THE railways tend to get a bad press.

This is perhaps because people use them every day, so each problem accumulates in the memory in a way that does not happen with other public services that we use less frequently.

Keith Williams, now finalising his review of the railway industry, has been quoted as saying that: “Railways are failing . . . Britain’s railways are failing to deliver clear benefits”.

This is manifestly untrue.

The railways move many thousands of passengers and vast quantities of freight every day with a reliability and safety which would be envied in many countries.

We enjoy good services to Salisbury, or London.

Weymouth and stations to the north provide regular train services to the heart of Bath and Bristol.

Let us celebrate what we have rather than indulging in the national pastime of talking ourselves down.

However, there are problems which we need to address, including the recent issue of resilience to high temperatures.

Rail passengers have doubled since privatisation, but capacity has not kept up.

In our own area we know that this has led to overcrowding.

On the Bristol-Weymouth line we need a proper hourly service to develop the potential of the line – ‘Wessex by the Hour’.

We hope that this may be incorporated in an extended Great Western franchise next year.

One of the difficulties is that, while buses are the responsibility of the Local Transport Authority, the railways are a national responsibility.

The local authorities are therefore often reluctant to get involved.

But Network Rail or the Department for Transport will always ask: “What does the local authority think?”

So we need our county councillors and officers to address this with a bit of enthusiasm.

Railways are a key part of our transport infrastructure and an important part of our future.


Chairman, Sherborne Transport Action Group

Highbank, Marston Road