The Conservative Party has pledged to spend £500m on reopening rail lines lost during the Beeching closures of the sixties.
Launching the policy last Friday, the Tories claimed that the Beeching Reversal Fund would start to reopen some of the 4,500 miles of track and 2,000 stations that were closed during this period.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson linked the policy to the country’s 2016 referendum on membership of the European Union.
“Too many towns and villages across Britain have been overlooked and left behind,” he said.
“When the UK voted to leave the EU, many communities felt their voices had been heard for the first time in decades. We will invest in these communities and help people put the heart back into the places they call home.”
Responding to the news, Andy McDonald, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, said: “This isn’t new, the Conservatives announced it two years ago to try to distract from the collapse of the East Coast franchise which ultimately cost taxpayers £2 billion. Unsurprisingly not one of the Beeching cuts has been restored.”
Railway experts pointed out that £500m could only reverse a small portion of the Beeching cuts. For comparison, the Borders Railway from Edinburgh to Tweedbank cost £350m, reinstating 35 miles of former double track as single track.
‘Immigration reform risks bus staff shortage’
Plans to introduce a £30,000 annual salary threshold as part of a future immigration system risk a shortage of workers across the bus and coach industry, the Confederation of Passenger Transport has warned.
CPT, which represents UK bus and coach operators, raised the issue in its response to the Migration Advisory Committee’s review of options for a new immigration system.
Local bus operators in England have around 100,000 full time employees – a significant proportion of these are non-UK nationals and their salaries are below £30,000.
Under the current plans, future migrants would have to show that the job they were coming to do in the UK pays more than £30,000 a year in order to be allowed to enter the country. This new requirement would apply to most migrant workers, including EU nationals, who are currently able to come and work in the UK under EU freedom of movement rules.
CPT is calling for the removal of the minimum salary threshold. It also wants bus and coach drivers to be listed on a shortage occupation list, which should then be a key characteristic in a points-based system, along with the ability to speak and read English.
“Any future immigration policy must focus on the skills that we need, rather than arbitrary criteria such as salary thresholds,” said CPT’s policy manager, Alison Edwards. “Losing workers from around the world who keep our buses moving would mean a poorer service for passengers.”
Edwards continued: “In order to keep buses on the roads the industry needs an adequate supply of drivers, which experience has shown cannot be wholly met from within the UK.”
About the Author
This post was written by Robert Jack. Robert is Managing Editor and Publisher of Passenger Transport. He has worked as a journalist, editor and publisher in the passenger transport sector for 18 years. He has played a key role in many transport-related conferences and events.