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DfT to take on strategic railway planning

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STRATEGIC RAILWAY planning is set to move into the Department for Transport (DfT), rail experts said this week.

They hope the move will lead to a more integrated transport strategy that will allow high-speed rail links to prosper alongside air transport.

The Railway Forum made the prediction this week ahead of July's publication of transport secretary Alistair Darling's rail review.

'Having a separate organisation for rail strategy was always a strange idea, ' said Forum director general Adrian Lyons.

By absorbing the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) into the DfT an integrated transport strategy could develop, he said.

The Forum called for government to consider the role that high speed rail could play to meet short haul air demand.

He added that the SRA never met the expectations of the industry because of setbacks caused by 'Railtrack going down, the Hatfield disaster and the crisis on the West Coast Main Line'.

Lyons believes that Network Rail will gain more control over the railways because it has 'proved itself' to industry.

'It has reorganised itself at a fantastic speed and with great professionalism, ' he said, adding that it had underspent by £1.1bn last year by enforcing tighter control over costs and deferring nonessential projects.

He expects the role of train operators will remain separate from Network Rail, but that the rail operator might take responsibility for timetabling.

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