Letter: Rail Bill unscathed?

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Sir: Christian Wolmar writes that the Railways Bill 'has passed almost unscathed through Parliament' (report, 5 November). He has clearly not taken the trouble to read it.

During the past 10 months, this Bill has gained an additional 22 clauses, three major schedules and 78 pages of amendments. I would hardly call that unscathed. It is impossible to explain every change in such limited space, but I would like to highlight a few significant amendments to this Bill.

On pensions, although we have not achieved everything we set out to, fundamental concessions have been wrought from the Government, not least the continuation of an industry-wide scheme. We have also established the principle of BR's right to bid - going against the very heart of this legislation - although it will be restricted.

And I am sure that the Regulator has noticed that he will now have to defer directly to the Secretary of State in matters of control, and that the original limits on his budget have been lifted entirely.

Obviously, transport correspondents cannot be expected to follow all the political implications of a Bill's passage through Parliament, but it would be hoped they could at least compare the original Bill with the final version, and check the facts with those involved in order properly to assess Department of Transport press releases.

Yours sincerely,

JOHN PRESCOTT

Shadow Employment Secretary

House of Commons

London, SW1

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