Letter: Privatisation plans for British Rail

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Sir: I should like to put the record straight on a number of points in Christian Wolmar's article under the heading 'British Rail privatisation delayed until 1995' (5 March).

First, there is no one date for 'rail privatisation'. This highly complex operation is being carried out in stages and, as John MacGregor, the Secretary of State for Transport, has made clear, it will take many years to complete the process.

As reported, we plan to have Railtrack in place by April 1994. We are also proceeding to set up initial units that will be suitable for franchising (based on the pilot areas so far identified by the Government) to a similar timetable and we are discussing with the Department of Transport whether there is any possibility of advancing this.

The programme will, of course, have to be consistent with safe operation. Decisions on how long either Railtrack or the franchised units will need to run within British Rail before franchises can be offered are a matter for the Secretary of State and the future franchising director, not British Rail.

The question of involvement of senior managers in buyout bids is in no way affecting the franchising timetable. Right from the publication of the White Paper, we made it clear that we want the fullest opportunity for railway staff to play their part in the new businesses to be created. There is still a long time to go before there is sufficient information available for anyone to be able to make a serious assessment about the terms of a bid for any franchise. At the appropriate time, managers will be free to consider putting a bid together.

My concern is that in the transitional period, senior managers with operational responsibilities do not get distracted from the key task of running a live railway as safely, efficiently and effectively as possible. I am confident that all senior managers throughout the railway understand the need for this.

Yours sincerely,


Chief Executive, Railways

British Railways Board

London, NW1

5 March