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Tuesday, 29 January, 2002, 12:59 GMT
Railtrack: What did you call me?
Railtrack n 1. The private company (now in administration) formed to own and run the UK's once publicly owned rail lines.

ALTERNATIVELY colloq. 2. Term of abuse, rebuke or ridicule for any embattled business, stemming from Railtrack's miserably low standing in the eyes of the British public.

USAGE: "A 'Railtrack of the skies' is imminent," said Iain Findlay (the Aviation Officer of the specialists' union Prospect) in a recent letter to the Financial Times expressing concerns about the UK's air-traffic control system.

USAGE 2: "Railtrack for the NHS" was how Unison described government plans to increase private sector involvement in the National Health Service.

USAGE 3: MP John Whittingdale, whose patch includes the aging Bradwell power station, recently asked the government whether British Nuclear Fuels was becoming "another Railtrack".

USAGE 4: "Edward Leigh, a Tory MP and chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, said there was 'a very real danger' that the Government's handling of Consignia [which runs the Post Office] could turn it into another Railtrack." (Independent, 24/01/02)

ORIGIN: as with all the most cutting taunts, "Railtrack" was coined by school yard bullies. In 2001, Railtrack's HR boss Steve Offord said employees' children were returning home saying: "Daddy, I don't want to say you work for Railtrack."

PARADOX: how do you describe a foundering privatised rail infrastructure company in administration? The Railtrack of Railtracks?

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