Government to speed up British Rail sale

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The Independent Online
TRANSPORT ministers are trying to speed up the sale of British Rail's assets and non-rail businesses following the failure of attempts to sell the Red Star parcels service, writes Christian Wolmar.

The appointment of Christopher Campbell, the part-time chairman of British Shipbuilders since 1989, as vice-chairman of the BR board is a demonstration of the Government's resolve in pushing ahead with the disposal. Mr Campbell, 59, a chartered accountant, will have special responsibility for the sales.

BR will lose control of train services on 1 April when they are transferred to 26 operating companies. The infrastructure and track will be passed on to Railtrack under the chairmanship of Bob Horton, who will leave the BR board.

However, BR will retain control over a ragbag of businesses and assets including freight and parcels, rolling stock, telecommunications and rolling stock maintenance.

Target dates for some sales have been set. The Government hopes to dispose of the three rolling stock companies by 1996/7 and the freight companies by 1995.

Red Star, which was withdrawn from sale last month when no suitable bidders came forward for the company, which lost pounds 9m last year, is expected to be sold later this year after a new business plan has been developed.