Rail privatisation plans criticised for lack of detail

Click to follow
Indy Politics
TOO MANY issues have been left unresolved by the Government's proposals for rail privatisation, and the timetable for its introduction has failed to allow sufficient debate, the Conservative-dominated Commons Select Committee on Transport said yesterday, writes Christian Wolmar.

Its report says that the implementation of the forthcoming Bill 'may have unforeseen consequences because of the absence of full details or sufficient time for an informed public debate'. It found that while many witnesses were sympathetic to the idea of greater private-sector involvement in railway services, 'few endorsed the Government's specific proposals'.

The MPs' concern covered fundamental issues such as whether it was sensible to separate the management and train operations and the track 'via the creation of a new body (Railtrack) which has no apparent incentive to act efficiently'. They also expressed concern about the gap in orders in the railway supply industry because of the current loss of revenue and cuts in government grant.

The controversy within Tory ranks over the report, which the Conservative chairman, Robert Adley, said had been agreed unanimously, continued yesterday. Three Tory members of the committee tried to dissociate themselves from it and one, Matthew Banks, issued a press release saying it was 'out of date'. He accused Mr Adley of producing a 'badly slanted' draft report and said: 'To say the report was a compromise is an understatement.'

Mr Adley defended it and, earlier, told the Press Association: 'Ministers get more and more pig-headed as their proposals come under more detailed scrutiny. They did it with the poll tax. I hope they do not do it with the future of the railways.'

No free rides, page 27