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Railwatch 070 - December 1996

Seven steps to heaven

RDS has taken seven key steps to bolster the fight for better rail services in the era of rail privatisation.

We cannot expect the new private companies automatically to give us an improved railway, general secretary Trevor Garrod told rail campaigners at the users conference.

"Is there anyone here from Stagecoach," he joked. "No? Oh dear! Even though we did leave a few chairs for them." Nor could we rely on the Labour party or a Lib Dem-Lab pact to transport us to the 'new Jerusalem' should they win the next election, he said.

"We are far from sure that they will embark on a policy of rail expansion now that former shadow transport secretary Clare Short has been 'sent to Siberia'," said Trevor. "We were working constructively with Clare but has anyone heard from Andrew Smith* since he was appointed to succeed her . . . No I thought not!

"We now have around seven months before the election to remind politicians that two years ago the Royal Commisssion on Environmental Pollution set targets for increased use of rail. We urgently need a programme of rail reopenings."

He reminded delegates that in Newbury, the Lib-Dem MP supported the controversial bypass, in Caithness and Sutherland, the Lib-Dem MP had done nothing to promote the campaign for a rail crossing of Dornoch Firth, and in Norfolk's Breckland Labour had offered less for a rail reopening scheme than the Tories.

But of course we are not convinced that privatisation is being implemented by the Tories with the aim of giving us a better railway. "Anyone who thinks privatisation will bring improvements on its own are naive," said Trevor. "We must work with the professionals in the railway industry and with local government to ensure we get better service."

He outlined the seven steps RDS was taking:

But Trevor reminded campaigners: "RDS will remain an independent, voluntary group whose main resource will be its members."

*Andrew Smith has since agreed to meet RDS.

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