Catalogue description British Railways Board: Privatisation Transitional Team: Privatisation Archive: datasets

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Details of AN 186
Reference: AN 186
Title: British Railways Board: Privatisation Transitional Team: Privatisation Archive: datasets

The BREAD (British Rail Electronically Archived Documents) dataset is an artificial collection of records from various sources. It was gathered together to provide a legal resource, to provide documentation supporting railway privatisation negotiations, and to enable the British Railway Board (BRB) to demonstrate compliance with legislation and regulations.

The system was established by Rank Xerox for the BRB and consisted of three components: a Microsoft Access database, which acted as a catalogue; an Optika FilePower document management system that controlled the storage and retrieval of images of BRB documents; and an Oracle database, that was used to provide a link between the Access database and the images in the document management system.

Each record in the Access database contains a brief description of the material to which the record relates, the BRB Department (or subsidiary company if appropriate) that had generated the material, correspondence reference, originator and time frame. To enable documents to be found, searches by document category, by BRB department (for which there are 20 departmental codes), by subsidiary company (183 codes), or by text may be made. There are twelve document categories, these are listed below with an approximate number of database entries for each category given in brackets:

  • Blue Ink documents (17,000) mainly, signed contracts, licences or other legal documents.
  • BRIS (British Rail Infrastructure Services) Data Room documents (11,500) which were scrutinised by potential purchasers prior to making bids for companies awaiting privatisation. Documents include financial analyses and asset registers, contracts both procurement and supply, personnel lists, accommodation, transfer schemes.
  • Other Data Rooms (19,000), as BRIS but for Central Services and Freight Companies.
  • Key Audit Trail Documentation (4,000) providing brief confirmation that sales have been undertaken in accordance with due process.
  • Minutes of BR Board (3,500) including Board Executive and other senior BRB committees responsible for making decisions relating to aspects of privatisation.
  • TOC (Train Operating Company) Board Minutes (1,000) including minutes from both Operational Management Board meetings and meetings of the Company Directors.
  • Meeting papers (9,500), also meeting papers relating to TOC Committees (4,500) including supporting papers for Board Meetings.
  • Working papers (4,000) of various senior BRB personnel involved in the privatisation process.
  • Sales Bibles (3,000) essentially the solicitor's working papers relating to the sale of specific businesses. The papers are almost exclusively copies of documents such as Transfer Schemes, financial papers and key correspondence held elsewhere in the Privatisation Archive.
  • Solicitors' Correspondence (2,000) covering key issues which may relate to the sale of several businesses.
  • Transfer Schemes (11,500) were the mechanism used under the auspices of the Railways Act 1993 to transfer to subsidiary companies certain activities of the Board and the associated assets, liabilities and staff. This transfer enabled those activities of the Board undertaken by the subsidiary to be sold or otherwise transferred to the Private Sector. The Transfer Scheme documentation includes authorisation from the Secretary of State, asset/liability listings, contracts etc.

Date: c 1997 - 2001

Hardware: The BREAD system was run on PCs connected to a Novell Netware 3.2 server, and these were used to access the Microsoft Access database and Optika FP Multi document management software. The server was connected to two additional PCs; one acting as a server for Optika FilePower, the other running the Oracle database.

Operating System: Microsoft Windows NT4 (previously Windows 3.1).

Application Software: Microsoft Access 2 was used to provide a catalogue of the documents in the privatisation archive. Optika FilePower 4.5 document management system was used for the storage and retrieval of document images. Oracle 8.04 provided a link between the Access database and the document management system.

User Interface: User access to the system was via the Microsoft Access.

Logical structure and schema: Both datasets are derived from Microsoft Access database files containing five distinct data tables. The first dataset transfer in 2000 also included the document images from the Optika system and supporting data files.

How data was originally captured and validated: The Access database was created by merging five existing databases. Updates and searches were performed using database queries and on-screen forms.

The BREAD system was created as a catalogue of an existing body of documents, it is dynamic in the sense that ongoing editing of the data may still be possible but it was transferred to NDAD as a final state snapshot.

Validation performed after transfer: Details of the content and transformation validation checks performed by NDAD staff on the datasets are contained in the catalogues of individual datasets.

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Former reference in The National Archives: CRDA/37
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

British Railways Board, 1963-2001

Physical description: 3 datasets and documentation
Restrictions on use: Copyright in the British Rail Electronically Archived Documents (BREAD) system is vested in the British Railways Board and its successor the Strategic Rail Authority (2001-2006). Subject to registration under the Data Protection Act. Accompanying documentation is closed.
Access conditions: Subject to 30 year closure
Immediate source of acquisition:

In 2010 the United Kingdom National Digital Archive of Datasets

Custodial history: Originally transferred from British Railways Board. The United Kingdom National Digital Archive of Datasets (NDAD) then held the datasets until 2010 when they were transferred to The National Archives (TNA).
Selection and destruction information: This dataset was selected under acquisition policy criterion Management of the economy.
Accruals: Regular accruals are not anticipated.
Unpublished finding aids:

Extents of documentation: 12 documents, Dates of creation of documents c. 1997 – October 2000

Administrative / biographical background:

An artificial collection compiled in 1997 from records of train operating companies (Board subsidiaries); freight companies (Board subsidiaries); British Rail Infrastructure Services; BRB solicitor; BRB Central Services.

The British Rail Electronically Archived Documents (BREAD) system was developed for the Privatisation Transitional Team of the British Railways Board by an external contractor, Rank Xerox. The system had its origins in five separate databases developed by members of the Privatisation Transitional Team to assist with the management of the largely paper based privatisation archive.

As a consequence of the process of privatising British Rail (BR) between 1993 and 1997 the British Railways Board (BRB) identified a need to develop and improve its records management procedures. Records management was given a high priority to assist the Board in defending against potentially expensive litigation resulting from privatisation but also to comply with their obligation to keep historic records, to assist in negotiations and to demonstrate compliance with legislation and regulatory requirements. This lead to a decision that records from all business units and divisions of BR should be retained including contracts, agreements and leases, licences, board minutes and associated papers, formal company documentation and statutory notices. The Board's Secretariat was initially responsible for records management but as privatisation progressed and the privatisation archive grew in size responsibility was delegated to a Transitional Team that was established to support the transfer of the Board's post privatisation responsibilities.

As the rail privatisation process progressed an archive consisting of some 7,500 boxes containing 1.5-2 million documents was established at BRB headquarters. Individual members of the BRB Transitional Team took responsibility for specific sections of the archive and five separate databases were created to assist with the management of the archive. By late 1997 a number of issues had arisen that required the BRB to develop a more simplified strategy for managing the privatisation archive. The sale of the Board's premises at Euston House and relocation to their current premises at Whittles House, a requirement for duplicate copies of certain key documents to be held away from the main archive and the decision to disband the Transitional Team created difficulties in managing the archive efficiently. In addition the closure of Euston House led to a significant increase in the physical size of the archive from 7,500 boxes to 10,000 boxes by the end of 1997. Following the move to Whittles House, the privatisation archive was placed in a commercial storage facility. Before the archive was transferred to storage, however, the BRB had reached the decision to make key papers available to staff electronically. As a first step the Transitional Team's five databases were merged in to a single Microsoft Access database containing approximately 91,000 records. Following a tender process Rank Xerox were appointed as contractors to provide a full electronic archive that used the Access database as a catalogue linking to selected images of documents from the privatisation archive.

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