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The Regional Railways Story: Sectorisation to Privatisation - Three Decades of Revival

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The Regional Railways Story: Sectorisation to Privatisation - Three Decades of Revival

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Following on from Ian Allan’s authoritative books on InterCity and Network SouthEast, Gordon Pettitt, former Managing Director of Regional Railways and the last General Manager of BR’s Southern Region, writes the inside story of the history of the third passenger sector of British Rail with insights from other leading personnel in the industry at the time. In the final years of British Rail, the railways moved from a regional structure to sectorisation. Regional Railways was established in 1982 and operated until 1997. It was faced with arguably the hardest challenge of the three sectors – operating roughly half the national network and traffic but generating only about a quarter of the revenue. Its portfolio was made up of the less popular routes to urban centres (those unsuitable for InterCity) but it was also responsible for all the low-density rural lines that had escaped the closures of the previous decades. The motive power and rolling stock it operated was generally older than that of the other two sectors and consequently less efficient, less popular with passengers, and more costly to operate.However, Regional Railways was associated with the BR’s introduction of Pacers and Sprinters and despite early problems with the Pacers the new rolling stock gradually proved its worth and by the end of period passenger numbers were growing and finances improving. With privatisation, Regional Railways was split into smaller regional units which eventually became today’s TOCs, and the legacy of Regional Railways arguably laid the foundations of the success of these companies in the privatised era. In this in-depth history of Regional Railways former MD of the company Gordon Pettitt is uniquely placed to reveal how the business worked, the challenges it faced and its success and failures as it took a crucial part of British Rail’s business from sectorisation to privatisation.

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