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  • Ronald Dawson
    DepotNews.com NewsWire RAILTRACK FACING MILLIONS IN FINES Ultimatum from regulator as thousands face more misery as they return to work Source: Daily Mail
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 3, 2001
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      DepotNews.com NewsWire

      RAILTRACK FACING MILLIONS IN FINES Ultimatum from regulator as thousands
      face more misery as they return to work
      Source: Daily Mail
      Publication date: 2001-01-03


      RAILTRACK was last night threatened with huge fines after the train
      companies lost patience with the repair chaos.
      In an unprecedented move, Rail Regulator Tom Winsor gave the lines and
      signals operator a fortnight to provide detailed plans for the whole
      network.

      Each of the 26 train companies must be given precise information on when
      each piece of repair work will be tackled, when each speed restriction will
      be lifted and the effect this will have on each train's running time.

      Without such plans, they cannot produce timetables which have any chance of
      operating properly.

      A complex formula of penalties means Railtrack could be fined as much as
      4million for every firm out of the 26 in which it fails to produce the plans
      by January 18 or if it then fails to live up to them.

      It could end up paying the biggest fine in corporate history.

      Mr Winsor's drastic move came as the first working day of 2001 produced yet
      more chaos and misery for travellers.

      Both East and West Coast main lines were badly hit by Railtrack's failure to
      carry out a major resignalling project in North London on time.

      It was the last straw for the train operating companies, already furious at
      Railtrack's slow and chaotic progress over the repairs needed after last
      year's Hatfield crash.

      George Muir, director general of the Association of Train Operating
      Companies, said: 'We know Railtrack has made progress in the past three
      weeks but it has been piecemeal and short term. We don't yet have a
      return-to-normal plan for each operator.

      This is what passengers need.

      'We just can't leave it to chance and that is why we sought the order.' ATOC
      fought shy of publicly criticising Railtrack but there had been acrimonious
      talks in private and Mr Winsor was asked to take his tough line shortly
      before Christmas.

      The regulator said last night: 'Specific plans are needed to underpin the
      provision of passenger and freight services during the delivery of the
      national rail recovery programme.' His spokesman refused to speculate on
      potential fines, saying: 'This is uncharted territory. It has never happened
      before.' Railtrack was fined 10million by the regulator last year for poor
      performance.The fine has yet to be implemented, however, and is being held
      against future performance targets.

      The company made pretax profits of 360million last year and had projected a
      figure of 270million for this year.

      Much, if not all, of that is likely to be swallowed up by compensation
      claims from train companies.

      Mr Winsor had already made it clear he was prepared to crack down hard on
      Railtrack.

      Last October he unveiled a 15billion five-year safety funding package
      financed by the train operators which was 250million more than Railtrack has
      asked for. But the regulator warned 'no more excuses' and said he was
      'improving the carrot, but not throwing away the stick'.

      His order yesterday still took some Railtrack board members by surprise,
      coming only a few hours after Deputy Premier John Prescott had visited the
      company's HQ.

      A spokesman for Railtrack said plans were already well advanced to provide
      updated route-by-route recovery plans.

      Mr Winsor's move was welcomed by Stewart Francis, chairman of the Rail
      Passengers Council, who repeated his organisation's calls for the structure
      of industry to be reexamined.

      'Events post-Hatfield have revealed a lack of joined-up thinking,' said Mr
      Francis.

      Late working on two new signalling systems, at Willesden and Leeds, forced
      Virgin Trains to cancel 16 West Coast services yesterday, while GNER ran
      buses between Wakefield and Leeds. Rail- track blamed bad weather and
      technical difficulties.

      Train operators fear there may be worse to come as many people had taken
      yesterday as an extra holiday.

      The Rail Passengers Committee for Southern England warned yesterday that
      public confidence in the railways had sunk to its lowest ever. But chairman
      Wendy Toms said train companies must share the blame.

      Comment Page 12

      Publication date: 2001-01-03
      © 2000, YellowBrix, Inc.
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