Salisbury Journal'Huge disparities' in rail services (From Salisbury Journal)

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'Huge disparities' in rail services

Salisbury Journal: A report has revealed wide variations in the quality of train services around the UK. A report has revealed wide variations in the quality of train services around the UK.

There are "huge disparities" in the quality of train services in different regions of Britain, according to a report.

Services are best in London, south east England, north west England, the West Midlands and Scotland, says the report from consultants Credo in association with the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT).

But Welsh, east of England and north east England rail services perform much less well.

And even though services in London are well-used and have benefited from major investment, passenger satisfaction "is hindered by concern about cost and overcrowding" the report says.

It adds there are improvements to be made everywhere, with services in Wales, for example, being less well-used and being less accessible than in other regions, as well as suffering low passenger satisfaction levels.

The report also says east of England and north east England services "have relatively sparse rail networks, making services inaccessible to many people".

CBT chief executive Stephen Joseph said: "The research exposes the huge disparities in the quality of train services across the country. Importantly, it suggests the answer is to give local administrations more control over their rail networks.

"By devolving more decision making we can make full use of local knowledge and target investment where it will bring the biggest benefits."

Credo's transport practice director Matt Lovering said: "The research highlights important issues for rail right across the country. For the south east, it reveals how much the London economy relies on the trains, but also the increasing disquiet among commuters at the cost of getting to work.

"There's strong performance in the West Midlands and the north west showing the benefits of the investments made there. The east of England on the other hand scores much less well, raising questions about how rail can best support the region's burgeoning economy. The comparison between Scotland and Wales is stark, with devolved management of services in Scotland delivering significantly better results than the equivalent in Wales."

The Department for Transport's franchising director Peter Wilkinson said: "Credo's study raises important issues about the relative performance of the rail industry across the UK. There are challenges for all regions in improving the performance of our railways.

"We, the industry and local government must consider how we best work together to tackle the issues this report raises."

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which speaks on behalf of the rail industry, said: "While there is always room for improvement, rail passengers are travelling on services that are unrecognisably better when compared to 15 years ago. Passenger satisfaction is at a near record high with 500 million more journeys each year being rated 'good' or 'satisfactory' according to the independent passenger watchdog.

"The railway's success has been achieved through a combination of significant sustained public investment via Network Rail, and train operators focused on increasing passenger numbers. As the Credo report says, the overall rail growth in the past decade shows the success the rail industry can achieve."

A spokesman for rail industry body the Rail Delivery Group, said: "While there is always room for improvement, rail passengers are travelling on services that are unrecognisably better when compared to 15 years ago. Passenger satisfaction is at a near record high with 500 million more journeys each year being rated 'good' or 'satisfactory' according to the independent passenger watchdog.

"The railway's success has been achieved through a combination of significant sustained public investment via Network Rail, and train operators focussed on increasing passenger numbers. As the Credo report says, the overall rail growth in the past decade shows the success the rail industry can achieve."

RMT transport union leader Bob Crow said: "This report exposes the fragmentation of Britain's railways as services struggle to cope with increasing passenger demand against a backdrop of chronic lack of investment and modernisation.

"Delays to fleet replacement and cuts to maintenance and renewals all leave services at constant risk of breakdown and it is no wonder passengers are angry at paying the highest fares in Europe to travel on crowded, unreliable services. "

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "This study highlights the advantages of the ScotRail franchise being devolved - but also offers a tantalising glimpse of what more could be achieved in an independent Scotland.

"ScotRail has been a great success since responsibility for the contract was passed to the Scottish Government, delivering growing passenger numbers and higher levels of passenger satisfaction.

"We are making record levels of over £3 billion capital investment alone in the coming years to operate, maintain and enhance our network. This investment presents the franchisee with opportunities to increase passenger satisfaction, drive growth, and improve services.

"The (Transport) Minister recently asked ScotRail and Network Rail to work closely and do everything in their power to deal quickly and effectively with events that impact on reliability. He has also met with the Office of Rail Regulation to find out what steps they are taking to ensure that performance levels are addressed."

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