If Tony Blair has made any New Year resolutions for 2002, I hope one of them is to tackle the chaos of getting round this country.

Having tried to save the world since September, he should now apply himself to the even more intractable problems of transport.

The first and most urgent aim should be improving the railways, following a report this week which warned the network was close to breakdown.

Despite all the repairs which have taken place in the 15 months since the Hatfield disaster, there are still many areas where track, sleepers and signals are near or at the end of their lives.

People who travel by train are fed up with cancellations and delays. They are also worried about safety on what has traditionally been the safest mode of transport.

Some of them are close to some form of rebellion while others are deserting trains for cars, adding to traffic congestion.

Train troubles are not entirely the fault of this Government, although it must bear some of the responsibility.

Problems go back to the Second World War, when much of the infrastructure was battered and successive governments failed to invest properly in the system.

The Beeching cuts in the Sixties maimed the network rather than restoring it and privatisation, carried out in the Nineties, was never given a chance to work because of the way it was put into operation.

People who visit continental countries such as The Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany see modern stations and trains, efficient networks and a real pride in the systems. Even countries like Italy, not famed for efficiency, run railway services that put ours to shame.

Here in Sussex we have some of the oldest trains in the UK, especially those on the Hastings to Ashford line. We have stations which are uninviting and shabby, especially on the Coastway services. The weekday services are prone to delay and the Sunday services are often a disgrace.

Yet the potential is enormous. So many people want to travel, by train, from the Sussex coast to London that the lines cannot cope with them all. Thameslink would love to introduce an express service but there is simply not room to run it.

The really radical, although costly, answer is to increase the capacity of the lines, especially where there are only two south of Three Bridges.

Other improvements include restoring the Polegate link, so trains can run fast from Hastings to Brighton, and putting back the Lewes to Uckfield line. The Thameslink 2000 scheme, to get rid of a bad bottleneck in London, should be carried out as soon as possible.

This Government must make rail a top priority instead of forgetting about it. In a tiny crowded island it makes sense to take traffic off the roads and on to a proper public transport system.

It can be done but it will take time. Money, both private and public, will also be required.

When train travel works, it is wonderful. The fastest trains in the UK, on the lines to the North-East, are the best way of reaching York, Newcastle and Edinburgh. Even the South Central expresses from London to Brighton are impressive when they complete their journeys on time.

There is huge potential in extending services from Sussex to other parts of the country.

Instead of letting the railways decline to a point where passenger protests become widespread, Tony Blair and the rail companies should be helping to create a transport of delight.