We will improve railways, Blair pledges

Improvements to Britain's railways will take time - but it will happen, Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted today.

If his Government had tried to tackle the privatised railways when it came to power in 1997 there would have been outcry that it was "Old Labour back", the premier said.

"What people need to know is, one, we are getting the new management in, and the investment is now there over a period of time," Mr Blair told BBC1's Breakfast With Frost.

"When we came to office in May 1997, it is possible we could have then said 'well we're going to change the whole of Railtrack, get rid of privatisation, renationalise it and so on'.

"Had we done that at the time, there would have been an outcry that we were acting dogmatically, that this was Old Labour back."

Money was not put into the railways in 1997 because the economy needed to be sorted out and education and health were top priorities, he added.

"Hindsight is a wonderful thing but we didn't (tackle transport), is the truth."

Mr Blair was speaking ahead of the publication tomorrow of the strategy plan by the Strategic Rail Authority.

He added: "These plans are not something we've just suddenly thought up in the past few weeks, they've been worked on literally ever since the announcement of the 10 year plan of investment for the railways.

"They will combine public money and private money, what is being announced tomorrow is the detail of that, what will it purchase for us.

"But unless we renew fundamentally the railways infrastructure in this country, then we're not going to put the railways in the state people want them in."

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