Government losing plot on railways
19 Jun 2003
The former Secretary of State for Transport, Sir George Young, said that the Government was beginning to lose the plot on transport policy by hiking up rail fares.
"The country needs a sustainable transport policy, which gets a better balance between public and private transport. When we privatised the railways, we " capped" key fares so they fell in real terms. We did this not just to protect rail travellers, but because we wanted to give a clear signal that, over a period of time, public transport would become cheaper than private transport. At the same time, we increased the tax on petrol by more than the rate of inflation, so there was a clear signal given to the market. We wanted to use price to influence the market, and, where there was a choice, nudge people towards buses and trains.
When we left office, there were signs that the policy was working; decades of decline in passenger traffic on the railways was being reversed. At the same time, the capital that the railways needed was coming from the City and not from the Treasury, who had always been reluctant to fund transport projects.
Since the debacle of Railtrack, the City has lost confidence in investing in the railways and the Treasury are now having to find much of the capital that is needed; and the Government is forcing the Strategic Rail Authority to cut back or slow down the investment programme. And now they are jacking up rail fares. The balanced, sustainable transport policy we all want to see looks even further away."
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Copyright Sir George Young Bt. 2015