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In South Yorkshire, a small group of railway maintenance men discover that because of privatization, their lives will never be the same. When the trusty British Rail sign is replaced by one reading East Midland Infrastructure, it is clear that there will be the inevitable winners and losers as downsizing and efficiency become the new buzzwords. A cheery camaraderie is soon replaced by uncertainty and turmoil when their depot manager fills them in on the details of the new arrangement. Privatization means that the customer now comes first, something that is instilled into the men in new training sessions. But there are inconsistencies and shortsightedness to the new ways. Men used to working together now find themselves belonging to different, competing companies. Some even have to tender for their old jobs. Others decide to take the redundancy packages offered by the firm. As always, corners are cut in the interest of lowering costs, leading to a series of misadventures. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
In the opening scene, the locomotive pulling the freight train is a British Rail Class 25/Sulzer Type 2, which was withdrawn from mainline service in 1987, whereas this film is set in 1995. See more »
[Harpic is reading a briefing to his staff about the new rules under privatization]
Oh, now listen, now this really *is* important: "Deaths must be kept to an acceptable level".
What's "an acceptable level"?
Er, "two a year".
But nobody's been killed for the past eighteen months.
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Although it contains some funny moments, this film is no comedy; rather it is a biting satire of the mess that resulted when the Conservative Government in the UK decided to split up and privatise British Rail in 1995 (one wonders why they didn't go all the way and do the same to the highways) as seen through the eyes of track workers. Perhaps the most ludicrous moment is when their supervisor in their newly created regional private company tells the workers to take equipment out to dump bins and smash it up because "it isn't up to scratch, we've got to have high standards now." "But it's perfectly good, can't we sell it?" they protest. "What, sell it to the competition?" is the response. Later they are told that management's streamlining (making staff redundant) has been too successful: they are now too small to be viable and the depot has to close, the rest of the workers have to go. Aside from the almost documentary of the plight of Britain's rail network, there are personal interactions between the working class characters in their daily lives that viewers can empathise with. In all it's well cast, well scripted and well directed.
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