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Missing links


Reading your interview with Alistair Darling (NCE 7 November), reminded me of the government's ambitious targets to increase train use in the 10 year transport plan.

Although the Hatfield crash and the Railtrack saga have clearly taken their toll on short term passenger numbers, I believe there is a large hurdle that must be overcome to encourage a significant proportion of the general public to leave their cars at home.

That hurdle is provision of a minimum level of public transport to all parts of the country at all times and days of the week.

As soon as you leave the main line behind you, the offpeak frequency of service plummets. Local bus and train services also finish in the early evening. If you need to use a taxi to travel the last few miles, the money you saved by booking your train two weeks in advance will be blown away.

It is not good enough to infer that we need to be flexible in our travelling habits. What we need is a guaranteed minimum level of service to all stations, regardless of profitability, and an equivalent minimum level of bus provision. This is needed every day of the week, and will require government subsidy.

The targets set out in the 10 year transport plan were noble.

But the general public who can afford to run a car will continue to do so if public transport is not, at the very least, half decent.

Danny Bonnett (M), 55 Franche Court Road, Tooting, London SW17

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