Rail chaos puts car curb plans in jeopardy!
- Some interesting stuff going on out of the UK. Dawson
Rail chaos puts car curb plans in jeopardy: Government faces pounds 180m
bill as train companies seek compensation
Source: The Guardian
Publication date: 2000-11-25
John Prescott's much-vaunted plan to curb car use with a railway renaissance
partly backed by the train companies has been thrown into doubt by Britain's
rail chaos, his senior transport adviser warned last night.
Professor David Begg, chairman of the commission for integrated transport,
issued his warning as it emerged that rail companies would be pressing for
pounds 330m in compensation for the chaos and lack of revenue since the
This is more than double the pounds 150m already allocated by Railtrack to
restore the network to normal and pay back long- suffering passengers. It
means the government will almost certainly be asked to make up the pounds
A senior industry source said: "We have done our arithmetic and Railtrack's
sums just do not add up. We will need more help to see us through the
current crisis or we face meltdown. Some companies are in such a bad state
that they may be forced to go to the wall."
Mr Prescott's difficulties were exacerbated by the intervention of Professor
Begg. He warned that the government's plans for an integrated transport plan
raised concerns about the ability of Railtrack and the companies to fund
their share of the government's plan to revitalise rail.
With dramatically falling passenger numbers and the prospect of rail usage
remaining low for a further 12 months, Professor Begg said he feared the
forecasts for future growth could be wildly off the mark.
He said: "The real concern is that it is going to take years to get
passengers back and the major concern is that this will affect the level of
Professor Begg stressed that the government faced a "major headache" in
getting the rail system on track with big companies, like GNER on the east
coast and Virgin on the west coast, warning that they had suffered a 40%
drop in trade.
With people spurning the railways in droves, Professor Begg said the
transport crisis would undermine Mr Prescott's targets of reducing car use
as well as pollution from exhaust fumes. "There is a big shift away from
rail to the biggest polluters - cars and aircraft."
The train companies say they will be struggling without more money, even
though some of the larger companies like FirstGroup and National Express
have been making reasonable profits from the railway with the help of a
declining subsidy from the Treasury.
Railtrack yesterday announced that it had made substantial progress towards
improving the network by relaying a third of track which needed repair.
Steve Marshall, its new chief executive and former chief financial officer,
said it was working "flat-out" to restore the network to normal. But Mr
Marshall, who took over from Gerald Corbett a week ago, is likely to hold
the job only temporarily.
Several candidates from within the industry were last night mentioned as
potential replacements, including Chris Green, chief executive of Virgin
Trains and Richard Bowker, its chief operating director.
Rail chaos, pages 6-7 Leader comment, page 25 Special report on transport in
Britain www.guardianunlimited. co.uk/transport
www.nationalrail.co.uk/realtime/fs-realtime.htm Latest rail updates
www.railtrack.org Railtrack www.argonet.co.uk/users/ railwatch Railway
Publication date: 2000-11-25
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