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Friday, 5 November, 1999, 14:57 GMT
Tom Winsor: Mad about trains
Tom Winsor
Tom Winsor: Top lawyer, rail regulator and train fanatic
Tom Winsor, the rail regulator, has long been a critic of the way in which the privatised rail network is run.

Appointed in July 1999 to oversee Railtrack - the company responsible for Britain's stations and track - Winsor was a watchdog feared by some in the industry.

The commuting regulator aims to get fellow passengers moving
Although his fanatical interest in trains was sparked only a few years ago, the former lawyer has an almost unrivalled understanding of the sector.

While a partner at top City law firm Denton Hall, Winsor headed the railway department - offering advice to rail companies and those seeking an operating licence.

In 1993, the Dundee-born lawyer was seconded to help the then rail regulator, John Swift, plan for the privatisation of the state-owned rail network.

Winsor advocated a "clawback" the Treasury could use to reclaim money, should the new rail bosses make huge post-privatisation profits.

former rail regulator John swift
John Swift rejected 'clawback'
Swift rejected the plan, dooming his own career as rail regulator. Winsor's stand allowed him to escape from the widely criticised privatisation with his reputation intact.

With profits soaring in the sector, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott accepted Swift's resignation in September 1998.

Winsor led the field of potential successors, with supporters suggesting that his encyclopedic knowledge of rail law and the industry structure would see him "hit the ground running".

A columnist for the trade journal Modern Railways, the 42-year-old made clear his views that a tough watchdog could resolve all the ills of the rail network.

Tom Winsor
Winsor aimed to 'hit the ground running'
A commuter himself, the Labour party member concluded that strong regulation could deliver all the benefits of renationalisation without the cost to the taxpayer.

Winsor beat a number of contenders for the 165,000-a-year post, including caretaker regulator Chris Bolt - who was slammed in the press for being too soft on Railtrack.

The Scot's selection was opposed by some in the civil service and in the boardroom.

Although independent, Winsor has just the close relationship with the government and taste for action many feared.

Despite taking a cut in wages - 200,000, by some estimates - to become rail regulator, Winsor has set about his task with zeal.

John Prescott and tom Winsor
On track: Prescott and Winsor
Within days of taking office, he was backing his demands that Railtrack upgrade their track and signals with the threat of unlimited fines.

Complaining that rail companies were showing "ill-disguised contempt" for their customers, Winsor set rigorous targets for improvement.

Railtrack was set the task of reducing passenger delays by up to 14% before March 2000. If the company failed, Winsor vowed to impose a penalty of up to 40m - the money to be poughed back into the industry.

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See also:

04 Nov 99 | The Company File
Railtrack profits spark anger
26 Aug 99 | The Company File
Railtrack network under fire
19 Aug 99 | UK
Railtrack faces 40m fine
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