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SRA pledges to protect local lines


GOVERNMENT RAIL officials last week moved to calm local authority fears about subsidy cuts on locally run community rail lines.

The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) said that the Department for Transport would not cut lines and would keep funding core services.

Last month the SRA published a strategy for community railways. This involved devolving responsibility from central government to so called community rail partnerships, including councils, passenger transport executives and local interest groups.

Councils had expressed concern that services would be cut unless they were prepared to subsidise them (News last week).

But last week the SRA said minimum services would be agreed with local authorities and communities and built into train operating franchises.

'We would like to give community rail partnerships the freedom to specify train times, but there has to be t rust on both sides, ' said SRA community rail development director Chris Austin.

But he warned that the cost of running extra services on top of the core would fall to councils and local communities.

Austin added that more work was needed to establish the cost of running local lines and the amount of subsidy they therefore needed.

This is because it is difficult to allocate revenue from long distance travellers using local lines. It is also hard to work out how much Network Rail spends on administrating local lines.

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