20 OCTOBER 2001, Page 36

On the wrong track

From Mr Michael Bailey Sir: Peter °borne CA malevolent act of theft'. 13 October), in his headlong dash to defend Railtrack at all costs, shows himself to be as ill-informed as many of Railtrack's critics.

To pick just one example, he asserts that 1998 was the first year that no passenger died in a rail crash. This is untrue. It is the only year since Rai1track took over the network in 1994 that no one was killed, but there had been at least nine years since 1900 when no passenger died as a result of an accident to a train. Indeed, the longest period without a fatality was from July 1991 to October 1994 — the end of BR's ownership and operation of the network.

RaiItrack has undoubtedly been the victim of media and political hysteria so far as safety is concerned. However, its failure to deal with this criticism is in itself a reflection of the weakness of the company and its senior management.

Oborne seems, like many right-wing journalists, to be either unable or unwilling to accept the possibility that a privatised company can be run less well than a nationalised one. In that sense, he and others are simply representative of being 'Old Tory' in the same way that Stephen Byers seems to have acted in the spirit of 'Old Labour'.

Michael Bailey

Prestwich. Manchester