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comment:Arthur Daley approach to privatisation

In the circumstances, it was all going remarkably smoothly. And then suddenly, disaster. The political triumph of the sale of the first three rail franchises has been reduced to ashes by the weekend's fraud allegations.

The trouble is that Sir George Young has been forced by election pressures to behave like Arthur Daley, flogging off everything in his lock-up under the railway arches at rock bottom prices, because he knows the police are on the way, in the form of a Labour government.

More haste, less speed. Roger Salmon, the franchise director, has been told to have the other 22 train operating companies ready for sale by October. The bandwagon is now moving so fast it will be hard to keep it on the rails.