LETTER: Efficiency by rail

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From Mr S. Norton

Sir: The reason why Michael Meacher is right to condemn the giveaway of Red Star (contrary to your editorial of 22 August) is that, in the transport field, environmental efficiency is at least as important as business efficiency. If you want to get a parcel from A to B, what could be more environmentally friendly than putting it on a train or bus that is making such a journey anyway?

It is arguable that one reason why rail freight (including parcels, and the argument applies to passengers too) is uncompetitive is that the failure of road freight to meet its true costs has pushed railfreight volumes down so far as to undermine the economies of scale. This is a further argument for treating transport as a "public interest enterprise" rather than a free market business.

If carriage of parcels by rail is a casualty of the fragmentation of our railway industry, then our dependence on lorries will be further intensified - to the detriment of communities fighting destructive bypasses whose purpose is to carry these unnecessary lorries.

Yours sincerely,

Simon Norton