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Building Railways fit for the 21st Century

September 20, 2019 8:00 AM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Britain's railways are essential to everyday life - they transport millions to and from work and around the country day in, day out.

Unfortunately, all too often our trains are late, crowded or cancelled. Ticketing is a confusing mess and the railways and their rolling stock are in desperate need of investment.

This week at our conference, the Liberal Democrats voted for a plan to start fixing all of these big issues and give Britain a railway network worthy of the 21st Century.

LD Conf Sep 19 2

Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Harrogate & Knaresborough, Judith Rogerson, addressed conference delegates saying:

"A couple of months ago I was at an event for students who were interested in a career in the law. They were asking me questions about my day job, and one of them asked me what was the most stressful part of my job. When I said, "Just getting there," they thought I was joking. But really I wasn't.

I live on the Harrogate Line, which runs between Leeds and York, is not fit for the 21st century. The trains are overcrowded and unreliable. There are too many stories about not being able to get on the train, or even not being able to get off because it was so crowded.

I can't bring myself to count the number of hours I waste each month waiting for delayed trains or sitting in stations having missed a connection. It's not just an occasional inconvenience. It is a daily stress that impacts on our personal and professional lives.

Before Boris Johnson's reshuffle, the current MP for Harrogate & Knaresborough was the Minister for Rail. We'd hoped that someone with local knowledge about the problem would bring about big changes. But it hasn't happened. Last week a performance report by Transport for the North said levels of reliability are lower now than they were a year ago. And despite repeated promises that they would be phased out, we are still waiting to see the back of the terrible Pacer trains in North Yorkshire.

Whatever the Department for Transport is doing at the moment, it isn't working. The way we run our railways needs a serious rethink. It's too expensive and too unreliable. Too many people justifiably feel like trains in the north have been completely neglected. It takes me almost as long to travel 30 miles or so to Manchester or Sheffield as it does to get to London. Getting between our great northern cities shouldn't be so difficult.

If franchises like Northern Rail aren't working, they should be taken away. They should be held to account for their failures. I support this motion to see greater input from local groups and passengers. Frankly at the moment we feel completely powerless in being able to resolve the problems we are facing.

Like many other towns and cities, the Harrogate District has a problem with traffic congestion. A recent public consultation overwhelmingly rejected the option of building a relief road. The public want greener, more sustainable solutions. A huge part of that is an affordable and reliable system of public transport. That's why I am asking you to back this motion. If we knew we could rely on our trains, many more would be able to leave their cars at home and that will benefit us all in the long term."

Here's how the Liberal Democrats would fix Britain's railways:

  1. Invest in improving commuting - we'd invest in improving existing commuter lines, as well as building new and re-opening old lines to improve capacity. We'd also invest in more light-rail and trams and invest in stations to transform them into transport hubs.
  2. We'd replace the ticketing system - and introduce greater use of travelcards, rolling out delay-repay to all operators and introducing early-bird fares.
  3. We'll create a railway agency - to ensure the railways are run by railway experts and improve accountability.
  4. Make the railway greener - by expanding electrification, reducing the use of diesel trains and expanding the use of wind and solar power at stations.
  5. Support HS2 and HS3 - we'll continue to support big infrastructure projects like crossrail, expand digital signalling and ensure that stations without step-free access are staffed from first to last train.
  6. Reform franchising - we'd open up the franchising process to public sector companies, local or combined authorities, not-for-profits and mutuals.

A Liberal Democrat Government will build a railway system that'll work for everyone and get millions more people onto trains and out of cars.

To see the motion in full, click here.