Americans hot to nationalize the Penn Central had better learn fast from Britain's mistakes, warns David Bowick, 49, chief executive of the British Railway Board, which marks 25 years of nationalization this year by adding a projected $100 million in operating losses to its $150-million annual subsidy. It's not just the losses that bother Bowick, who feels the day is past when "any country can operate its national rail network without government aid." Rather, his lament is what happens when the civil servants replace the railroaders at the long-term planning table. "When you separate current operations from long-term planning," he says, "you can be in trouble." The last time the British government took heed of its railwaymen was when the system embarked in 1955 on the $5-billion modernization program that by the early Sixties made the British rail network a model for the world. At that point the then government began to dictate to the railroad--for example, forcing it to keep fares down as an anti-inflation measure, and designing coaches that knocked the ends off station platforms, locomotives whose lack of side windows made the engineer unable to see down the length of his train. All this, coupled with declining official interest in, and declining allocations for capital investment, led to what Bowick calls the "running down of the system"--almost an inevitability when a railroad becomes just one more drain on the public purse. The warning for American railroaders rings loud and clear. If the signal calls for nationalization, make sure you have a powerful lobby. You'll need it as much after nationalization as you did before.

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    Forbes Incorporated

    60 Fifth Avenue
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  • Publication Date: 1973-2-1

Media Info

  • Pagination: 1 p.
  • Serial:
    • Forbes
    • Volume: 111
    • Issue Number: 3
    • Publisher: Forbes Incorporated
    • ISSN: 0015-6914

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Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00043536
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: Forbes Incorporated
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: May 23 1976 12:00AM