Ø Due to wartime policies, nationalised British Rail inherited fares & charges at 1941 levels, suppliers costs at 1948 levels, and a rag-bag of worn out assets.
Ø Unlike road transport, railways were denied materials to modernise for 10 years after the war, not allowed to use their own money to that end & directed not to restore railways to pre-war standards.
Ø The loss of freight to road was precipitated by government’s refusal to concede to railways the same commercial freedom as that enjoyed by road transport.
Ø Fares were held below inflation by a law court created for that purpose, whose legal decisions were, at times, changed by Ministers – but only to hold fares even lower.
Ø Had fares kept pace with inflation, by the time of privatisation, BR would have been £11 billions better off, before allowing for loss of compound interest.
Ø The secret Stedeford committee of businessmen, appointed by the Transport Minister criticised government for deficits, when it was expected that only British Rail would be criticised. Their Report & Papers were kept secret for 30 years – even from MPs. Contrary to popular opinion, their recommendations were not implemented. They said that fares were too low, closures too slow, BR should be free to develop its property & be run by professionals.
Ø To justify its interference in fares, a Tory government said that BR need not cover costs from revenue, but passed Acts requiring the avoidance of loss!
Ø Delays in delivery by suppliers and breakdowns of newly supplied rolling stock that had to be withdrawn from service for modifications led to delays & cancellations for which BR was blamed!
Ø In 1956, the Transport Minister froze rail fares – then 43 points behind industry fuelled inflation – but no other industries’ prices, promising to show how BR could make a profit. He did not identify one business in the private or public sector doing so, which was denied commercial freedom by politicians. Inflation continued to rise.
Ø Politicians had an illusion that one industry – railways - could be 100% perfect : no complaints, no breakdowns, prices constantly below inflation, not allowed to drop unprofitable business, nor free to decide investment.
was promoted by pious hopes & the alleged
success of other privatisations. If past success was a guide,
fragmentation of the railway system as part of privatisation, was not due to
any Directive from
Ø Politicians who sneer that those calling for re-nationalisation are looking through rose-tinted glasses should study the facts in this book. Government did not construct measurable benchmarks for comparisons to be made with pre-privatisation. This book has redressed that failure, and shows performance is now worse and costs higher. Politicians always tried to compare BR with the non-existent Perfect Industry, with which, curiously, private sector railways are not compared.
Author – E.A. Gibbins, joined the LMS Railway in 1946 as a junior & retired from BR as a Chief Officer after 40 years.
0-9535225-0-4; Paperback: pages v, 212.
cover price £12.95, offered at £8 +
post from E.A. Gibbins, 11
The book was reviewed by The Railway & Canal Historical Society (July 2005), Traction Review (June 2004).