Records of the Railtrack Private Shareholders Action Group (RPSAG, 2001-2006)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The first part of the archive is largely made of copied material and is not the definitive archive of RPSAG. RPSAG/1 does not contain original records of the group, or the original records of government departments. The core financial and membership records of the group are not yet available and are held by representatives of RPSAG.

The selection of documents in RPSAG/1 is however unique, having been assembled and ordered by RPSAG in a way that they believed demonstrated and supported their case. The court case was extremely high profile and controversial and was a key event in the evolution of UK rail management. As well as this the case was discussed in the light of wider issues of government and ministerial openness. The collection as a whole demonstrates how the management of railways is politically significant and how key railways are to the economy of this country.

RPSAG/3 and RPSAG/4 contain original records of RPSAG such as correspondence and organisational records such as minutes and financial records. It contains records that demonstrate how the group administered itself and how it sought to gain the support of shareholders. It also contains correspondence from individual shareholders expressing their often emotive views on the actions of the government, including how the situation had affected them personally. The collection demonstrates how a key event in recent railway history had a social impact on many people.

Records also include those that cover the PR activities of the group and newspaper cuttings that track the development of the case. These are backed up by records from the website (RPSAG/2). The collection as a whole demonstrates how much attention the group generated and how important the case was to the public.

  • RPSAG/1: Copies of government papers gathered for evidence to the High Court. 36 Box files. 1996-2002.
  • RPSAG/2: Copies of pages from the (no longer available) RPSAG website. 7 bundles, 1 CD disk. 2001-2008.
  • RPSAG/3: Organisational Records. 19 bundles, 1 USB disk. 2000-2007.
  • RSPAG/4: Emails, 5 bundles, 1 CD disk. 2002-2005.

Administrative / Biographical History

RPSAG was formed at a meeting of Railtrack shareholders on 19 October 2001. The RPSAG website stated that the mission of the group was to ‘obtain a fair and just settlement for the 255, 000 private shareholders of Railtrack who lost millions when their company was forced into administration by the government’. Railtrack was a group of companies that owned track, signalling, tunnels, bridges, level crossings and stations that made up the British Railway System. It was placed into railway administration under the Railways Act 1993 on 7 October 2001 following an application to the High Court by the then Transport Secretary Stephen Byers.

Railtrack shareholders experienced a dramatic decrease in the value of their shares. RPSAG believed that Railtrack’s financial difficulties were caused by the government and that the government’s actions reduced investor confidence in the organisation. These factors, they argued, saw shares become ‘almost worthless, not because Railtrack was bankrupt but because of the government’s covert and politically motivated actions’.

On 30 September 2002 RPSAG launched its legal campaign fund by writing to all its members and asking for a contribution to a fund for legal action. The Group exceeded its target of £2 million and on 9 January 2003 the committee formally agreed to launch its legal action against the government. On 2 December 2003 RPSAG issued a claim to the High Court, the claim form states that

The claimants who were all shareholders of Railtrack plc on 7 October 2001, Claim damages (including exemplary damages) for misfeasance in public office and/or breach of the Claimant’s rights under Article 1 of the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights arising out of the role of the Secretary of State for Transport and the Department for Transport in Placing Railtrack plc in administration on 7 October 2001

The trial took place in June-July 2005, however judgement was reserved until October 2005. The group was represented by solicitors Edwin Coe and by Keith Rowley QC and was the largest class action ever conducted in English courts. The judgement went against RPSAG, and on 21 October 2005 the group made the decision not to appeal and they subsequently began proceedings to disband. RSPAG was finally wound up in 2007 and their financial surplus was donated to a railway charity.

RPSAG operated from the office of their solicitors, Edwin Coe in Chancery lane, London. The group was an unincorporated association without any separate legal status. All communications emanated from Edwin Coe and all formal committee meetings took place there. The group was known by their initials RPSAG, pronounced ‘rap-sag’.

Andrew Chalken, a Network Rail employee was elected as Chairman at the group’s inaugural committee meeting on 26 Oct 2001. The Committee varied in size throughout the group’s existence with some early members leaving and committee members played more or less prominent roles depending on their skills and experience. In 2005 the committee was made up of 13 former Railtrack investors, rail workers and other interested individuals ranging from a former rugby international to an NHS paediatrician. No committee members were paid for their work.

Conditions Governing Access

Access is given in accordance with the NRM access policy. Material from this archive is available to researchers through the Search Engine reading room.

Users will be required to sign a form declaring that any use of personal data contained within the archive will be in compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998. Personal Information contained in the archive may be redacted for confidentiality reasons.

Opening times:

Search Engine is open to the public Wednesday to Saturday 10.00-5.30. You don't need an appointment to use the library collection but you will need to book at least a week ahead if you wish to look at archival material.

To make a booking, email: search.engine@nrm.org.uk. We recommend you contact us at least one week before your visit.

Contact details:

Address: Search Engine, National Railway Museum, Leeman Road, York, YO26 4XJ. Email: search.engine@nrm.org.uk

Check full details on the website at: http://www.nrm.org.uk/ResearchAndArchive/enquiriesandvisiting.aspx

Acquisition Information

  • RSPAG/1 - Copies of evidence submitted for evidence to the High Court: Records were held by RSPAG until they were donated by the Group to the National Railway Museum in December 2007.
  • RPSAG/2 – Copies of pages from the (no longer available) RPSAG website: The records were made public through the RPSAG website ( http://www.rpsag.org.uk) from 2001 until 7 Feb 2009 when the website was taken off the Internet. The files that made up the final version were retained on disk by the former Website Editor and a copy of these files was transferred to the NRM in July 2009.
  • RPSAG/3 – Organisational records: These records were gathered by the former Honorary Secretary of RPSAG during his time in the group. They were transferred to the National Railway Museum in September 2009.
  • RPSAG/4 - Emails: This set of emails was retained by the former Website Editor of RPSAG. A copy of the email folder was transferred to the NRM in November 2009.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

The records consist of print-outs, photocopies and manuscript letters and notes. All are in good condition. The archive includes CD disks and a USB device that can be viewed through Windows Internet Explorer.

Archivist's Note

Description and list prepared by Alison Kay July-November 2009. Dates given are those of the original records not the date which they were copied or printed. RSPAG is identified by the qualifier ‘2001-2006’. This is to distinguish the group from the Resilience of Public Services Action Group which shares the same acronym.

This description created by Jane Ronson (Archives Hub team) using the Archives Hub EAD Editor, May 2015.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be supplied of items in the archive, provided that the copying process used does not damage the item or is not detrimental to its preservation. Copies will be supplied in accordance with the NRM’s terms and conditions for the supply and reproduction of copies, and the provisions of any relevant copyright legislation.

Appraisal Information

No appraisal of RPSAG/1 or RPSAG/2 has been undertaken. Duplicated records, unrelated ephemera and personal financial records of no continuing historical value have been removed from RPSAG/3. Records have been sampled from RPSAG/4, however the full collection remains on the CD disk.

Accruals

Further accruals of RPSAG membership and financial records are expected c.2012.

Related Material

Related units of description held at the National Railway Museum:

  • 1996-7256: Railtrack Share offer, 1996. Letter and application form from YorkSHARE to Professor C Divall concerning the Railtrack share offer. 3 May 1996. 4pp. 211 x 297mm.
  • 1996-7257: Prospectus. Railtrack Share offer. Mini prospectus. 1996. Printed by SBC Warburg. 32pp. 210 x 279mm.
  • 1996-7258: Brochure. Railtrack Share Offer. Offer brochure. 1996. 12pp 209 x 148mm.
  • 1996-7259: Newsletter. Railtrack Share offer. YorkSHARE News- Railtrack Special/Railtrack Share offer. 1996. 4pp. 210 x 298mm.
  • 2001-7183: Poster, Railtrack plc, "The Future. Ten Year Investment Plan", 1997, poster of futuristic train with financial report on the back.
  • 2001-8409: Press release issued by Railtrack regarding an agreement with the Strategic Rail Authority and the Government over future funding arrangements. With covering letter to shareholders by Steven Marshall, Chief Executive, Railtrack, outlining the key points of the agreement.
  • 2002-7131: Booklet issued to the public by Railtrack plc entitled 'Railtrack Company Facts', 1998. Includes details of Railtrack's Directors, assets, finances, investments, major stations, operating companies, contact details and maps of each Railtrack Zone.
  • 2002-7132: Video issued to employees by Railtrack plc to inform those outside the industry about Railtrack's activities. Cover includes an introduction to the video by Robert Horton, Chairman Railtrack plc, April 1996.
  • NAROH: The National Archive of Railway Oral History (NAROH) is made up of recordings of people who have worked on, or have been involved with Britain’s railways. Many in the collection contain reminiscences of Railtrack.

Related units of description held elsewhere:

  • Records created or inherited by the Health and Safety Commission and Executive.Catalogue Ref: EF. (1989-2000). Held by: The National Archives, Kew.
  • Records created or inherited by the British Transport Commission, the British Railways Board, and related bodies. Catalogue Ref: EN. (1948-2000). Held by: The National Archives, Kew.
  • Records of the Office of the Rail Regulator. Catalogue Ref: JR. (1993-2001). Held by: The National Archives, Kew.

Bibliography

Useful Publications relating to this archive:

  • Great Britain, Health and Safety Executive, The Management of Safety in Railtrack (Sudsbury: HSE Books, 2000). NRM Shelf Location K3/71 L.
  • Great Britain, Parliament, House of Commons, Environmental, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee, Recent Events on the Railway (London: Stationary Office, 2000). NRM Shelf Location K6/67 L.
  • Great Britain, Comptroller and Auditor General, The floatation of Railtrack (London: Stationary Office, 1998). NRM Shelf Location K10/31.
  • Gourvish, Terence Richard. Britain’s Railways 1997-2005: Labour's Strategic Experiment (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008). NRM Shelf Location K6/71.
  • Wolmar, Christian. On the Wrong Line: How ideology and incompetence wreaked Britain’s Railways (London: Aurum, 2005). NRM Shelf Location K10/65.
  • Wolmar, Christian. Broken Rails: How Privatisation wreaked Britain’s Railways (London: Aurum, 2001) NRM Shelf Location K10/50.

Geographical Names