When privatisation reaches British Rail a gang of railtrack workers take their chance with redundancy cash and life as casual agency workers. Initial optimism fades as the harsh reality of keeping a job make new and desperate choices inevitable.


The British railway system was nationalised after World War II, but in the second half of the 1990s it was re- privatised, amid a great deal of controversy. John, Mick, Paul Jim and a bunch of others work on the railways in South Yorkshire; their job is track maintenance. But, in 1995, this part of the railway system was broken up and divided between two competing companies; so men who have worked together for years now find themselves with different employers, on rival teams. The new owners are opposed to unionism; unionists are equated with troublemakers and old, hard fought agreements, are simply torn up ? the men have to like it or lump it. Some take voluntary redundancy, others decide to stick it out; but the result is an almost immediate drop in standards, and that means safety standards. Ken Loach has been championing Britain?s working class heroes since the 1960s, and this very timely film about the chaotic state of the British railway system in the wake of privatisation is one of his most trenchant critiques of the excesses of capitalism. The screenplay is by ex-railway worker Rob Dawber, who died of a work related disease before the film was completed, and much of it is quite funny, or it would be if the entire story wasn?t so sad. The unfamiliar actors are directed in Loach?s usual loose style, with improvisation encouraged, and though most of the scenes unfold in the work-place there are also domestic scenes involving families under strain as a result of the problems the men face at work. The Navigators is a small- scale film of great impact and honesty.