Sunday, 5 August 2007

STUCK IN THE SIDINGS

Kent still waiting for better rail policies. Kent Green Party welcomes the first Government White Paper on Railways for 10 years. Unfortunately, its implications for Kent are a few slow improvements and fares rising above the rate of inflation. Rail fares have risen in real terms in the last ten years whilst the costs of motoring have fallen by over 10% in real terms in the same period.

Dr Hazel Dawe(1) comments: “It is obvious that investment in railways relieves road congestion. It is equally obvious that declining real costs of motoring encourage congestion(2). As a commuter, I welcome more carriages when we finally get them, especially for the long-suffering residents of Sevenoaks. I also welcome the Thameslink 2000 project which will relieve current bottlenecks at London Bridge."

“But Rail fares must be affordable. The government is to allow train companies to increase regulated fares by 1% above inflation each year. Many other fares are not regulated and will increase far more. So rail fares are becoming more expensive in real terms. Meanwhile motoring costs have fallen in real terms over recent years. This will price people off the railways and back onto the roads. The Green Party would scrap the £30bn roads programme and invest the moneyin affordable, good quality public transport including rail. Kent Green Party wants the Medway Valley line, the Ashford - Hastings line and the Rochester-Chatham line to be upgraded. In the long-term, we want the restoration of the Whitstable to Folkestone line.”

Notes
1. Dr Hazel Dawe is Chair of Kent Green Party and a regular commuter into London. She is an active member of the Tonbridge Line Commuters campaigning group.

2. Critical assessment of recent rail policies can be found in: Christian Wolmar Broken Rails: how privatization wrecked Britain’s railways, 2001; Andrew Murray Off the Rails: Britain’s great rail crisis causes, consequences and cures, 2001;

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