Star comment: Country needs to get on track with rail improvements

Plans are afoot to improve local railways. They cannot come a moment to soon.

Improvements are badly needed on local lines that are frequently over-crowded and that cost too much.

As we look to move people from polluting roads onto more environmentally-friendly trains, we must provide tangible benefits for doing so. If it’s quicker, cheaper and easier to use the car, then people will continue to do so.

Electrification of local lines will start the turnaround of local rail services. Reducing journey times could provide a huge boost for the region, encouraging people to make the switch to public transport. Towns that have hitherto been less accessible will be given a boost as local commuters can gain access to their places of work, without having needlessly long journey times.

This year has shown the ailing state of our transport network. Roads are congested, airports have been unfit for purpose, trains have been hit by strikes as workers have decided that going three years without a pay rise while operating companies rake in millions is no longer acceptable.

The nation needs a longer term transport strategy, where the needs of businesses and individuals and the environment are put at the heart of it. We need to give people reasons to leave their cars at home by providing efficient, affordable, reliable trains that run on time.

At a time when fuel prices mean many people can no longer afford to use their cars, alternatives must be made available to ease emerging problems. The new plans are a step in the right direction and we must hope they have a positive effect for commuters and the environment.

There was a moment after the English women’s football team made last night’s final that Ian Wright spoke to a young girl, live on TV.

He asked her if she wanted to emulate her heroes, the Lionesses, who have inspired a nation during a brilliant summer of football. The young girl did. And Wright responded with a monologue to the effect that every girl should be allowed to play football, just as every boy is.

The women’s game has come on leaps and bounds and provides levels of authenticity, joy and passion that is unmatched in the men’s game. It feels like a throwback to better days, when people played for the love of it.

Whether it’s women’s football or women’s cricket, the democratisation of sport has made different games available to all. For that, we can be truly thankful. Opportunities are now available to all.

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