Bunhill: Late but on time

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The Independent Online
YOU may have thought that rail privatisation had been delayed by a year.

John MacGregor, the Transport Secretary, had to admit as much last week when he revealed that the sale of the first franchises, originally pencilled in for this October, would not take place for at least another 12 months.

But his department, in a confidential memo to its public relations advisers Dewe Rogerson, recognises a higher truth. The 'key message' to be put over, says the memo, is that 'rail privatisation is happening and happening on schedule'.

In spite of the franchise setback, the DoT plans to plough on with the campaign, estimated to cost taxpayers up to pounds 500,000. I'm told a key part is the City Relations Programme, intended to beef up interest in the privatisation from a lukewarm financial community.

Dewe Rogerson, which advised on most of the biggest privatisations, is organising dinners for City bigwigs and industrialists. Then there is the campaign to woo reporters, at least sympathetic ones. 'Each journalist will need to be looked at on a case-by-case basis,' says the DoT coyly.