November 22, 2002

Right diagnosis - wrong treatment

Patrick Crozier | Rail Economics | Rail History

This guy gets it almost completely right until he starts talking about solutions. And he mentions Barbara Castle.

In fact Barbara Castle is the author of many of our current problems. For it was she who ended the closures of the branch lines. Had these unprofitable (and still unprofitable) lines been closed then British Rail would have been capable of making a profit and would have been privatised in much the same way as British Telecom, Rolls Royce and British Airways. But it wasn't profitable so politicians had to design a bizarre Heath Robinson scheme to keep the subsidy flowing.

And we all know what that led to.

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Comments

Interesting that Barbara Castle is
called saviour of the railways. She has
been judged by history kindly. When she
became Minister of Transport in 1965 the
Beeching plan was only part completed
and in the next four years she closed
3,500 route miles. Under the Transport
Act of 1968 she did set up the Public
service Obligation Grant to save those
railways unremunerative but of essential
public need. Pity she didn`t set it up
sooner then more could have been saved.
Those saved lines were only saved as
the government picked up the tab and it
didn`t effect British Rails finances.
Its an over simplification to judge
that had Castle shut more railways then
Margaret Thatcher would have been able
to launch a profitable selling off. BR
hadn`t made a profit since road haulage
was removed from British Transport
Commission Control in 1954. There was a
modernisation plan in 1955 Steam was
replaced by Diesel and sometimes
electric. BR`s future profitability took
a serious knock when Norman fowler
privatised the profitable BRB
subsidiaries in 1981. Hotels, Sealink
and the British Railways Industry export
Group.

I would have judged Castle as a second
Beeching and as late as 1983 with the
serpell Report the Thatcher Conservatives
were trying to axe what Beeching had
not managed to. The Serpell report failed
because of back bench Tory revolt of MPs
looking at loss of their stations and a
successful campaign by the late Jimmy
Knapp General Secretary of the N.U.R.

If only we can all argue that with fore
sight BR would have been profitable .
Highly unlikely and in the event a
privatised British Rail in its entirety
would be better than this dog`s
breakfast they call rail privatisation.


Posted by Trevor Jordan on May 21, 2003

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