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A responsible government cannot allow rail strikes to fester on

(Alamy)

2 min read

Almost all railway men and women are unhappy with the present series of strikes, particularly at peak periods of Christmas and the New Year.

So what can they do? What do they fear? Loss of jobs and uncertain future. That is what, for example, a wholesale closure of booking offices means when it seems to be at odds with reality. Common observation shows that often any trips to the station actually precede the actual purchase of a ticket, especially as fares are so complicated and journey times often involve much research.

All of the evidence points to an increased demand for public transport so the government can give guarantees about future employment, unless of course it has marked out areas for future privatisation.

The task of putting things in better order demands very urgent action by the best railway brains in the country

What government should be particularly concerned about is the record level of cancellations, particularly at short notice and without adequate notice, on terms which seem to favour the train operator. There is a general shambles on some routes and if government does not take action there is the possibility that this disruption will spread further and jeopardize much planned engineering work and capital investment.

The task of putting things in better order demands very urgent action by the best railway brains in the country. These people understand the railway and the trade unions as well. They could plot a way forward without the advice of the Treasury or the Department of Transport. Money is a key consideration but in public transport it’s vital to get the best out of manpower and resources. A plan to the future is obviously necessary.

The lack of legislation is a problem. The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail has been delayed and prospects for future legislation look rather bleak. But the proposals could be taken into account by any ad hoc working party.

This is an urgent problem that will affect the railway badly and seriously inconvenience both passengers and freight users. It cannot be allowed by any responsible government to fester on. A small working party of the best talent in the industry should start work and once and produce a report urgently to tackle this.

 

Lord Bradshaw, Liberal Democrat peer.

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