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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 July, 2004, 21:56 GMT 22:56 UK
Union leader slams rail proposals
Rural services will not suffer wholesale closure, says the DfT
Rural rail services face "wholesale slaughter" under plans to replace them with buses, says a union leader.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport union, said the plans were in last week's government review but had not had any publicity.

It "could lead to wholesale slaughter of rural railways and further isolation of rural communities", said Mr Crow.

But the Department for Transport said the plans would simply devolve responsibility to local communities.

A spokesman said: "The proposal is to devolve more power to transport executives for large areas such as Birmingham or Leeds, so they can decide which services to run.

"This does give them the flexibility to alter services and if they felt it served the travelling public better to run a bus, rather than a train, on a particular route, then they could.

"But nobody is suggesting there is going to be any wholesale replacement of train services by buses."

According to the review, where rail services are heavily subsidised, the use of buses may prove to be a less expensive option than rail and they may be more flexible in terms of routes and frequencies.

Under the plans, the government will allow transport executives to introduce contracts for buses as part of a strategy which includes the reduction of rail services.

The BBC's Robert Hall
"The Strategic Rail Authority wants to see more local partnerships"

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