Friday, March 6, 1998 Published at 17:13 GMT
Rail takeover 'to benefit passengers'
The deal now leaving platform 12 is better for passengers
A controversial takeover of a privatised passenger train company will go ahead after the rail franchising director ordered the new company to give passengers a better deal.
The takeover of Great Western Railways by bus and train operator FirstGroup means former British Rail managers will share up to £10m in profits.
GWR, which operates services out of Paddington station in London to South Wales and the South West, has to get £32m-worth of new trains in service by June 2002, and all season ticket holders will get a week's free travel.
There will also be fines for trains running late, £250 for 20 minutes late, £500 for 30 minutes late and £1,000 if cancelled altogether.
Mr O'Brien has demanded that £1m be spent on passenger benefits on North Western, and that all 96 slam-door trains on Great Eastern be replaced by the end of 2002 at a cost of £35m. Both lines were run by GWR.
Among former BR staff likely to benefit from the takeover is GWH chief executive Brian Scott who, in 1993, wrote to the then Transport Secretary Sir George Young saying the proposed break-up of British Rail would not work.
But Keith Bill, national secretary of pressure group Save Our Railways, said it was "quite wrong to cobble together a deal behind closed doors."
"I'm obviously looking at these matters as to exactly what my powers are in these areas ... And the Franchise Director and the Regulator have made clear to me they don't have adequate powers."
However, denying suggestions by the Transport Minister Gavin Strang he stressed: "We're not introducing another windfall tax. There's no doubt about that."