Bureaucratic 'lunacy' angers rail manager

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The Independent Online

Transport Correspondent

The complexities caused by rail privatisation have been highlighted by a rail manager who complains in a leaked memo that excessive bureaucracy is "making the system unworkable".

In a confidential log of train operations for North London Railways obtained by the Labour Party, the manager, a Mr R Taylor, complains that the move of a train between two depots for routine maintenance had to be cancelled because documents had not been filled in. He points out that previously such a move could have been dealt with by telephone.

The train had been ready to leave Bletchley for Hornsey, a distance of 50 miles, for routine maintenance to its wheels on the evening of 8 March when the controller was told that Railtrack in Crewe, which has responsibility for the track on that line, would not allow the move until "the proper documentation had been sent". Mr Taylor notes: "This is the first I was aware of any new system or indeed any new forms." He managed to find the requisite form and faxed it, only to be told that it needed "a profic centre number and other codes, of which we have no list". Having wasted time in finding these numbers, the move had to be cancelled because the driver would not then have been able to get to Hornsey and back within the right number of hours.

The log comments: "It is about time that those who wield influence spoke up in opposition to the lunacy that has overtaken our industry, instead of quietly towing (sic) the government line. The paper being generated to deal with simple matters which had hitherto been dealt with on the telephone is making the system unworkable."

He comments that "we exist only as long as our customers allow us to exist; by placing the needs of the combined forces of accountants, legal jargoners, and a multi-split railway ... first and the interests of the customers second, we are digging our own grave."