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Following the Transport
Secretary Philip Hammond's call for an "urgent reappraisal" of
plans for 1,300 new rail carriages, because growth is predicted to
be lower than expected, Metro Chairman Cllr Ryk Downes has stressed
that additional carriages are urgently needed to cope with existing
demand and reduce overcrowding.
The review was ordered following a National Audit Office report
that suggested that future growth in passenger numbers will not be
as great as expected.
But Cllr Downes pointed out, future growth isn't the main
concern for West Yorkshire's rail passengers.
"Metro has been arguing for some time for the additional
carriages necessary to tackle current overcrowding and support
economic growth across the city region," he said.
"It is hugely frustrating that out of the 182 carriages
originally promised for Northern, only a handful have actually been
approved so far. That's despite Northern now carrying 34% more
passengers than what began as a 'no-growth' franchise in 2004.
National Audit Office report reveals that even before the recent
spending decisions, the Department for Transport was not able to
deliver as many additional carriages as originally planned. It also
highlights the PTEs' concerns that passengers in the north would
lose out compared to other areas.
"While we agree with many of the NAO's recommendations, we are
concerned with the suggestion that demand may need to be 'managed',
as it suggests increasing fares to price people off the system.
This would contradict the Government's stated aim of putting an
emphasis on more sustainable, low carbon transport initiatives.
"Good quality, affordable public transport is fundamental to the
future economic growth of our cities."
"We believe the current pause in the process should be used to
address the issues highlighted in the report and to develop a
revised plan that provides a fairer allocation of rolling stock for
the north and can be delivered quickly."
Cllr Downes also highlighted the need to invest in the existing
rail network, as well as on large-scale infrastructure
"Continued investment in the local network is
needed alongside longer-term proposals, including high-speed rail,"
he said. "Much of the diesel rolling stock we currently have is
past it's sell-by date and a rolling programme of electrification
is likely to deliver the best value for money.
"We will be working very closely with new Ministers and MPs to
make the case for the investment in carriages and infrastructure
needed to support the economic recovery. In these tough financial
times we will need to be even clearer in making our case for
investment in the North."