Privatisation, rural railways and community development
This thesis examines two separate, but interrelated, issues, namely rail privatisation and rural dependency on the availability of rail transport. The thesis was based on the proposition that rural accessibility permits the development and sustainability of the social and economic lives of a community and that this interrelationship is currently threatened by rail privatisation and the associated risks of line closures or service cutbacks. To test this proposition a thorough investigation into the theory and practice of privatisation was completed, together with a comprehensive survey of the travel arrangements of people living in rural communities served by branch line railways. A variety of research methods were employed, including desk-top studies involving literature searches, qualitative investigations to assist questionnaire design and the use of self-administered questionnaires by sample populations. The empirical results are presented and discussed against the background of introductory chapters which review the policy of privatisation, the evolution of rail privatisation and the role of the rural branch line. The concluding chapters present three different scenarios for the future of rural branch lines, ranging from closure to revitalisation, and outline areas where future research may be carried out. The main findings were that a substantial number of people depend on the branch lines to enable them to carry out a wide variety of journeys and it was concluded that branch line railways do indeed play a vital role in the development and sustainability of the rural community. Furthermore, it was concluded that rail privatisation may indeed pose a threat to the future provision of branch line services and as such could have far-reaching impacts on the future well-being of the rural community.