Britain's privatised railways are the continuing subject of considerable debate over their organization, financing, and development. This book, written by Britain's leading railway historian, provides an account of the progress made by British Rail prior to privatisation, and insight into its difficult role in the government's privatisation planning from 1989.
Commissioned by the British Railways Board and based in free access to its archives, the book provides a detailed and analytical account of the main themes : a process of continuous organizational change; the existence of a persistent government audit; perennial investment restraints; the directive to reduce operating costs and improve productivity; a concern with financial performance, technological change, service quality, and the management of industrial relations; and the Board's ambiguous position as the Conservative government pressed home its privatisation programme. The introduction of sector management from 1982 and the 'Organising for Quality' initiative of the early 1990s, the Serpell Report on railway finances of 1983, the sale of the subsidiary businesses, the large-scale investment in the Channel Tunnel, and the obsession with safety which followed the Clapham accident of 1988, are all examined in depth. In the conclusion the author reviews the successes and failures of the public sector, rehearses the arguments for and against integration in the railway industry, and contrasts what many have termed 'the golden age' of the mid- to late 1980s, when the British Rail - government relationship was arguably at its most effective, with what has happened since 1994.
This book will be a resource for academics, planners, politicians, and managers wanting an authoritative account of the evolution of the rail industry at a critical juncture in its history.
`Review from previous edition If you want to understand how British Rail was shaped as an organisation and business in the 20 or so years before privatisation, this is the book to read.'
Railnews, October 2002
`This is a truly monumental work. It is Gourvish's analysis of the issues that gives the book its special interest and authority'
Grahame Boyes, Journal of the Railway and Canal Historical Society
`This book is a must-read and a must-have.'
Roger Ford, Modern Railways
`...Terry Gourvish has given us a thought-provoking, informative account of a very important period in the history of British railways.'
Enterprise and Society
`...well-conceived, comprehensive and very readable.. fills the last major gap in the business historiography of Britain's nationalised railway.'
Professor Colin Divall
`It is hard to imagine that this account could be bettered, or its principal conclusions overturned'
Economic History Review
Introduction: British Rail After Twenty-Five Years of Nationalisation
Part I: Railways Under Labour, 1974-1979
2: Operating the 1974 Railways Act: Financial Results, Organisational Responses, and Relations with Government
3: Operations, Productivity, and Technological Change
Part II: The Thatcher Revolution? British Rail in the 1980s
4: Sector Management and New Performance Targets
5: The Serpell Report
6: Cost Control and Investment in the Post-Serpell Railway
7: Selling the Subsidiary Businesses
Part II: On the Threshold of Privatisation: Running the Railways, 1990-1994
8: Business Performance, Pricing, and Productivity
9: Investment and the Channel Tunnel
Part IV: Responding to Privatisation, 1981-1997
11: The Privatisation Debate and 'Organising for Quality'
12: Reorganising for Privatisation, 1992-1994
13: Endgame, 1994-1997