BR 'could not take increase in passengers'

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The Independent Online
BRITISH RAIL would be unable to cope if the number of passengers increased following an improvement in economic conditions, a passenger watchdog body warned yesterday.

Levels and methods of financing would result in a 'crisis of daunting proportions' unless changed, it says in a report. BR was living a 'hand-to-mouth existence' with too little money to provide a good service and an inability to cope with any increase in passengers, the London Regional Passengers Committee says.

The committee's chairman, Dr Eric Midwinter, said that progress had been made in improving aspects of London's public transport. But he added: 'I firmly believe, however, that BR is in real danger of not being able to continue to offer the service passengers have the right to expect.

'If there is an upturn in the economy and thus more passengers travelling, then the system just will not be able to cope.'

The report says: 'Passengers are not willing to be conned, by a not very subtle change in performance targets, into accepting that their service has improved when it so clearly has not.'

It calls on the Government 'to recognise that the present method and level of financing BR are unacceptable and untenable'.

The committee's criticisms follow last week's Central Transport Consultative Committee annual report which revealed record complaints against BR.

In its annual report, the passengers' committee says:

Bus deregulation had failed passengers outside London and it was 'bewildering' that the Government was supporting deregulation of the capital's buses.

Greater bus usage must provide the best solution to 'London's desperate problems'.

There was a worrying increase in the number of BR stations now unstaffed.

The north-south cross-London Thameslink 2000 line plan must be revived.

The fact that London Underground's Jubilee Line was at risk was 'a terrible indictment' of the transport policy-making process.