Railfuture gives a cautious welcome to the Strategic Rail Authority's announcement of its Second Strategic Plan.

There are some positive ideas coming forward from the SRA and we support the current prioritites of:

* West Coast Route Modernisation

* Southern Power Supply Upgrade

* Upgraded freight route linking Felixstowe with the West Coast Main Line via London.

* In London, further development of the East London Line, Crossrail and Thameslink.

* With the Scottish Executive, studies on the redevelopment of Edinburgh Waverley station.

* Plans to consult on a new high-speed North-South rail link.

All the above schemes are highly important in developing and expanding the use of the rail network.

But we are concerned by the freezing of the Rail Partnership Fund and Freight Facilities Grant.

The Rail Partnership Fund has been successful in funding many low-cost passenger schemes.

The highly successful new Norwich-Cambridge service is an example of what can be achieved at low cost using this fund. We are sure the freezing of these funds will put back development of other low-cost rail schemes.

Without the Freight Facilities Grant many opportunities to switch freight from road to rail will be lost.

There has been a tremendous increase in the number of people using rail since rail privatisation and if we are to continue to attract more on to rail, then the three following issues need to be addressed.

1. Rail fares are too complicated for the potential rail user. We must have a more simplified fares structure throughout the UK.

2. There is a clear need for a National Railcard to simplify the ticket buying process and make travelling by train better value and a more attractive option to the car.

3. Reliability is paramount. There is still a big job to be done. There are still too many speed restrictions. The more speed restrictions that can be eliminated the more reliable services will become and more attractive to those who wish to travel by rail. In many areas increasing line capacity will also help relieve congestion. Even a passing loop or additional tracks can be crucial.

Press release from Peter Lawrence, Railfuture national chairman 30.01.03
Telephone 01603 743446 (anytime before 21.00 hrs). If no answer, then try - Mobile 0788 419 4510

Dr Michael Caton - Railfuture President
Telephone 01531 635036 (not after 21.30)