Monday, September 21, 1998 Published at 18:43 GMT 19:43 UK
Rail regulator to go
John Swift QC: It was said he was to become a "sacrificial lamb"
The Rail Regulator John Swift QC is to leave his post in November.
Mr Swift, who oversees the railway companies' performance in his watchdog role, made the announcement after talks with Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.
He said: "I had a very constructive and lengthy discussion with the Deputy Prime Minister.
"As you know, my five-year contract as rail regulator and international rail regulator will come to an end at 30th November 1998.
"I had indicated that I would accept an offer of a limited renewal of my contract to see through the period until the establishment of the Strategic Rail Authority.
"I said that I would not wish to serve the full five year term and have agreed therefore to step down at the end of November.
"The government will now set in hand arrangements for finding a replacement."
A spokesman for Mr Prescott said: "The Deputy Prime Minister is grateful for the good work Mr Swift has done, the work that is in hand and for his general co-operation in this matter."
Unwilling to serve a further term
The spokesman said Mr Swift would have accepted a limited renewal of his contract until the establishment of the Strategic Rail Authority, but he had been unwilling to serve a further five-year term.
Mr Swift's decision follows reports last month that the government was considering sacking him.
It was said that he was to become a "sacrificial lamb" for an industry which was continuing to under-perform and whose public image was perceived to have worsened since privatisation.
The saga that has emerged out of the privatisation of the rail system - started with the New Opportunities for Railways white paper in 1992 - has provided a catalogue of underperformance.
The complexities of a large number of separate companies providing rail services has resulted in numerous complaints and threats from the rail regulator.
Even so, trains are reported as being later, fares more expensive, and services increasingly sparse.