Letter: Public control of privatised rail

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your commentary on the Railways Bill (report and leading article, 23 January) omits one aspect of considerable importance to rail users: who will take responsibility for customer complaint, and will the customer enjoy reasonable redress? Current BR regulations are notorious for protecting BR against nearly every eventuality. Will the Bill place proper obligations upon the rail providers in remedying this gross infringement of consumer protection?

I frequently travel on the West Coast InterCity route. The service is generally satisfactory, except for timekeeping. BR has conceded that, due to lack of government investment in signalling and track maintenance, it cannot meet punctuality targets. Complaining has never been effective, but at least there is some small satisfaction in having only one body to complain to.

If, under the Bill, Railtrack keeps the track and a network operator provides the trains, will the operator owe any duty to the customer for punctuality, or will it be able to blame Railtrack for poor track and unreliable signalling? I think this is an important aspect of the debate.

Yours faithfully,



24 January