Wednesday, July 25, 2007

More smoke and mirrors

Yesterday the Brown government announced the biggest expansion of the railways for a generation, promising this and promising that. The Tories initial response was to point out that this is merely rehashing old promises, although one assumes that Gordon Brown will actually deliver on this. But if you think the government is prepared to let us the tax payer foot the bill, you'd be wrong. Once again passengers will be stung where it hurts the most with a series of large price rises to help fund no less than three-quarters of this ambitious plan.

Christian Wolmar makes a compelling case for why this government - again - has completely the wrong idea about railways. Read his piece here in the Independent.

The quote that really winds me up comes from Ruth Kelly's department: "The reality is that 6 per cent of the population travels on railways. Why should people who don't use the railways regularly fund people who do?"

The fact that just six per cent of people travel by railway is a testament to successive government failures to make it a viable alternative form of transport for the other 94 per cent. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy - decades of under-investment means that if even 10 per cent of the population used the railway it wouldn't be able to cope. With climate change and increasing gridlock on our roads two very palpable realities, this government's reaction is to once again sideline railways as an important form of transport. A big hat's off to this government - once again, it signals the fact it possesses no common sense whatsoever.

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