Sir - The exposé of how Wisconsin Central shareholders unceremoniously fired Ed Burkhardt (RG 8.99 p481) is yet another example of what is wrong with the great god privatisation. This sordid tale of stockholders dumping good executives because they were using earnings to improve and expand the property has happened too often in the USA, and it appears that Railtrack in Britain and other ’privates’ are heading down the same road.
Books have been written about the downfall of US railroads, but it can all be summed up in a quote from James J Hill (the Empire Builder) of the Great Northern Railroad: ’I work for the stockholders and the public be damned.’ The same thought was expressed by Commodore Vanderbilt of the New York Central. Even the Penn Central management borrowed money to pay dividends as the rail infrastructure worsened to the point of derailing standing cars. That led to the creation of Conrail because railroads are too important to the economy to allow shareholders to hold sway.
William R Wright
Cranford, New Jersey, USA