Sunday, October 19, 2003
The Government have announced emergency measures to try and avoid gridlock on Britain's motorways. They are already investing billions of pounds in new roads and now want to set up an emergency unit to troubleshoot whenever an acident occurs. It is true that the growth in car ownership has led to a massive strain being put on the Country's roads. I experienced it myself when trying to get to Peterborough on Friday. However, there is still massive underinvestment in public transport, particularly our railways. The Transport Minister has said that he wants cost savings before meeting demands for the huge injection of capital required by the rail network. How many more lines does he want to close? How much more does he want to cut back on maintenance? He would do well of course to insist that the rail companies reinvest all their profits into the service that they allegedly supply. The payment of dividends to shareholders and the imposition of fines for poor performance out of the large subsidies paid by the Government amounts to a drain on the operating capital of the railways and must have contributed to the deteriorating service most passengers experience. The problem with our railways is that the way that they are run is fragmented, they lack clear leadership or a central strategy and there is an urgent need for investment in their infrastructure, including essential maintenance, new lines, proper links with buses and airlines and more frequent and cheaper trains. That will not happen under the present privatised system.