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The Railway Development Society will be 20 years old on 1 October - a chance to celebrate and to take stock.
We plan to produce a commemorative book aimed principally at decision makers and opinion formers in the United Kingdom and neighbouring European Union countries. We will highlight successful campaigns of RDS over the past two decades, explain our 1998 concerns and look ahead to the railway we want to see in the next millennium.
When RDS was formed in 1978 there were no passenger trains to Maesteg, Cannock, Bathgate or Mansfield, no proposals to replace the ageing 1950s diesel multiple units and no signs of electrification of the East Coast main line.
Plans to build a Channel Tunnel had been abandoned only three years before. These things have now all happened, and RDS campaigned actively for them.
On the other hand, 20 years ago space for bicycles on trains was free and plentiful, newspapers went all over the country by rail, it was relatively easy to charter an excursion train and there were generally enough staff and rolling stock to cope with all contingencies. While we cannot simply turn back the clock, tackling some or all of these issues remains on our agenda.
The fragmentation and privatisation of the industry was not done to make things easy for campaigning bodies like RDS. But we have been devising strategies and lines of responsibility to deal with it. We have run our own organisation in an increasingly businesslike manner.
Indeed, RDS has come a long way since the early years when we would sometimes run out of money at the end of August and certain individuals would put their hands in their pockets to loan money to keep the organisation going!
In recent months, seven of us have met as a development panel and some of our recommendations have already been put into effect to help our branches and committees operate more effectively. We are also looking at a possible name change for the society - although members could still conclude that the present name is the best one.
The Rail Campaign has been suggested as a new name. It is neat and tells the outsider what we do - though some may consider the name suggests only a short-lived body. We could call ourselves Railwatch after the name of our journal. There are precedents for this in other bodies.
Long names are not a good idea unless their initials form a pronouncable acronym. Our French partner organisation FNAUT calls itself Fnote. We have been in contact with the German and Swiss associations Pro Bahn. Should we take a leaf out of their book and call ourselves Pro Rail?
A discussion on alternative names is useful provided that it is well-informed and does not sap too much of our energy. Whatever we call ourselves, there is a need for a representative, constructive, realistic and businesslike campaigning body for rail users and rail usage. We may not be perfect, but we are that body.
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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