People & Business: No time for the age of steam in Railtrack's schedules

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Railtrack is about to evict Thomas the Tank Engine, leaving London's only working steam train museum without a home. The Southall Railway Centre in west London has recently been told that Railtrack does not intend to renew its lease on 21 July. Instead, Railtrack is to sign the lease to Flying Scotsman Railways, owned by Dr Tony Marchington, who will be able to park his 30 Pullman coaches in the Southall engine shed.

The centre is currently run by the GWR Preservation Society, a group of volunteers that runs 10 engines from the site, including a number of historic steam engines. Robert Zarywacz of the group says: "At the beginning of March we were notified by Railtrack that they wouldn't be renewing the lease. It was rather a shock. We've been talking to Railtrack, and before them to British Rail, about the site since 1986. We're trying to find out why they did this. They certainly didn't consult us."

The group runs steam weekends, usually themed as "Meet Thomas the Tank Engine", during which their locos are fitted with cartoon faces and carry thousands of members of the public hither and thither. There are even plans to set up a regular steam link between Southall and Brentford.

So how does Sir Bob Horton, Railtrack's chairman, feel about being cast as the heartless Fat Controller? After all, isn't the new Flying Scotsman service being based in the Yorkshire Dales?

A Railtrack spokesman admits that its decision "has come over as a bit heartless". It had taken a commercial decision that Flying Scotsman Railways had a business proposition, with prospects of an expansion of business in the future. "While the GWR group have a lot of plans, they are only plans at the moment."

"We've offered them alternative sites, but they're not very happy about that," the spokesman said.

Indeed not. So if you want a last chance to see the GWR's trains in action, get down to Southall this Saturday for their steam weekend.

Here's another depressing list about the rich, but one that really rubs salt into the wound. These millionaires are all under 40. According to a survey by Hemmington Scott, published in the latest edition of the Price Waterhouse Corporate Register, quoted Britain has created 36 millionaires under 40; eight of them have yet to reach 35.

At the top of the league is Daniel Chiu, a 36-year-old scion of the Hong Kong business dynasty, who is vice-chairman of Fortune Oil. Educated at Sussex University, Mr Chiu co-founded Kingsleigh in 1989 when he was still under 30. He reversed into Blackland to form Fortune Oil and made his own fortune in the process. His 34.23 per cent stake in the company is worth nearly pounds 50m today.

Then there's Stephen Streater, managing director of Eidos, who set up his video software company in 1990, with the help of two friends. Then aged a mere 24, he could barely raise the pounds 4 for his stake which is now worth pounds 40m.

So it does seem as if millionaires are getting younger. Hemmington found that of the 3,031 executive directors of fully listed and AIM-quoted companies who owned up to their age, 282 are under 40 and 40 are under 35. Pass the nappies.

The comedian Bob Monkhouse was in wicked form on Wednesday night at Building magazine's annual housebuilder awards dinner in London. Sir Laurie Barratt, chairman of Barratt Developments, was one of Mr Monkhouse's many victims when he stepped up to receive a prize. Sir Laurie was the kind of man who, if he was drowning 20 feet from the shore, you'd chuck him a 15ft rope, said Mr Monkhouse. You could then walk away secure in the knowledge that you had met him half way.

As the assembled multitude collapsed in mirth, Mr Monkhouse followed up with: "He's almost impossible to ignore - but well worth the effort."

Sir Laurie took it in good humour, as did the rest. With the housebuilding market on the rebound he can afford to smile.

How times change. Heron International has appointed a development director, Tony Leyland of George Wimpey. It only seems like yesterday that Gerald Ronson, chief executive of Heron, was serving time in Ford Open Prison while Heron groaned under debts of over pounds 1bn. Heron has signed deals worth over pounds 400m this year, mainly in continental leisure projects, and Mr Leyland will be closely involved in that expansion. Quite a comeback.