Privatisation pitch

I refer to the statement that ‘successive governments have relied too heavily on the financial and service sector at the expense of manufacturing,’ expressed by Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya (Viewpoint, October 26).

There is one area where this has become increasingly problematic, exacerbated through privatisation, and that is the UK’s railway system, one that is the most expensive in Europe and yet remains way behind many of our continental neighbours.

Through a surge of privatisation, we have multiple organisations  wishing to make a profit. In addition, as we no longer have British companies making trains for Britain in Britain, the finance-driven decision to just purchase what is needed against a specification means that we no longer have the full engineering design, development, and design verification process in place. Instead, brand new fleets of trains are purchased against a specification, brought into service and only then are the discoveries made as to their design problems. So in and out of service they go, as modifications, repairs, etcetera are made.

According to one industry commentator, one of the brand new fleet of electric trains designed to be more reliable that diesel trains were in fact found to be less reliable than 30 year old diesels. Ironically, it was the 30 year old trains, the IC125, that went through the full engineering process of a prototype using the best existing technology, in-service testing to discover the design and engineering inadequacies, before making a full fleet of trains fit for reliable front-line express passenger use. In fact, rather than purchasing brand new trains, it has now reached a stage when these old trains are being modified to further improve their reliability and performance, making these better than many brand new equivalents.

Andrew Porter