LETTER: Cost of delay to rail sale

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From Mr D. R. Gillan

Sir: It may not be "the end of the world" for Transport Secretary Sir George Young if the privatisation timetable "slips a bit" ("Rail sale may miss deadline", 11 September), but to redundant workers in York, Derby, Doncaster, Preston, Leeds and Loughborough, things may seem somewhat different. The fact is that, despite assurances by successive ministers, many hundreds of workers in the railway supply industry have lost their jobs as a direct result of the hiatus in investment caused by the break-up of British Rail.

In theory, privatisation will increase railway investment through the injection of private finance, free from the Treasury's constraints under the Private Finance Initiative. This may yet happen in practice, but not until a substantial proportion of the former BR is privatised. The longer privatisation takes, the longer vital investment, vital both to the travelling public and manufacturing industry, will be deferred.

Quite apart from the well-documented lack of orders for new trains, we have recently seen the start of the pounds 1.5bn investment in upgrading the West Coast main line put back by a year or more while Railtrack is floated. My members report similar delays on other, smaller projects.

If Sir George cannot make privatisation keep to timetable, investment will continue to suffer the worst of both worlds - neither public nor private - to the detriment of all concerned.

Yours faithfully,

D. R. Gillan


Railway Industry Association

London, SW1

11 September