True stories from the Great Railway Disaster

A weekly chronicle of the absurdities caused by the Government's privatisation programme; No 74: so you want information?
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Michael Holden is a regular user of the West Anglia Great Northern train services, currently in the midst of privatisation. He wanted to register his dissatisfaction about the service with the franchising director, Roger Salmon, who will decide the new operator, in order to reduce the chances of the management team making a successful buy-out bid.

He contacted the Office of Passenger Rail Franchising, but it would not tell him who had expressed an interest in the bid, "for reasons of commercial confidentiality". When the deadline for expressions of interest had passed and invitations to tender sent out, he again contacted Opraf, but once more it cited commercial confidentiality as the reason why no information would be provided to either the public or WAGN's customers. Mr Holden was invited to register a protest against any company being awarded the franchise by writing to Mr Salmon.

He asked if Opraf considered its role was to represent the interests of passengers. He was told that its primary role was "to ensure a good deal for the taxpayer". This, he adds, was hastily followed by an assurance that they did have passenger interest at heart.

Mr Holden sums up sadly: "All I wanted to do was to find out who may be running my local rail services, but it seems passengers are not important enough to be told this."

The 'Independent on Sunday's Great British Rail Disaster' by Christian Wolmar, which includes more than 60 items from this column, has just been published by Ian Allan at pounds 5.99. If you have difficulty obtaining a copy, send a cheque or postal order, or Visa/Access authorisation, to: The Great British Railway Disaster, Ian Allan Ltd, Coombelands House, Coombelands Lane, Addlestone, Surrey, KT15 1HY. (Tel: 01932 855909 ex 235/236).