An efficient, reliable and quality transport infrastructure is one of the cornerstones of a civilised society and essential for economic growth. The recent pledge by Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis, to radically improve the most neglected major railway stations is a welcome sign of a commitment to investing in Britain's rail infrastructure. Adonis recently conducted a tour of the 10 major stations most in need of upgrading as identified in a report for the DfT. Importantly, it was stressed that this will involve not only more reliable timetables and newer trains, but more modern and comfortable stations. If the UK is to meet its ambitious carbon reduction targets, persuading people to switch from their car to the train will be crucial. Other European countries are already well ahead of the UK. In Spain, for example, the report notes that "high speed lines offer consistent world class travel from modern stations to modern trains and regenerated cities". Railway stations are vital transport interchanges, providing access to key retail centres and enabling urban regeneration.
The input of local communities, particularly where there is currently a lack of provision, should be actively encouraged by politicians and planners alike. The key point is that railway stations should not be planned in isolation, but should form part of an integrated strategy incorporating the street networks around the station. They should be pleasant spaces in which to wait, with adequate access to all forms of public convenience. This should form the basis of emerging local development plans, with the overall aim of allowing smaller stations to become safer centres of activity which people will be more inclined to use. Railway stations serve a much greater purpose than merely allowing commuters on and off trains. Amidst all the public sector spending cuts, this Goverment and the next must not forget the important role of the railway infrastructure in promoting sustainable economic growth.