Rural Railways

Local and rural lines comprise 12.5% of the national network and include 17% of all stations. The service they provide can be slow, and low frequency. Nevertheless, they can provide important social and economic benefits for those who use them, and the areas in which they operate.

The Transport Committee has decided to hold an inquiry into Rural Railways . The inquiry will look at

the importance of rural railways to the communities they serve;

the prospects for innovative approaches to the funding and management of such railways;

the prospects for traffic growth on such railways;

the impact of measures such as bus substitution for rail services.

The SRA has recently published a consultation paper on its strategy for community railways. The Committee will take into account the SRA's objectives during its inquiry. 

Because of the importance of these railways to local communities, the Committee will gather evidence by undertaking a series of visits to look at the railways in their local contexts, and talking with the widest possible range of those with an interest in the subject.

The first of these visits will take place on Wednesday 21st and Thursday 22nd April. The visit will include the following rural lines: the Cotswold line, the Chester to  Shrewsbury line, the Borderlands Line and the North Cheshire line.

Witnesses are invited to submit memoranda to the Committee before Monday 19th April 2004. Witnesses who wish their memoranda to be treated in confidence should contact the Committee Clerk in advance.

Notes for Editors

The SRA's Strategy envisages designated community rail routes separately from conventional and high-speed routes, so that they would have separate operational and engineering standards, appropriate for local operation. The SRA says that "separate designation of Community Railways would allow a fresh approach to the way these lines are managed, marketed and supported as well as to the way they are maintained and renewed." The objectives are to:

increase passenger volume and income;

manage down the unit costs of running the lines now and in future; and

involve the local community more closely in the development of its railway.

Details of the SRA's consultation can be found in "community rail development: a consultation paper on a strategy for Community Railways";

Further visits will be announced in due course. Editors with an interest in covering particular visits should contact the Clerk of the Committee, Eve Samson, or the Inquiry Manager, Philippa Carling.

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Press Notice   16/2003-04   26 March 2004

Eve Samson, Clerk to the Committee