True stories from the Great Railway Disaster No 11: So Railtrack is being privatised?

A weekly chronicle of the absurdities caused by the Government's privatisation programme
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The Independent Online
RAILTRACK, which owns all the bits of the railway that don't move, is due to be privatised next March. Many readers have written in with examples of how Railtrack appears to be trying to maximise its revenue to boost the potential share price.

Ann Sainsbury of Blisland in Cornwall reports that from yesterday, car park charges at Bodmin Parkway are being levied for the first time. She points out that people park there for no other reason than to catch a train as the station is three miles away from Bodmin itself.

But, it is Railtrack which owns the station and not the train operators, which are to become separate companies and privatised. Railtrack has no vested interest in boosting train use, merely in increasing its own revenue. Ms Sainsbury says: "It will just persuade more people to drive to work, resulting in loss of revenue to British Rail and more congestion on the roads."

In Somerset, Kay Barnard, a Liberal Democrat county councillor, says that Railtrack's greed is putting at risk the lives of schoolchildren by holding up the construction of a footpath between Lusty Rail Bridge and the River Bridge at Bruton on the busy A359.

The path is to make the road safer for the large number ofpedestrians, particularly schoolchildren, who use the road. But a small part of the path, around 20 metres by 1.8 metres, is under a railway arch and belongs to Railtrack. The county council's director of property services duly wrote to Railtrack expecting that the council would be charged a small token rent.

Back came a demand for £3,150 per year, which Ms Barnard calculated means an annual rent of £300,000 per acre.Ms Barnard says that a representative of Railtrack said that £300,000 per acre was by no means the highest rent Railtrack was planning to charge.

Examples of railway folly should be sent in envelopes marked "Mad" to:

Christian Wolmar, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL.

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