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Lib Dems call for UK railways to be transformed and made green

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The Liberal Democrats have called for the United Kingdom’s railways to be overhauled to attract more users and give the country to have a better chance of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of this century.

At its autumn conference in Brighton, southern England, the anti-Brexit party is on Sunday set to pass a motion which calls for railway stations nationwide to be modernised and rail travel made simpler for British commuters.

This, the conference motion says, will encourage people to use trains rather than cars, and play a key role in helping the UK reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2045.

Read more: No-deal Brexit documents reveal UK councils expect food and medicine shortages and civil unrest

While rail travel is on the rise, it accounts for just two per cent of trips made each year in the UK, according to The National Travel Survey’s latest findings.

39% of people said they used the railways “less than once a year or never.” Just 8% said they use trains “at least once a week.”

Wera Hobhouse, the party’s shadow environment secretary, said nowhere enough Brits are using trains to get around as railways currently “are not fit for a modern Britain.”

The member of Parliament for Bath told Business Insider: “This survey shows how few people are using our trains instead of cars, and with a climate emergency on our hands this is simply unacceptable.

“This Conservative Government have presided over a deterioration of our railways, with trains constantly delayed, over-crowded and often cancelled, whilst fares have continually risen.”

Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps.
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‘Disaster ridden’ transport department should lose control of Britain’ trains

Hobhouse said that if in government, the Lib Dems would take the running of Britain’s railways out of hands of the “disaster ridden” Department for Transport, and give it to a new government body called the Railway Agency.

The party’s conference motion calls for stations to be turned into “hubs” which are better integrated with local bus routes and cycling infrastructure. Stations should be fitted with solar panels and wind turbines, and more lines electrified, the motion adds.

The Lib Dems also want to simplify train fares by ensuring travellers using contactless cards are automatically charged the cheapest fare and any paid compensation they are owed for delays.

However, the Lib Dem conference motion is to reject the Labour Party’s call for railways to be nationalised, describing the plan as a “costly distraction” that “will not make the railways cheaper, more punctual or less micro-managed.”

The Conservative government has repeatedly come under fire for the state of Britain’s railways.

While fares have increased by over 50% since 2016, punctuality is the worst it has been in well over a decade, and commuters who use franchises like Northern have suffered months of cancellations and delays.

“It is no surprise people in Britain aren’t using the trains with the Tories in charge. If we want people to use public transport we have to ensure it’s a reliable mode of transport,” Hobhouse told Business Insider.”

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