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Who's to blame? The trail of responsibility goes beyond poor maintenance of British railways, say industry critics. Stingy governments-both Labor and Tory-have cut down on investments in trains and rails.ln the mid-1990s a Conservative government pushed through the sale of the entire subsidy-guzzling rail network. Operating franchises were parceled out among private comparues and a separate firm,Railtrack, was awarded ownership of the tracks and stations. In the future, the theory ran back then, the private sector could pay for any improvements-with a little help from the state-and take the blame for any failings.

Today surveys show that travelers believe privatization is one of the reasons for the railways 's failures. They ask whether the pursuit of profits is compatible with guaranteeing safety. Worse, splitting the network between companies has made coordination nearly impossible. "The railway was tom apart at privatization and the structure that was put in place was. . . designed, if we are honest, to maximize the proceeds to the Treasury," said Railtrack boss Gerald Corbett before resigning last month in the wake of the Hatfield crash.

Generally, the contrasts with mainland Europe are stark. Over the past few decades the Germans, French and Italians have invested 50 percent more than the British in transportation infrastructure. As a result, a web of high-speed trains now crisscross the Continent, funded by governments willing to commit state funds to major capital projects. Spain is currently planning l,000 miles of new high- speed track.ln France superfast trains already shuttle between all major cities, often on dedicated lines. And in Britain? When the Eurostar trains that link Paris, London and Brussels emerge from the Channel Tunnel onto British soil and join the crowded local network, they must slow down from 186 mph to a maximum of 100 mph-and they usually have to go even slower.

For once, the government is listening. After all, commuters are voters, too. In a pre-vote spending spree, the govemment has committed itself to huge investment in transportation, as well as education and the public health service. Over the next 10 years, the railways should get an extra £60 billion, partly through higher subsidies to the private companies. As Blair ackoowledged last month, " Britain has been underinvested in and investment is central to Britain's future. " You don't have to tell the 3 million passengers who use the railways every day. Last week trains to Darlington were an hour late-and crawling at Locomotion No.l speeds.

51. In the first paragraph, the author tries to

[ A] trace the tragedy to its defective origin.

[ B] remind people of Britain's glonous past.

[ C] explain the failure of Britain's rail network.

[ D] call for impartiality in assessing the situation.

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