23.11.91 Financial Times
Your report "Putting Value on the lines", 18 November is inaccurate in several respects. You claim that in 1948 BR ceased to show asset value & depreciation. That is incorrect. This information was included in Annual Accts from 1948 onwards. The form of accounts is directed by the MoT in accordance with his powers under 1947, 1953 & 1962 Acts & no change may be made without his authority. There is no mention in Acts that BR should be run as a social service although that became expectation of the public, elected representatives & media. You overlook assets are worth so much because of Private Sector pricing, which also accounts for UK industry losing a world lead in so many fields, indeed withdrawing completely from some. I do not share your view that asset management is old hat to the average business manager - were it so we would not be reading reports of hostile takeovers in which a predator proves a victim is failing to do exactly that. Furthermore, many of us in my day with BR, laboured to avoid capital & revenue waste, invariably against objections of the public, media, elected representatives & CTCC.
10.1.92 Financial Times
I refer to your letter of 7 January, & must tell you your article was unambiguously incorrect in the following respects:-
"from 1948 cost of tracks, signalling & stations was written
off". That is completely wrong. I have copies of 1957 & 1961 Accts,
which show, as they had done from 1948, values of "Land, Buildings, P-Way
etc." Likewise, my copies of Accounts for 1964 & 1971 show "Way
2. "On nationalisation in 1948...... purpose of newly merged railways was to provide social service rather than run a commercial service". You now state "there was no suggestion BR was required by law to run as a social service". What exactly do those words mean because they convey the meaning you now refute. The phraseology of Section 3 (4) of the 1947 Act does not support your statement. Where else, or by whom else than Government, would the "purpose" be specified? Incidentally, if you refer to my letter, you will find I made no reference to this issue.
Your reply is further incorrect:-
3. I made no reference to private sector pricing. So far as company balance sheets are concerned, I am only too well aware how assets can be under or over valued to present a preferred picture.
4. Your reply ignores my point that BR accounts are prepared in accordance with Ministerial directives, so if assets, having a current value, had not been included, it could only be by his/her directive. Finally, may I inform you that managers took a very active interest in asset costs during my 40 years with BR. Track reductions, singling of lines, junction simplifications, rolling stock economies & other measures, often in the face of public or staff opposition, provide ample proof. All proposals for renewal track, signalling, etc were subject to review & authorisation & were only given after careful consideration of all alternative options. What you believe is a new approach, is "old hat" to many of us who worked for BR, certainly into the last decade. What you describe is a partitioning of assets to new business groupings. Your decision not to print denies readers the opportunity to exercise their own minds in reaching a conclusion.
[From 1948 to 1961, Annual Accounts included
:- Table V-8 (Rolling Stock, Vehicles,
Ships, Plant & Equipment - Capital Account movements), Table V-9 (Rolling Stock, Vehicles, Ships,
Plant & Equipment - Depreciation), Table V-10 (Land, Buildings, Permanent
Way, & Other Works - Capital Account expenditure), Table V-11 (Maintenance
Equalisation Account Movements). These tables gave far more detail than one
finds in typical major
Table 3-B (Way & Structures, Operational Land & Buildings not in Operational Use - Capital Account & Amortisation movements). Thereafter, Annual Accounts include Table 13 (Tangible Assets - Buildings, Way & Structures, & Rolling Stock, Plant & Equipment - Capital Account & Amortisation & Depreciation movements) Annual Accounts explained basis of Depreciation & Amortisation). Depreciation - BR could have copied roads where there are no business accounts & no depreciation].
11.2.97 BBC2 (Not broadcast & no reply)
On BBC2 on 2nd Feb, Prof. John Kay, (London School Economics), said: "What happened when firms were nationalised, they were given lot of authority & freedom to manage own affairs, & gradually, Govt came to interfere more & more & impose a more extensive range of controls". So far as railways are concerned, he was mistaken. Other nationalised industries, were given a measure of managerial freedom, but BR was rigidly controlled. Their prices were fixed by a Court of Law; endeavours to eliminate unprofitable activities were delayed & blocked by Ministers & agencies they had appointed to exercise almost limitless interference; they were told to pay higher wages than they cd afford or intended to do; they were directed to pay subsidies to privately owned bus coys when unprofitable lines were closed after protracted delays, proving the unprofitability of routes; they could not develop land. An Advisory Group of businessmen, appointed by Govt criticised the scale of interference". Its findings were secret for 30 years. Most recommendations were not implemented by Govt which retained its grip on decisions regarded as basic management decisions elsewhere. Several media reports linked policies with electoral or political purposes.
16.1.09: e-mail Daily Telegraph (Not published)
The dumping of litter on railways (Letters, 16 January), is an old problem.
10 Aug 2007 Daily Record
astonished to find that John McKie had repeated the popular myth that Mussolini
made the trains run on time (28 July 2007). He quotes no source. Having noticed
this kept rearing its head in the media - often coupled with a threat to shoot
drivers - I decided to research the facts. Mussolini's autobiography does not
mention such a threat nor even claim that railways were reliable, a boast he
would not have concealed. He admits that he got rid of critical editors and
journalists. Six biographies of Mussolini and Fascism do not make the claim.
Hoping to end this myth I set out these facts in a book:
27.5.09: e-mail Daily Telegraph (Not published)
I am astonished to see your leader (25 May) regurgitating the myth that Mussolini got Italian trains to run on time. My findings from eight biographies, Mussolini’s autobiography, and two books on the Fascist era reveal that the claim is a myth. The findings are set out on my website www.transportmyths.co.uk . He never threatened – as editors and politicians believe – to shoot train drivers. He did shoot some editors and politicians.
2.7.09 e-mail Daily Telegraph (Not published)
I cannot believe that you have repeated the
unfounded claim that Mussolini made trains run on time. I have written
repeatedly to the media on this subject. To save journalists having to work too
hard, I summarised the facts on the performance of Italian railways from
eight biographies of Mussolini, his autobiography and two books on Fascist
Italy. They reveal beyond peradventure that it was a convenient myth to make
Fascism look good. The only people he threatened to shoot were Italian editors
who were not so gullible as foreign editors. The facts were mentioned in my