Letter: Give private rail freight firms a go

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The Independent Online
THE article 'Who wants the railways to be privatised?' (24 January) claims to give views on privatisation from a wide section of opinion, but it fails to give weight to the views of the private sector rail freight industry.

Private sector operators in rail freight now believe that privatisation is the only way to achieve the economies necessary to make rail freight competitive with road, and encourage traffic away from our congested roads and on to rail, with all the environmental and economic benefits that will bring.

To achieve this, improvements in efficiency are needed. British Rail's freight sector employs 13,000 people to run 500 trains a day, a cost in labour alone of about pounds 2,000 a train. BR demands pounds 500,000 a year to haul three trains a week from Boston to Birmingham. Trains carrying 400,000 tonnes a year on a single route apparently need price rises of 180 per cent to be viable.

Miles of 'light' running are done by locos to pick up trains, or return a driver home at the end of a shift. There are many other examples.

BR simply has not been able to address these problems and it is time for it to step aside and let the private sector have a go.

Julia Clarke

Freight on Rail

London SW1