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Tuesday, 25 September, 2001, 19:13 GMT 20:13 UK
Foster calls for new rail controls
A UK railway station
The Lib Dems demand better, more secure stations
Passengers are waiting for late-running trains in unsafe stations and being "ripped off" in the process, the Liberal Democrats' transport spokesman claimed today.

Don Foster called for new train franchise deals to control fares and ensure more secure, better lit stations as he unveiled the new Lib Dem transport strategy to delegates at the party's conference in Bournemouth.

Why hand over billions of pounds when we can achieve what we want without diverting taxpayers' money to line the pockets of shareholders?

Don Foster
Lib Dem transport spokesman
The long-term answer to the country's transport problems was creating a society where people needed to travel less but other measures were needed immediately.

That meant adopting "radical" action providing a safe, reliable and affordable integrated transport alternative, said Mr Foster, who pressed for Railtrack to be demerged.

Railtrack's future

While some trade unions have called for Railtrack to be renationalised, Mr Foster suggested the 10bn that was too high a price to pay.

"Why hand over billions of pounds when we can achieve what we want without diverting taxpayers' money to line the pockets of shareholders?" he asked.

That aim could be achieved instead by splitting the track, signalling and power parts of Railtrack into a not-for-profit firm, he said.

The "perverse" system of penalties for delays on the railways, which Mr Foster claimed saw 300 staff in a culture of blame, also had to end.

'Passengers ripped off'

In Britain, on average, for 10 somebody could travel 90 miles, while they could get twice as far in Sweden and six times that distance in Italy.

"No wonder British passengers feel we're being ripped off. We are being ripped off."

Other policies in the transport strategy include providing more funds for rural transport, creating a new over-arching body for all types of transport to replace the Strategic Rail Authority and providing safer routes to schools.

The transport debate on the conference floor saw Jonathan Davies, of Hendon, attack his party's pledge not to raise fuel taxes for the next five years.

He asked whether they were prepared to increase the profits of oil firms or see pump prices fall if the price of oil dropped.

Jo Swinson, Kingston upon Hull East, also argued for the promise to be dropped.

She said: "Yes, running a car is expensive, but public transport is even more expensive."

Fuel tax freeze kept

An amendment calling for that fuel pledge to end did receive support but was ultimately defeated.

Opposing that proposed change for the party's federal policy committee, Susan Kramer said dropping the tax freeze would be "irresponsible".

Rising fuel prices were hitting those in rural areas, she said, and the promise was only part of a range of plans to tackle congestion and encourage more environmentally friendly cars through vehicle excise duty.

See also:

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