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Select Committee on Transport Fourth Report

7. Conclusion

77. A modern railway should meet customer needs, and meet the wider needs of society in providing clean, efficient transport. Without efficient railways the flow of traffic on our already congested roads would be greater, emissions would be increased, and alternatives to car use diminished.

78. The experience of Arriva Trains Northern brought home the value of rail. The bus services took twice as long as the trains they replaced, and Mr Cameron accepted that bus services were not comparable to trains:

"They do not make the journey time, they do not give the facilities trains can give for those people with buggies, those people who need facilities for the disabled".[83]

79. Rail services may not always be appropriate, but there is no doubt they have many advantages. Our transport system should be able to proved a robust rail service, and should be focussed on what rail can provide for the customer, and for the region in which it operates.

80. Our inquiry into Railways in the North has instead shown a complex structure, in which responsibility is widely dispersed and there is little, or no, coherent way in which regional aspirations or customer needs can be given the attention they deserve. Problems such as the driver shortage at Arriva Trains Northern, were allowed to drift until action could not be avoided, and there was no time to communicate with customers. Rightly or wrongly, the SRA appears to have blocked plans for network infrastructure expansion, funded by TOCs, while allowing ultimately unsustainable timetable changes. PTEs and local authorities are inadequately consulted; underlying demand cannot be met.

81. The result of this can be seen in the most recent edition of National Rail Trends. While passenger kilometres on long distance London and South East routes had risen compared to the previous comparable quarter, those for regional operators had declined by 3%. Similarly, the number of journeys carried by long distance and London and South East operators had risen by 5.8% and 0.4% respectively while regional journeys had fallen by 6.3%. If the service offered by other regional rail routes matches that in the North, these figures cause little surprise. However, they are deeply disappointing, since it is clear there is market demand for a high quality, reasonably priced rail service. The United Kingdom has the world's fourth largest GDP; there is no reason why it should not provide one. It is intolerable that North of England should be so badly served.

83   Q 34. Back

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