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Thursday, 2 December, 1999, 17:58 GMT
Late trains your biggest complaint

Late again! Just over 30% of you voted the issue of punctuality your main concern in BBC News Online's track record questionnaire.

Only 18% of you picked the issue of safety, despite the Paddington rail disaster and ongoing inquiries into rail safety.

After punctuality your biggest gripes were fares (25%) followed by overcrowding (20%).

Rail safer than the car

Your emails revealed that many of you are aware that travelling by rail is still much safer than travelling by car.

And some users questioned the wisdom of spending millions of pounds on a new train protection system.

Ben Haigh from the South East said: "Perhaps an arbitrary $2bn spent on nationwide ATP would be better spent modifying many other aspects of the railway (eg junction layouts), or even on a route modernisation. In luring people away from the roads this last option may save far more lives than ATP ever could."

David Abbott from the Midlands echoed this point when he asked: "Do you think it is good value for money to install an expensive train protection system to save a small number of lives when there are still 3,500 or more road deaths per year?"

Click here to read more of your comments.

Re-nationalise - say News Online users

BBC News Online received a number of emails supporting the re-nationalisation of the railways.

Martin Budd of the South West sums up what many of you wrote: "The only real incentive for Railtrack and the operating companies is to make more profit for their shareholders. Railways should be seen as part of the public infrastructure and returned to public ownership. I would be prepared to pay more if the railways were publicly owned, but not to private companies just to add to their profits. "

The survey results backed this up with 61% of you voting for the rail industry to be taken back into government ownership.

BBC News Online's Chris Wain put your questions about re-nationalising the railways to Tom Winsor, the rail regulator on Wednesday. Mr Winsor said taking the railways back into government ownership would be "unnecessary and unbelievably expensive."

"I have more direct control and influence over the policies and practices, investment quality standards and so on than ever did a politician over a nationalised industry. So although the correspondents suggest we will increase control, by re-nationalisation, the contrary is true. We would lose control and what is more we would spend a lot of money to diminish our control," he said.

Not all bad news for the rail companies

Although more than 48% of you said that the quality of your local rail service has declined in the last year, the results are not all bad news for the rail industry. Just over 50% of you said the quality of your local rail service had either got better, or stayed the same, over the past year.

John Boler wrote: "I have travelled daily during the week from Tilehurst or Reading to Paddington and frequently on business to Liverpool and west Yorks. I know how much better the services on these lines have become since privatisation: more polite and courteous staff, better signs and timetable information, cleaner stations and trains. It is easier to get through on the phone, andthere is a willingness to acknowledge the importance of the customer and cash compensation if trains are late (they always were under BR)."

Our survey also revealed that 58% you are willing to spend a little more if it will guarantee you better service.

Katherine Birkett wrote: "I would be quite willing to pay extra to travel, jettisoning my Young Persons' Railcard if I knew that the money was going to be spent on better train services!"

BBC News Online Track Record Questionnaire: 629 responses counted. Multiple votes excluded.

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The end of the line for Britain's railways?

See also:
29 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Track Record forum: Gwyneth Dunwoody
01 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Track Record forum: George Muir
01 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Track Record forum: Tom Winsor
01 Dec 99 |  your reaction
Track Record: Your comments
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