Partnerships `are future of railways'

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The Independent Online
THE MAN appointed by the Government to get the trains to run on time criticised the privatisation of the railways yesterday, saying it had left a "fragmented" network.

Sir Alastair Morton, speaking on his first day as chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA), said his first priority was to bring investment back to the railways. "One of the problems is lack of investment and then there's the problem that privatisation was achieved through fragmentation. We have to take that fragmentation and turn it into public-private sector partnerships," he said.

Sir Alastair, 61, was co- chairman of Eurotunnel and masterminded the creation of the pounds 10bn Channel Tunnel. His new role is equally challenging as the latest official figures showed two-thirds of the rail network suffered falling punctuality last year, with one in five trains running late on the worst route.

John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, who appointed Sir Alastair, said: "This is a crucial new position and we want to see this new body work for the interests of the passenger. We have to make sure we have a better rail system."

Sir Alastair said: "We have in John Prescott someone with a vision and a plan for how to get there. My job is to turn that into something concrete. It won't be done overnight but I'm confident that it will be done."

The SRA will exist in shadow form until the Government gives it statutory backing through a Bill.