Letters: Privatisation has been bad for rail


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The Independent Online

Your leading article on railways (15 August) uncritically assumes that Sir Roy Nulty got his sums right.

Roger Ford and others in Modern Railways magazine have shown that the underlying studies done by the German consulting firm used by Sir Roy and the DfT were inaccurate and that the railways in Britain are not nearly as inefficient as was concluded.

Most people devoid of political bias have agreed that BR in the early 1990s was probably the most efficient railway in the world, and that privatisation has set us back very considerably.

I am also left wondering what the fares will be on the new West Coast franchise: the DfT had already announced that, as part of the new franchise, all fares on the West Coast would go up by 8 per cent a year for the next three years (26 per cent in total).

Is that now 11 per cent instead of 8 per cent?

Ian K Watson


As the contracts for G4S Olympic Games security and ALS court interpreters have surely demonstrated, "overbidding" is the way to go when public services are "outsourced" to the highest private bidder ("Sir Richard Branson blasts 'flawed' bid system as Virgin Rail loses West Coast Main Line franchise to FirstGroup", 15 August).

It will, of course, be the travelling public (and transport employees) who will have to pay the £700m difference between the two bids (and the taxpayer, if FirstGroup bails out as it did last year with its unsustainable Great Western contract).

Isn't it about time that ownership of the railways was returned to the public?

Peter McKenna


There is much ado about rises in train fares which may be as much as 10 per cent, but that is insignificant compared with recent rises in bus fares in my area, up by a whacking 30 per cent since last year. The return fare from my home to work 15 miles away rose from £5.80 in July 2011 to £7.70 now.

The return train fare for the same journey is £5.30 so even a 10 per cent rise would be a bargain

Roger Lush

Castle Cary, Somerset

Rail should be the cornerstone of our national transport infrastructure, you state in your leading article, yet you do not come up with the obvious answer: renationalise the railways.

Nick Chadwick


Let me get this right. Inflation, according to the CPI, is 2.6 per cent, but 3.2 per cent under RPI. On benefits and the like, the Government gives us CPI rises; when we have to give money to private companies providing formerly government-owned essential services, they get RPI.

Ah, I remember: we're all in this together.

Richard Hanson-James

Caversham, Berkshire

BBC outclassed America in Olympics coverage

My wife and I had the misfortune to have to watch the first 14 days of Olympic TV coverage on America's NBC network, and what Mickey Mouse coverage it was.

Coiffed, toothy, bronzed, badly briefed presenters talking about every conceivable aspect of each American competitor's life, while largely ignoring the other competitors. TV cameras showed a full frame close-up of the American competitor during a race, regardless of the progress of others. The impression given was that these were games for Americans, with a few other people taking part to make up the numbers.

Then we came home to see the last two days on BBC. Wonderful pictures, informative commentary, every athlete explained and followed; real professional TV for grown-ups. Naturally, there was emphasis on GB athletes, but not to the exclusion of other nations.

Two lessons learned; first, long live the BBC, one of our greatest institutions and exports; second, any nation that only looks inward is doomed to steady decline. The whole point of the Olympics is to watch and learn from the world's best athletes, and they aren't all Americans.

Peter Sephton


Who can fail to be disturbed by the level of banality reached by BBC commentators at the Olympics? It seems that they have a giant Quality Street tin of clichés on the sports news desk, which they dip into: if a result isn't incredible, it's unbelievable, or amazing. Daring ones essayed the epithet surreal. Winning competitors are asked how they feel, how are they going to celebrate and has it sunk in yet.

Our athletes did extremely well and for many of them a mastery of the English language is not a necessary component of their armoury; they have expressed themselves better another way.

But surely professional commentators should be encouraged to invest their thoughts with some originality or creativity. Remember John Arlott comparing a batsman's stance to a Henry Moore sculpture.

What do our sportscasters read when off duty to improve their vocabulary and syntax? And what remedial reading should be recommended for them?

Roger Baresel

London SW7

Tin Thomas (letters, 14 August) is absolutely right, and how saddening to have it pointed out from Canada. What is going on? Are we ashamed of our classical musicians, especially our young classical musicians, like our youthful Olympians, surely among the best in the world?

Where were the members of our national youth orchestras, our national choirs, or our young musicians of the year etc etc? China was not ashamed to include one of their most brilliant young pianists in their event, but no, we did not have the faith or conviction to do likewise.

It was in so many ways a stunning concert, but shame on the organisers for this most shocking omission.

Christopher Taylor,

St Davids, Pembrokeshire

I take issue with your article "Cynicism's comeback gig" (14 August). You say, "The Olympic closing ceremony saw us getting back to our snarky selves". After the magnificence of all that had gone before during the previous two and a bit weeks, the closing ceremony was, unfortunately and disappointingly, incoherent rubbish.

Terry Mahoney

Chichester, West Sussex

I am an American visiting my daughter who is married to a Brit and has spent more than half her life in England. Watching the Olympics was thrilling and exhilarating. The opening ceremony was magnificent. As to the closing, "De mortuis nisi bonus", In other words, silence.

Seeing Great Britain win medal after medal was gratifying and exciting. If there had to be a grand winner other than my own country, what better choice than Great Britain?

S Hofkins

West Palm Beach, Florida

US ambassador Louis B Susman generously praises us for "the greatest Olympic Games ever" (letters, 14 August). As IOC head Jacques Rogge angered Greece at the opening ceremony, by speaking of the Games "coming home to London", perhaps our ambassador in Athens might follow Ambassador Susman's big heart, and publicly thank the Hellenes for giving birth to them. We wouldn't want our noble brothers to lose their marbles over this.

Andrew M Rosemarine

Salford, Lancashire

How can G4S lose out on contract?

Defence Secretary Phil Hammond claims that he has had a rethink about the public sector providing services and supporting key national events such as the recent Olympics (report, 14 August).

As he rightly pointed out, the fantastic response by our Armed Forces in filling the calamitous void left by the G4S debacle in very short order was nothing less than magnificent.

Mr Hammond then contrasted the very different approaches employed by the military and G4S towards providing security at the Olympics. The military comprehensively planned for every eventuality or possibility and proved resilient to accommodate any unexpected turn of events. G4S, on the other hand, apparently employed an "incredibly lean" management model operating within a "cost envelope", with very little contingency built in. In other words, G4S was "winging it". And it utterly failed.

G4S has a £284m contract to provide 10,400 security personnel to the London Olympics and the Paralympics. Simple arithmetic suggests that this equates to £27,300 per G4S employee.  Assuming that each person worked 50 hours per week over eight weeks and is paid £10 per hour, that would result in a total salary bill of £41.6m which, with a 75 per cent overhead added for recruitment, training and management costs, would reach a total cost to G4S of £72.8m by my calculations.

Given the £284m "cost envelope" that G4S had to work within, it is hard to conceive how it is possible for the company to claim that it will lose money on its Olympics contract.

David Lewis

Paignton, Devon

Is the Army trained to run a railway yet? Or will they be part of G4S soon?

Vaughan Thomas

Usk, Gwent

Implications for HS2

The First Group win of the next West Coast Mainline (WCML) franchise completely undermines the Department for Transport's case for HS2, which it has argued is for capacity reasons. First Group not only emphasise the unused capacity on the WCML, but the DfT seems content to accept a bid that creates no additional long-distance capacity on the southern part of the mainline, beyond the extra Pendolino carriages already being introduced. Has the DfT now decided the WCML does not have a capacity crisis, or that it will be full in the next decade?

Hilary Wharf

Director HS2Action Alliance, Old Amersham, Buckinghamshire

Remember Nova

While not wishing to detract in the slightest from the importance to women in the early Sixties of Helen Gurley Brown and her editorship of Cosmopolitan (Comment, 15 August), we should not forget the massive contribution the then revolutionary British magazine, Nova, made to the lives of young British females in the Swinging Sixties. Its outlandish broadsheet page size, liberating content, and cool design made it a must read for men as well as women.

Mike Abbott

London W4

The way is plain

With Australia now having its plain paper packaging law gaining High Court approval, by the end of the year all tobacco products here will have to be sold in plain paper, a world first. This should open the way for other countries to do the same and not to be intimidated by the big tobacco companies.

Robert Pallister

Punchbowl, New South Wales, Australia

Nearly purrfect

Great news about the Goode family ("Doctors told Andy he had end-stage cancer", 14 August) and I hope everything works out fine for them. What a lovely picture. But you missed the most important fact in the caption. What is the name of the cat?

H Kilborn

London SE12

No game for me

I left school convinced that exercise was to be avoided, as a result of compulsory team games (letters, 13 August). The trouble is is that the worse you are the less practice you get. No footballer passes to a known duffer.

Francis Roads

London E18