West Midlands transport bosses have challenged national rail leaders over cost cutting plans they claim will lead to widespread overcrowding on trains.
In responses to the Strategic Rail Authority's controversial West Midlands Route Utilisation Strategy (WMRUS) - to be handed over today - both Birmingham City Council and the West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority criticise the proposed strategy for the region up to 2011 as short-sighted.
Both bodies are strongly against proposals for increasing high peak fares to spread the demand for Birmingham trains in the morning rush hour.
The city council is particularly concerned about the documents' failure to support reintroducing bay platforms at the newly renovated Birmingham Moor Street Station to the national network.
WMPTA and its executive arm Centro are also particularly concerned about the removal of trains between Walsall and Wolverhampton which the SRA believes is poorly used and wants rolling stock diverted to bolster busier Birmingham-bound trains.
The SRA, which is to be wound up by the Government this summer, wants to squeeze more capacity out of the rail network ' s existing infrastructure without extra investment.
Councillor Gary Clarke (Con Streetly), WMPTA chairman, said passengers would get a "raw deal" if SRA plans were adopted.
"We shall be keeping a very close eye on how local needs are assessed next to services that may generate greater income for the rail industry, but do less to address the congestion issues in the West Midlands urban area," he said.
In their formal response to the cost cutting proposals, Centro-WMPTA stress the importance of local services where passenger growth is faster than London and the South-east.
On the subject of raising fares to "price-off" demand, the organisations say the Government "needs to be aware of the more limited extent of flexible hours working in the West Midlands than have historically existed in London".
WMPTA-Centro believe the SRA's national overcrowding standards are not appropriate for the West Midlands.
"If passengers have to regularly endure the high level of overcrowding deemed acceptable by the SRA, then this is likely to discourage them from using the train and will put additional car journeys on the road."
Meanwhile, Birmingham City Council's response said: "The basis appears to be cutting costs rather than seeing rail services as a key element of an integrated transport strategy to deal with sustainable regeneration and growth." n Meanwhile, rail infrastructure company Network Rail ( NR) announced muchimproved annual results yesterday, but remains firmly in the red.
The not-for-dividend company, whose chief executive John Armitt recently received a £270,000 performancerelated bonus, made a pre-tax loss of £164 million in the 12 months to the end of March 2005 - far better than in 2003/04.
The company's net debt increased from £12.6 billion to £15.6 billion, but this was still well below the expected figure of around £17.2 billion.