BR sale may cramp train spotters' style: Rail buffs fear that privatisation will kill cheap travel deals. Mary Braid reports

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

GLOOMY forecasts about the privatisation of British Rail are as common as anoraks at Crewe station. But none, perhaps, is as poignant as the predicted demise of the great British train spotter.

The break-up of the BR network, it is now claimed, threatens the shared passion of millions of rail buffs, hundreds of thousands of whom are members of that peculiar British species, the loco spotter.

If the stereotype holds, many are already preparing to bin their binoculars, lunch boxes and stubby pencils, convinced privatisation that goodbye British Rail means the end of crucial concessionary tickets and special deals.

For spotting is can be an expensive business, with some enthusiasts . While some are content to watch locally, nurse a flask of tea at the end of the local platform, the life ambition of many more is striving to cover every inch of UK track or travel behind all 2,000 locomotives.

in service.

'Some enthusiasts practically live on trains. For those who travel all over the country, privatisation may be disastrous,' said Peter Jones, 34, a Manchester accountant who spends pounds 3,000 a year pursuing 63 illusive elusive locomotives. Peter Watts, managing director of Pathfinder Tours, which sold 16,000 tickets on special train trips last year, agrees. 'It is easy to see why enthusiasts are worried. When we have to negotiate deals with different companies, our trips could become too expensive.' Specialist companies and local groups can negotiate deals with BR 25 per cent less than supersaver prices.

John Butcher, 66, whose special interest is old track beds, recently travelled more than 2,000 miles in Scotland on a pounds 50 BR special ticket; the sort of deal that could be lost.

th. Mr Butcher, member of a Nottingham group, said: 'It is that sort of deal which may soon be lost.'

Despite the gloomy predictions, Mr Jones believes the hard-core spotter will survive. 'People like me have to fulfil their goal regardless of the cost.'

Last year Mr Jones found himself in Dublin on two consecutive weekends when two 'special' locomotives made surprise appearances in the north of England. He promptly coughed up for two return trips, by air and track. His wife, he says, is very understanding.