BR engineering work in line for privatisation

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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT is considering privatising the whole of British Rail's maintenance and engineering work, Roger Freeman, the minister for public transport, said yesterday.

Speaking to the Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors in London, Mr Freeman said two options were being considered by the Government to encourage privatisation of this work, which this year was worth pounds 714m.

One was the outright privatisation of BR departments undertaking the work. The other was for private sector bidders to be invited to test the market against BR in-house providers.

Mr Freeman said: 'Whichever model is adopted - and there may need to be 'horses for courses' - the Government is very firmly committed to contracting out.'

John Hackett, director-general of the federation, said his members were very enthusiastic about the proposals and 'confident they can offer value for money, which is the Government's condition'.

He also said that contracts would have to be of sufficient length to ensure some continuity. 'If our members are going to invest in this there will need to be some stability,' he warned.

BR already contracts out some of the work and has established its various technical departments as 'self-accounting' units in order to prepare them for competition from the private sector.

While important projects such as the building of bridges already go largely to the private sector, virtually all track-laying and maintenance is in-house.

Under the Government's privatisation plans, the track will in April 1994 become the responsibility of a new quango, Railtrack, which will be required to contract out its support functions such as track maintenance.

Under EC rules coming into force in January many BR contracts will be put out for tender throughout the community.

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