The Strategic Railway Authority - which rail campaigners fought for - comes into existence today (1 February 2001).

The SRA must create a world-class railway out of the mess resulting from an ill-thought –out privatisation process and the chaos following three serious crashes that should never have happened.

Billions have been poured into the railways in the past few years but still we, as ordinary passengers, are left with often rundown stations with few or no staff, delays, high fares, appalling information systems and fears over safety.

The rail network is less of a national public transport backbone now than it was under BR because of the conflicting interests of the many companies now running trains, with some opting out of Super Saver fares, some refusing to carry bikes, some closing on-train buffets, some having dirty lavatories and some even ripping out maps of the rail network which showed competitors’ routes.

Rail campaigners expect the SRA to deliver a vision of what the rail network should be and give the competing companies help and direction to achieve a nationally integrated system which works for the passenger.

We want to see new high-speed lines, more electrification, lower fares , welcoming stations and more reopened routes. A little more command and control.

The Railway Development Society's campaigns director Alix Stredwick issued the following press release to coincide with the SRA "going live".

RDS, (1) the independent voice for rail users, welcomes the launch of the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) after months of being in the shadows. However, RDS is disappointed that the SRA has postponed its national strategy until the autumn.

"After Hatfield, we were expecting great plans to get the railways back on track to delivering a first-class service," said Alix.

"Sir Alastair Morton's Eight Commandments (2) are what our members (3) and the rest of the public have wanted for a long time, but there is still no comprehensive plan that will unite the rail industry and reverse the damage that fragmentation has done."

RDS calls for the SRA to include in its national strategy plans for essential re-openings and electrification, to meet Britains future transport needs. Key projects should include:

The East-West rail link from Oxford to Cambridge

A new high-speed French-style TGV line from London to Scotland

New lines for freight, like Central Railways proposals (4)

"The SRA must not forget the role rail has to play in providing a more environmentally-friendly alternative to the car and lorry," says Alix Stredwick. "The real question now is: will the SRA will be strategic or authoritative enough to deliver the kind of rail network we need for the future?"


(1) The Railway Development Society is the largest independent voluntary organisation campaigning for a better rail network.

(2) These commandments aim to make our railways: accessible, integrated, reliable, safe, useful, comfortable, desirable and affordable.

(3) RDS has 20,000 affiliated and individual members.

(4) Central Railway Plc plans to build a route from Liverpool to Lille, France, mostly using currently disused track-bed. However, current legislation surrounding the public enquiry-based approval process, under the Transport & Works Act, means that the government cannot express support for the scheme. But it is possible for schemes such as this to get government backing. For the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, the government was able to be clear about its support by using a Hybrid Bill through parliament.
Alix Stredwick
Railway Development Society (RDS)
9-10 College Terrace
London E3 5AN

Tel 020 8981 2992
Fax 020 8981 2994