Select Committee on Transport Fourth Report


Railways in the North of England serve a variety of needs. Our study has demonstrated a number of shortcomings, which we do not believe are unique to the North. The most significant are:
  •   Confusion and inconsistency about the funding of transport links needed to assist economic regeneration;
  •   Poor consultation between the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA), and local authorities, Passenger Transport Executives, regional authorities and passenger bodies, leading to a perception the SRA does not understand and respond to local needs;
  •   Appalling service to rail users.

There are some signs that improvement may be about to begin, although there is a long way to go:

  •   The SRA has clearly stated the basis on which it will support rail projects;
  •   The SRA has committed itself to better local consultation;
  •   Steps have been taken to remedy the serious driver shortages which led to widespread disruption to services in the North.

However, we still cannot say with confidence that these failures are things of the past.

It seems clear that road and rail projects are funded on different grounds and there is no level playing field between them. This inquiry reinforces the view we gained in the inquiry into multi-modal studies: that the SRA focussed too much on the existing network and took little account of suggestions for improvements.

We shall continue to monitor the work of the SRA, the Office of the Rail Regulator and Network Rail extremely closely. The rail industry has a responsibility to ensure a safe, efficient and good value rail network; it must never forget that the purpose of the network is to serve its customers, and benefit the country as a whole.

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