Improve trains for all not high-speed railways for the rich

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From: Christopher L Cowell, Sandwath Lane, Church Fenton, North Yorkshire.

with reference to the article by Clive Betts in support of high-speed rail (Yorkshire Post, July 3), I urge him to think again.

On present costings, each household will have to pay £1,000. Actual finished costings could take individual tax bills up to £2,500 for every household. Do we really want to hand over our money for a project which will benefit the privileged few? If the business classes wish to travel fast to London, they should pay for it.

Anyone who knows just a little railway history will be aware that in the 19th century, in the early days of the railway companies, they soon found that they did not make money out of a railway only for the rich. The government of the day ensured that laws were passed that enforced the carrying of ordinary people. Suddenly, the railways became profitable. People from villages throughout the UK were given a railway station, a warm waiting room and mass travel was born.

Transport policy is so important for us all. Today it is in the hands of bureaucrats and politicians. Before the Second World War policy was in the hands of managers of the railway companies who knew their business.

Remember the name Sir Herbert Walker, who was in charge of the Southern Railway? His policies, 80 years on, still enable the people of Kent, Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire to catch fast, efficient and frequent electric trains from their isolated rural villages to commute to London every day.

In fact many of our MPs and civil servants and the business community still benefit from his policies in getting to work.

Sir Herbert believed in an electric train system, with frequent stops every 10 to 20 minutes.

So go to rural Kent. Arrive at your village station, such as Headcorn, where there is a huge car park serving a whole rural area. The electric train will stop for 30 seconds at every station. The doors open immediately and the train will then accelerate from its stop very quickly and effectively.

The trains are silent, very clean and running costs are 25 per cent of that of the noisy, slow 35-year-old diesels known to us in the North.

The cost of diesel fuel on our railways is unnecessarily astronomical and very damaging to the environment.

It would benefit all of us if the £50bn earmarked for HS2 was spent on electrifying as much of the UK rail system as possible and designing locomotives which can use either diesel or electricity.

The car industry has done it, even with batteries. Like the Victorians, we now need our very best brains to crack this problem and provide a flagship UK railway system which should a beacon to the whole world.

It is my firm hope that Parliament will back the Sir Herbert Walker approach which is environmentally friendly and which has proved its point in the isolated villages of the South, making efficient and frequent rails services for all a reality and enabling people to commute to work in first rate trains.

The North is badly and inefficiently served and HS2 will squander our money for the dubious benefit of the few.

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