cycling and walking.

[2] Transport 2000 launched its Growing the Railways campaign in October 2005 calling on the Government to take action on rail overcrowding.

[3] The Rail White Paper can be found on the website of the Department for Transport.