British Rail Privatisation White Paper: Reaction: Investment is 'vital' to attract franchise bids

John MacGregor's failure to guarantee that there would be no line closures or reductions in the level of service dominated reaction to the White Paper inside and outside Parliament.

Several Tory MPs voiced scepticism in the Commons about the protection for rural lines, small stations, safety and the continuation of the national timetable.

There were also doubts that franchisees would be attracted. Tim Renton, the former Tory chief whip, warned that unless public investment was increased, the infrastructure would not be good enough to attract private investment.

The Freight Transport Association described the White Paper as a 'damp squib'. Jack Welsh, its distribution and international services director, said: 'What is not clear is how the privatised rail freight system will be attractive to private interest when it is evidently a high-cost operation that continues to lose traffic.'

But potential operators welcomed the White Paper. A spokesman for Richard Branson's company, Virgin, which wants to run non-stop trains between London and Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle, said passengers would be lured from airlines. He said: 'It's not cherry-picking, because we would bring people back to travelling by train on a service that British Rail says is not possible.'

Stephen Joseph, the director of the campaign group Transport 2000, said: 'The White Paper leaves many questions unanswered. What happens if a franchisee goes bust? How does franchising fit in with open access? Will charges for track access reflect wider social and environmental benefits from getting cars and lorries off the roads?

'The White Paper lays out a bureaucratic jungle in which private operators will need to reach agreements with four or five separate authorities, as well as a train- leasing company and other operators, before they can even start running trains.'

Jimmy Knapp, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said the rail issue would become 'the poll tax' of this Parliament.

Murray Hughes, editor of Railway Gazette International, said: 'The Government approach is dogma-driven. It is in very stark contrast to what is happening in the rest of Europe. This will not solve one of the most fundamental questions that the railway is facing - is the railway there to provide a service or is it there to make money for the shareholders of private companies?'

The British Institute of Management was 'ambivalent' about the White Paper. Some members feared privatisation would lead to further fragmentation of the country's transport infrastructure. Roger Young, its director-general, said: 'Without a national transport strategy, the transport system will simply grind to a halt.'

The Confederation of British Industry, however, welcomed the move towards privatisation, particularly in the rail freight market, but said it was important that improvements to the network were not abandoned. Howard Davies, its director-general, said: 'It is absolutely essential that privatisation is not used as an alibi for cutbacks on much-needed investment in the rail system.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Design, Marketing and Media Manager

£27000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: HR Assistant

£17447 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation is a leading centre fo...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Case Handler

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Case Handler is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Sales Apprentice

£15000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence