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The question Rail crisis

The crisis on the railways has forced people back into their cars and onto the roads. How badly has this damaged the Government's aims for expanding the use of public transport?

If the present programme of repair work really does deliver the benefits we have been promised in terms of greater reliability and punctuality of rail services then I believe that passenger numbers will return to their expected levels.

Steve Mitchell, 31, lecturer, Brighton

Although public confidence in the railways has been severely dented in the past 12 months I do not believe it will make much long term difference to the split between public transport users and car drivers.

People tend to use whatever means is convenient to them. It is those with an economically viable choice that the Government needs to target first. It must outline clearly how it intends to set about achieving its aims. How about this for a suggestion? Make the train operating companies responsible for maintaining the track infrastructure that they use. This would negate the requirement for the current management organisation and large compensation payments, making more money available for renewal works. A smaller regulatory body could oversee this work and provide the funds.

You could even give this body a catchy title, something like British Railways Board.

Chris Burton, 32, senior engineer, Wilts

Waking up on Monday morning to yet another news story of a train derailment at Motherwell, you cannot help but understand the lack of confidence that rail travellers must have in the safety of the railways. I think the image of train travel has been seriously damaged in this country. The only way this damage can be repaired is by significant investment to upgrade the network and trains, and maintenance of a clean safety record.

Sally Atkinson, 28, project engineer, Newcastle

People will use the most convenient means of transport they can afford. If the railways cannot provide a reliable service, people will not use them. The railways will have to rapidly improve in quality to win back customer confidence.

This is undoubtedly a setback for the expansion of public transport. The question is, can we rely on the rail companies' shareholders to put the pressure on to regain their customers?

James Markland, 44, chief technical adviser, Mozambique

New accident figures seem to show that statistically there have already been five extra deaths on the roads since the Hatfield crash. Public transport, even the railways, is far safer than roads - figures for the last 10 years give around 100 people killed on the railways and approximately 35,000 killed on the roads. While some people argue that statistics can say anything, the road death figures are simply horrifying. The Government needs to reevaluate the whole public transport issue.

It must realise that the various methods of transporting the public are not simply some sort of optional service, but are an absolute necessity to modern life.

John Dyer, 34, engineer

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