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Tuesday, April 20, 1999 Published at 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK


Rural railways face cuts

Cuts will hit rural areas hard say critics

Train operators will be cutting rural services this summer.

Mathew Taylor on BBC Radio 4's Today programme: Cuts are narrow-minded
The companies say they want to concentrate their services on busier routes to maximise income and are taking action following a drop in the public subsidy they receive.

Wales and West Railways are to cut some services in Cornwall and Devon and First North Western are reducing the number of Blackpool to London trains.

Chiltern Railways will cut peak-time commuter services to London as they say the rail infrastructure cannot cope.

Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Mathew Taylor attacked the measures as "short term and narrow-minded".

Jonathan Bray: Not enough services are protected
He said they would hit rural areas and lead to greater road congestion and pollution.

And Jonathan Bray, of the transport campaign group Save Our Railways, said: "Unfortunately, protection for services set out in the contracts that the privatised companies have signed does not give adequate protection to the existing level of service.

'Spiral of decline'

"When that existing level of service is poor, as it is on many of the rural lines, further cutbacks are a particular cause for concern."

Mr Bray said rail operators should tackle the "spiral of decline" in rural services.

George Muir, director general of the Association of Train Operating Companies, said he sympathised with people who relied on rural railways in areas which were experiencing cuts.

But he added: "In total we are running 1,000 more trains across the network than we were before, and we are running more cross-country rural and semi-rural services than we did before."

He said private companies were trying "every possible way they can" to make rural services work.

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