Railway standards `falling'

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Lack of investment and the preparation for privatisation have caused rail services to deteriorate sharply, according to evidence presented to the Commons Transport Committee, writes Christian Wolmar.

An analysis of the performance of services since 1993 by CRUC, the passenger watchdog, found that according to the Passenger's Charter standards, punctuality declined on 35 of the 52 routes surveyed, while reliability fell on 40 routes.

Major General Lennox Napier, chairman of CRUC who was giving evidence to the committee inquiring into rail finances, said; "The train service is declining because of the lack of financial support. The privatisation turkey is being slimmed down for Xmas rather than being fattened up." There was wide evidence of the effects of the lack of investment, principally a rise in speed restrictions: "At the moment there are 15 speed restrictions between Newcastle and Edinburgh." The decline in performance was not due to last year's signal workers' strike, as strike days had been excluded from figures, he added.