Will our Railway survive?
(17 February 2005)
Cookham Station is under threat. The Cookham Society have written the following letter to Theresa May MP Alastair Darling MP, the Times and Daily Mail. They ask that everyone who cares about our branch line also write. Some contacts have been included at the bottom of this page. If you have any other suggestions as to whom to write to contact the Webmaster.
Click on the heading below or scroll down page.
Since we first raised the question of the future of our branch line, events have moved on fairly rapidly. The Strategic Railway Authority’s Community Railway consultation document has grown into the Community Railways Strategy and, possibly more worrying for our commuting members, the Railways Bill has started its progress through Parliament.
The Community Railway Strategy has now started to be implemented by the SRA with seven pilot schemes being set up. These branch lines have been separated from the main line franchises and have been handed to consortia of the local authority, local businesses and the previous franchising company. Funding has been provided by the Department of Transport and the local authority. Management has been provided by local businesses.
Comparisons between the pilot community railways and the Maidenhead to Marlow Branch line are being made which seem to ignore the nature of this line; it is a major commuter link for London. The line which is cited as most comparable with this line is the Penistone line in Yorkshire linking Sheffield and Huddersfield. This line runs between two large cities and does not provide a feeder service to a main commuter line. The Borough Cabinet is opposed to the Community Railway scheme and Theresa May has spoken against the inclusion of the branch line in the SRA’s Strategy.
The Railways Bill has now entered its later stages of debate in Parliament and could pose a threat to the continued existence of lines such as ours. Included in the Bill are clauses allowing the closure of stations and even branch lines subject to a consultation process WHICH DOES NOT CONSULT WITH THE USERS. This seems to be an extremely undemocratic process and should be opposed. We are enclosing a proforma letter to be sent to various people and bodies whose influence on the outcome of the Railways issue might help – please consider signing it and sending it. If any Members have contacts in or information about relevant Government or transport decision-makers please write to them and let a Committee member have appropriate details as soon as possible to assist us in focussing our representations to maximum effect.
List of people to whom the protest letter could be sent:
Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Rt Hon Alistair Darling MP
The Editor, The Times
The Editor, The Daily Mail
From the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP House of Commons London SW1A OAA
76 Marsham Street London SW1P4DR
7944 801 5
Fax: 020 7944 4309
Web site: www.dtt.gov.uk
31 JAN 2005
At the adjournment debate on Community Railways on 11 January I promised to write to you to address the points you raised about the Maidenhead-Marlow and Twyford-Henley lines", which I did not have time to respond to on the day.
Both of these lines are classic single track branch lines, albeit carrying significant numbers through passengers to Paddington and having two through commuter trains each way daily. Both have scope for some operational improvements, Marlow in particular, where the current signalling is quite restrictive. As I mentioned at the debate, local consultation would take place prior to designation as a community rail line. If the local support was not there, designation would not happen. However, without designation, the line would remain as part of the conventional network, without any priority for attention. The SRA has already arranged to meet local authority officers next week to outline the purposes of the strategy, so that the councils can consider whether or not they would want to participate.
As I mentioned at the debate, the Strategy is about putting these lines on a viable long term footing, not removing them and wide consultation with the industry and regional stakeholders has shown general support for the Strategy and its aims. We are, through the Strategy, looking at ways in which lines can be developed and put on a sustainable basis for the medium to long term through increasing ridership, and net revenue. In taking forward the Strategy, on this and all the other designated routes, there will be extensive local consultation before Community Rail Designation is confirmed. The Strategy is an integral part of the Government's future plans for the Railway. We set out our support for it in the White Paper "The Future of Rail" And through the Strategy we are aiming to encourage the growth of rural rail and to make the local rail services more relevant to the communities that they serve.
Maidenhead/Marlow Branch Line and the Railways Bill
We are extremely concerned about the double threat to our local railway line posed by the proposed Community Railway and the new Railways Bill and would ask for your support in ensuring that every effort be made by Government to keep the line open.
The line serves a large number of commuters from these Thames side towns and villages to London, Slough and Reading. It also carries large numbers of school children particularly to the secondary schools of Maidenhead and Marlow. During the day there is a steady flow of passengers. The railway operators cannot identify revenue generated by the use of the line in the absence of any control of access or and with only spasmodic fare collection. The potential costs of maintaining the line are greater than could be met by transfer of the line to a Community railway because of the lack of regular maintenance over the last decade.
The new Railways Bill, together with the recommendations of the Strategic Railway Authority, seem likely to make it easy for the line to be closed without sufficient consultation with the users of the line. We believe that the level of consultation specified in the Railways Bill is not sufficiently specific to ensure that proper responses can be obtained from passengers. The Bill refers to closure decisions being made in accordance with “guidance” but such “guidance” is not included in the Bill. At the very least, the economic and social implications of closing a line such as this one should be explored and debated openly so that all passengers may have the opportunity to express their views.
We therefore request you to use your best efforts to ensure that the undemocratic aspects of the Railways Bill are addressed in the final version. We also wish to protect the continued use of our branch line as a part of the main commuter network serving Greater London and not as a quaint tourist attraction.
CONTACTS FOR LETTERWRITING
INCLUDE YOUR ADDRESS and postcode and a daytime telephone number.
THE MEDIA (NB the following contact numbers are liable to change)
Letters to the Editor - A brief Briefing some good ideas on how to write to the editor (Word format)
Maidenhead Advertiser email@example.com Newsdesk 01628 417834 Editorial Fax 01628 678245
BBC Berkshire Radio Roger Stamp 01753 521863 firstname.lastname@example.org
Daily Mail email@example.com Telephone the Daily Mail on 020 7938 6000 Fax: 0207 7937 5560
Daily Star Fax: 0207 922 7960
Express Fax: 0207 922 7976
Sunday Express Fax: 0207 922 7976
Evening Standard Fax: 0207 938 6189
Financial Times firstname.lastname@example.org
Daily Mirror Fax: 0207 293 3983
The Scotsman Fax: 0131 620 8618
The Sun Fax: 0207 782 4335
The Independent : email@example.com Fax: 0207 005 2086
CONTACTING MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT
Prime Minister: Rt Hon Tony Blair MP, 10 Downing Street, London fax 0207 925 0918
of Transport: Tel: 020
Government Offices (including Downing Street) 0207 270 3000 http://www.number-10.gov.uk/ Possibility of an electronic petition
Cabinet Office 0207 270 1234 http://www.cabinet-office.gov.uk/index/feedback/enquiries.htm
House of Commons - website gives a list of MPs. Some E-Mail addresses are included.
Fax Your MP - allows you to E-Mail your MP and this will then be forwarded to them by Fax.
ePolitix tells you about contacts in the political arena
Letters. You can write to all MPs at: House of Commons, London SW1 OAA.
The Public Information Office phone number 0207 219 4272 will also give you the name of your MP.
The House of Commons switchboard number is 0207 219 3000. The switchboard will connect to secretaries of all MPs, you can obtain their direct telephone and fax numbers from the MP's secretary)
You can also E-Mail the House of Commons Information Office for information.
CONTACTING YOUR MEP
You can look up your MEP and send them an e-mail or look up their web page.
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