Letter: Rapid decline of BR's services

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The Independent Online
Sir: Roger Dobson (Letters, 27 November) hopes that reports of the rapid decline of British Rail's freight operations are untrue. He seems to pin his hopes on the Government's privatisation plans as described in its White Paper.

Unfortunately, the White Paper - though strong on regulatory mechanisms and competition theory - is lacking in real content. Its sloppy thinking conveys little sign of understanding how railways actually work. It presents a depressing prospect of more bureaucracy and interference in the running of the system.

It is hard to see how its proposals would improve the charging regimes that are destroying the freight business. On the passenger side, the White Paper's vague hopes concerning through tickets, railcards and the national timetable do nothing to dispel the fears about the effects of 'franchising' on these essential facilities (report, 27 November).

The White Paper does at least mention environmental factors, but gives no lead on how they should be taken into account. What is needed is a proper evaluation of the social and environmental benefits of rail services and new development (such as are made for road projects). Otherwise, the narrow-minded financial fundamentalism described in your reports, and deplored by your correspondents, will continue to destroy freight and passenger services alike.

Yours sincerely,

HENRY RISHBETH

Southampton

29 November

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