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International Socialism, Spring 1965


Stan Mills

The Right Lines


From International Socialism (1st series), No.20, Spring 1965, p.29.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Railway Workshops: The Problems of Contraction
P. Lesley Cook
Cambridge, 10s. 6d.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this book is not so much the detailed examination of the Plan itself but rather the brief mention of the choice of alternatives. However, this it not to deny that the examination of the Plan is important for it reveals a great deal of information which demonstrates the many problems to be solved if the Railway Workshops are to be an efficient and effective instrument of modern production.

The author points out that a pronounced feature of the Workshops stems from their age and from the economies of the last thirty years or more. He gives details to show that there are substantial arrears of maintenance and modernisation and that considerable investment will be needed if these are to be put into effect. Another important feature he deals with at length is the question of redundancy and the social problems that arise in those areas where the Railway Workshops are the main source of employment. He says that from the wider political point of view the handling of redundancy by British Railways is of the utmost importance, and that some might take the view that the additional cost of the improved redundancy arrangements was part of the cost of getting the Plan accepted without a major strike.

These, and the many other consequences of the past and present bring us back to the question as to whether the Plan is essential or whether it was a deliberate political attack against a nationalised industry in defence of private interests. For Socialists the answer is only too clear and so is the alternative. The Tory plan for the contraction of the railway system is a political expedient and the Labour Government must take the necessary action to rescind the complete Plan without delay. The Labour Minister of Transport has already taken steps in rescinding that part of the Plan which restricts the Railway Workshops from tendering for the manufacture of privately-owned railway equipment to be used on British Railways, or on the railways of other nationalised transport undertakings. This, in itself, is a step in the right direction but it is not enough. Plans must be put into immediate effect – without waiting for an ‘inquiry’ – to re-equip and modernise the workshops and to give the British Railways Board the necessary freedom to compete for non-railway work, both at home and abroad. The Tories have used the Nationalised Railways as a scapegoat. The Workshops are an important subsidiary of the Nationalised Railways. They have for far too long been neglected and used to the advantage of private interests. Labour must quickly reverse this trend and see that Railway Workshops are allowed to make their full contribution at the expense of private industry.

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