A New Deal for Rail was released on the same day as the White Paper. This anonymous looking 23-page document was somewhat overshadowed. However, its importance cannot be understated for this is the Governments plan for the future structure of the rail industry.
The new Strategic Rail Authority will have the job of enhancing and expanding the network. It will be under a duty to develop targets for both freight and passenger traffic, and to draw up a strategy for the overall operation and development of the rail network.
But it will not have control over Railtrack. The Regulator will be responsible for setting access charges and overseeing Railtrack spending.
But there is to be a review to determine whether some of the subsidy to the industry should go direct to Railtrack rather than via the train operating companies. Advocates of this reform argue that this would cut train operators costs - allowing more trains to be run, and also bring Railtrack more directly under the influence of the SRA.
The Rolling Stock leasing companies will be under the control of neither SRA or Regulator. Instead drinking hours have been extended at the last chance saloon, and the ROSCOs will escape full regulatory control if they voluntarily agree not to exploit the monopoly positions that they currently luxuriate in.
The rail passenger lobby has done well to see many of its ideas taken up by Government. The biggest challenge we all face now is to help mould the legislation, and the SRA itself, into a vehicle for rapidly delivering the societys vision of an expanding, high quality and integrated rail network.
A New Deal for Transport - Better for Everyone - The Governments White Paper on the Future of Transport. £16.50
One initiative in Essex fits in perfectly with the Governments aim to offer an integrated system which eases problems for everyone.
People can travel from London and other spots on the Great Eastern network to the seaside resort of Clacton with one ticket.
First Group which owns Great Eastern and a string of bus companies throughout Britain, can make things work to a degree. But what about areas where the trains and buses are run by rival companies?
In some areas, bus companies have deliberately avoided rail stations bleating about bus and train serving different markets. Others divert as many bus routes as possible to the rail station.
The proposed national public transport information service will also help travellers. Quite often there is a perfectly good public transport link but few people know about it. Many rail stations still do not have posters giving details of the buses that stop outside!
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