Letter: Trains in the hills

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The Independent Culture
Sir: How wonderful to see an article dedicated to one of our smallest stations, Sugar Loaf Halt ( "Station with only two passengers points way to cull of branch lines", 1 May).

We are delivering our franchise obligations even for this small station. We have provided a small shelter with seating costing pounds 1,554, where there was none before. We have provided lighting using a solar rechargeable battery system costing pounds 1,923, where there was none before. Before October we will provide a constantly updated passenger information system, costing about pounds 5,000.

Our franchise agreement requires us to provide four trains in each direction, Monday to Saturday, and a Sunday service in summer. We will honour in full our contractual obligations in this respect. Our franchise runs to 31 March 2004, giving this line a period of certainty it has seldom enjoyed in years gone by. There has been more money spent on this line in the last two years than in the previous twenty: it is not what we would do if we were trying to "wipe out rural rail services".

The railway industry is not "lobbying the Government to allow it to cut unused rural services". It is for government to decide where to spend taxpayers' money: we will provide whatever services are deemed socially necessary and are funded accordingly.

Rural services like the Heart of Wales line have many beneficiaries beyond the simple farebox revenue: the tourist industry, access to education, population mobility, safe transport to name but a few. Rural rail plays its role in society in the same way as grant-funded roads, schools and hospitals. It is for government, both local and national, to decide how funds are shared between these and other priorities.

CHRIS GIBB

Operations Director

Wales and West Passenger Trains

Cardiff

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