LETTER : Privatised railway will price itself off the market

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The Independent Online
Sir: As privatisation of British Rail lurches from one horror story to the next, I was pleased to read your leading article of 20 March. Two elements will lead to the demise of our railway system: the creation of Railtrack and the hiving off into over twenty different companies, all competing with each other.

One has to only look across the Channel to France, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, and even Italy, to see models to copy, with a proven record of efficiency and modernisation. To have a system where companies have to pay to run their trains on a separately owned railway will fail because of escalating costs. This is already apparent, when one learns that it is now cheaper to transport locomotives and rolling stock for repair by road with all the attendant disruption this involves to road users. Any analogy with airlines, where the air is free, is ludicrous.

Freight should be put back on rail, as it has been with great success in New Zealand, as an essential environmental necessity. But I fear, unless the opposition parties put their money where their mouths are when they hopefully achieve power in a year's time, that our once proud railway system will price itself out of existence.

Robin Butterell