Franchises 'will cripple tourism'

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A 30 per cent increase in rail fares and a fragmented service after privatisation would cripple the pounds 25bn tourist industry, according to a pressure group led by unions and backed by passenger groups.

In a report published yesterday the Better Rail Campaign forecast that tourist travel would be cut by more than a third because of the sell-off.

Tens of thousands of jobs would be lost as hotels suffered and takings in shops slumped, according to the campaign's study.

It predicts 'disastrous' consequences for local economies especially in Wales, the West Country, Cumbria and East Anglia all of which would be hit by the closure of unprofitable lines.

Jimmy Knapp, leader of the RMT rail union, said the campaign was echoing the anxiety of the British Tourist Authority and local tourist boards expressed in submissions to the House of Commons Select Committee on Transport. The 120 tourist centres contacted by the compilers of the report warned of a serious impact on the industry because of fewer discounts on fares and the fact that British Rail would no longer be able to publish an integrated timetable.

The effect would be made worse by the closure of some BR information services in this country and abroad.

Mr Knapp said some of the lost traffic could return in the form of road traffic but the amount was impossible to quantify.