Chiltern Railways – where it all began’ by Adrian Shooter
Adrian Shooter is well known to the Society as is his railway career in many senior roles. His latest book ‘Chiltern Railways – where it all began’ describes from when he was appointed Director of the embryonic Chiltern Railways in 1993, to his retirement nearly 20 years later after leading the successful MBO bid for Chiltern.
He has documented in excruciatingly painful detail the incompetence of the politics, politicians and the Government people involved that combined to create the unworkable Railways Act 1993. To the reviewer’s knowledge, this is the first time since Gerry Fiennes of ‘I tried to run a railway book fame’, that a senior railway professional who was at the centre of the rail industry, has written publicly on this subject.
He explains how BR Chairman Bob Reid had lobbied the Government after the political route to privatisation was set following the 1992 election resulting in civil servants being instructed not to speak to BR officials. Adrian documents how this was circumvented resulting in advice given to the Government by mainly aviation industry lawyers. Therefore not familiar with the rail industry in any way shape or form.
Mr Shooter writes; following Chris Green’s ‘Total Chiltern Route Modernisation’, I had a vision of the railway that I wanted to create based on some very simple concepts:
Run a safe railway, run the trains on time, provide what the passenger wants, make their journey easy, keep things simple, employ people who delight passengers and to use the best trains we can and use them intensively as to minimise unit costs.
Mr Shooter set about recruiting people to deliver this vision meeting every new starter on their first day during his 18 years at the helm. After meeting all the Commuter Associations, Local Authorities, MP’s and many staff resulting in the Chiltern team agreeing to:
1. Double the 28 miles of single track between Princess Risborough and Aynho.
2. Acquire more trains as we would quickly use up our existing fleet.
3. Make our stations easier to use, principally by enlarging car parks.
4. Build new stations in order to tap into new markets especially in the West Midlands where Birmingham International took most traffic.
5. Find a way of getting hold of more of the Oxford to London market.
6. Making use of the derelict but largely intact Great Central mainline north of Aylesbury rebuilding the line as far as Lutterworth
Adrian had no idea how these ambitions might be funded, estimated at £800m, and describes how these were delivered and paid for over 23 years using new to rail funding methods. Despite being hindered by privatisation legislation and Railtrack who in the author’s view that they were a property company with a railway network inconveniently attached.
The book says that the shape of the newly overlawyered rail industry cost the taxpayer £Billions as the direct result of the Government failing to have a clear strategy for Privatisation. It also documents what was required to make it work.
Mr Shooter writes that “… as a close observer of the whole process, at a political, civil service and BR level, I have to report that it was bungled to a stunning extent…. there was no clear objective, especially one that was going to be complex and resisted at many levels. Most politicians had almost no knowledge of running any enterprises and advised by young academics, strong on theory but also had no practical experience of management.
The book describes how difficult Network Rail, OPRAF and the SRA were to deal with while conversely speaking highly of John Prescott and Alastair Morton, Chairman of the SRA.
This book is an explosive and fascinating account of the fragmented rail industry and Adrian’s career full of debating points and is a ‘must read’.
190 pages, 225 x 287mm, 1070gm, Hard back covers
RRP Price £30, Members Price £27 plus Postage UK £3.20, EU £11.05, RoW £20.00
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