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Passenger protests force some improvements
THE GOVERNMENT ann-ouncement that 1,000 new rail carriages are to be provided to ease overcrowding is welcome news for rail travellers and rail workers who are frustrated that the service we provide fails our customers. Even so, the earliest date some of the carriages will see service is 2009, and they will not all be available until 2014.
By an Aslef member
There are other concerns. 1,000 new carriages represents about 10% of the existing rolling stock. These will be used to lengthen trains on some of the most overcrowded routes.
Passengers have protested and refused to pay fares on the route between Bath and Bristol operated by First Great Western because many people have to stand for the whole journey. Services into Leeds are carrying 63% more passengers than 10 years ago and forecasts are for rail travel to continue to boom.
Some of the worst overcrowding occurs at Birmingham New Street where platforms have to be closed to ensure safety. You have to hope that the Department for Transport remember that New Street is due to be refurbished, although the timetable is unclear.
As any train-spotter will tell you, trains don't just move along all day and night, they need somewhere to go at night. Sheds and depots are already bursting at the seams.
It will be interesting to see if the government is making arrangements for more depot capacity and for the additional cleaners, fitters, fuellers and (whisper it) drivers who will be needed.
The issue of lengthening platforms will also need to be addressed urgently. It's no good having a long train if it won't fit on the platform. The government announcement is a hasty response to the travelling public's anger about the cattle truck conditions in which many have to travel.
Passenger groups should link up with rail unions to ensure New Labour's pledge is not forgotten when the spotlight moves on.
In The Socialist 22 March 2007:
War and terrorism
Socialist Party campaigns
International Socialist Resistance
Socialist Party news and analysis
What we think
Marxist analysis: history
International socialist news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis