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Privatising British Rail, 1979-2010 - CED00012M

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  • Department: Centre for Lifelong Learning
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. David Turner
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Summer Term 2022-23

Module aims

The module aims to:

  • Discuss the background to the privatisation of British Rail in the mid-1990s and its immediate effects on the management, operation and service quality of Britain’s railways
  • Analyse that attitude of successive governments towards the role of the railways in Britain’s society and economy between the 1980s and 2010.
  • Explore the privatisation of British Rail in the context of the privatisation of other nationalised industries by the government in the 1980s
  • Analyse the motivations behind the privatisation of British Rail.
  • Discuss the strong and weak points of the structure of the British railway industry after 1997, and how they affected its operating efficiency, service quality and level of safety
  • Discuss how the structure of the British railway industry after privatisation was very different to other counties’ railway networks
  • Examine the ongoing purpose and role of the railway in Britain’s society and economy, as well as what it represents in the national consciousness.
  • Again, where privatisation is concerned, impress on the students the importance of discussing a controversial and emotive issue in an objective manner
  • Present, again, the on-going debates in political circles and in public about what the railways’ role in society and the economy should be
  • Address wider debates as to whether public services are more efficiently operated by the state or by private enterprise
  • Challenge students to engage with an area of the historical study where there is an on-going debate amongst academics
  • Encourage students to think independently and develop their own viewpoints on a debated subject of study.

Module learning outcomes

By the conclusion of the module students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the management, operation and service quality of Britain’s Rail in the 1970s, 1980s and early-1990s.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the process by which British Rail was privatised.
  • Exhibit an understanding of the structure of British railways after 1997, and how this affected the industry’s operating efficiency, service quality and level of safety.
  • Show deeper understanding of the ideas discussed in the previous modules regarding the role of the railways in Britain’s society and economy.
  • Understand the importance of studying emotive or controversial historical events in an objective manner.
  • Express an opinion on the good and bad results of the privatisation of British Rail.
  • Demonstrate research skills by engaging with both primary and secondary source material.
  • Select and organise appropriate information effectively so as to develop coherent opinions and arguments.
  • Consider and solve problems, including complex problems to which there is no single solution.
  • Write work that is sustained offering a measured, convincing and scholarly argument.


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

The tutor will give regular individual feedback throughout the module on work submitted.

The assessment feedback is as per the university’s guidelines with regard to timings.

Indicative reading

Reading lists, and the availability of texts/journals electronically, are subject to change: please check with Lifelong Learning/teaching staff before making any purchases prior to the start of the module.

Required Reading

  • Crompton, Gerald and Jupe, Robert, “Such a silly scheme: The privatisation of Britain’s railways, 1992-2002,” Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 14 (2003) – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY
  • Crompton, Gerald and Jupe, Robert, “A lot of friction at the interfaces: the regulation of Britain's privatised railway system,” Financial Accountability & Management, 19 (2003) – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY
  • Freeman, Roger and Shaw, John (eds.), All Change: A History of British Rail Privatisation, (London, 2000) – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY
  • Gourvish, T.R., British Rail 1974-1997: From integration to privatisation, (Oxford, 2004)
  • Parker, David, The Official History of Privatisation, Vol. II: Popular Capitalism, 1987-97, (London, 2012) – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY
  • J Jackson, James Daniel Johnson, Chris Nash, “On the willingness to pay for rural rail service level changes”, Research in Transportation Business & Management 4 (2012). – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY

Recommended Reading

  • Crompton, Gerald and Jupe, Robert, “A deficient performance: The regulation of the train operating companies in Britain’s privatised railway system”, Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 17 (2006) – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY
  • Dudley, Geoffrey and Jeremy Richardson, Why does policy change? : lessons from British transport policy 1945-99, London, 2015 – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY
  • Gourvish, Terry., Britain’s Railway, 1997-2005: Labours Strategic Experiment, (Oxford, 2008) – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY
  • Parker, David and Tyrrall, David, “The Fragmentation of a Railway: A Study of Organizational Change”, Journal of Management Studies, 42 (2005) – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY
  • Strangleman, Tim, Work Identity at the End of the Line? Privatisation and Culture Change in the Uk Railway industry, (Basingstoke, 2004) – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY


The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.