Rafael Behr mentions false memory regarding the old British Rail (Rail chiefs and unions: can passengers trust either, 4 January), a condition he appears to suffer from himself.
He writes that BR was synonymous with shabbiness. Really? In 1993, InterCity, the flagship, was rated by passengers at 95% in this regard (The InterCity Story, 1994).
Customer satisfaction at service levels was at 98%, and the company made a profit for the six years to 1994, when it was privatised, despite the huge distractions of that process. Which privatised rail company has since delivered these levels of success? To equate BR with Southern Rail is a calumny.
Dr John CarlisleDr Carlisle is right, but as increasing numbers of journalists have no memory of the 1990s, there is a danger that the myth of British Rail as a basket case will become the accepted truth.
By the 1990s British Rail had finally overcome the rivalries between the Big Four railway companies from which it was formed and organised itself by sector as a national organisation.
The network was short of investment, as money was directed to the building of the Channel Tunnel and the associated high-speed line, but the Beeching era was over and stations were being reopened.
Since privatisation the railways have seen a boom in the number of passengers, but that is largely due to the economy performing better.
We should also note two paradoxes:
- more public money goes into Britain's railways today than when they were nationalised;
- the railways are controlled by government fore more closely than the were under British Rail,