FoSCL meets the Rail Minister
Richard Morris, FoSCL Chairman, and Douglas Hodgins, Chairman of the Settle-Carlisle Railway Development Company, were privileged to spend half an hour with Theresa Villiers, Minister of State for Transport, together with John Stevenson, MP for Carlisle. It's thanks to him and his PA Hannah that we got in to see the Minister at all.
The Minister was very friendly and sympathetic to what we had to say and a couple of her aides were busy taking notes throughout the meeting. She has been on the S&C but not for some while, so we of course invited her to come and see us again. She also said that the timing of our call was appropriate.
We stressed what the Partnership has done for the S&C over the years and how this has been achieved without government funding, how we are a unique blend of volunteers and paid employees and how we were the model for Community Rail Partnerships. We highlighted the DevCo's success in doubling the number of group bookings in three years and stressed that we can't develop this market any further because of unpredictable train formations - we need a guarantee of 3- or 4-car trains. We accepted that this is unlikely to happen before the next franchise.
We said that we are worried that if the next franchise is awarded by a consortium of Passenger Transport Executives (Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire etc) our needs might just get forgotten. And yet we are a unique line requiring far less subsidy than commuter services and which could be further developed if we are given the opportunity.
We also stressed that we have a far greater knowledge of the way this railway operates than anyone else (apart from the TOC), including North Yorkshire and Cumbria county councils. We put more money into it than the county councils. We should therefore be given the status of formal consultees in the run up to the next franchise. We would also like to establish a dialogue with the DfT in future. John Stevenson's view after the meeting was that both may well happen. His summary: "You're now on the radar."
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