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Breakfast Thursday, 3 October, 2002, 05:20 GMT 06:20 UK
What do you want from the railways?
John Armitt, chief executive of Network Rail
Can a change of name really improve the railways?
It's the end of the line for Railtrack this morning. Network Rail will take over as new owners of the rail system after an announcement at around 7am today.

The new not-for-profit company marks the end of Railtrack, the company created when the railways were privatised six years ago.
Rail Regulator Tom Winsor
Winsor: wants more bangs for his bucks

This morning on Breakfast, we talked to the Rail Regulator Tom Winsor.

"The model of separation of track and infrastructure was not at fault," he told Breakfast: what was at fault was the competence of Railtrack's original senior management.

He added:

"The biggest challenge which the company faces is the change in culture which the company must carry out..the emphasis is going to be on asset knowledge, competence and delivery."

Winsor believes that the crucial difference between Network Rail and its predecessor is that it's a not-for-profit company: it does not need to worry about shareholders.

"Network Rail should be more interested in getting the track right rather than opening shops," he told us this morning.


We want to hear your views on the state of the railways - and where we should go from here.

Click here to go straight to our email form

Network Rail, the company which takes over from Railtrack faces the huge task of restoring public confidence in train travel and upgrading the state of Britain's rail infrastructure.

It will oversee the running of 23,000 miles of track and 2,500 stations.

Network Rail will be run as a not-for-profit company, which means it will plough any profits it makes back into rail maintenance rather than pay dividends to shareholders.

Court clearance

The path to the changeover was cleared on Tuesday when the High Court backed a government request to take Railtrack out of administration.

The court's order becomes effective on Thursday immediately following which the sale of Railtrack to Network Rail will also complete.

Under the deal Network Rail will pay 500m to Railtrack for the rail system - 300m of which has been provided by the government - and will inherit Railtrack's 7.1bn of debt.

John Armitt, who has been Railtrack's chief executive while the company has been in administration, will become chief executive at Network Rail.

Ian McAllister, the former head of Ford in Britain, will be chairman.

'Safe system'

Railtrack shareholders are due to get 260p per share in compensation, which is nearly 90% of their value when trading in the stock was suspended last year.

In August, Network Rail outlined its plans to deliver a "safe, reliable and efficient" rail system.

It said it would undertake an intensive 18 month programme to discover why many projects had seen huge cost over-runs, and to stabilise the business.

This would include compiling a full asset register of the UK's rail infrastructure, which would help to reveal the true state of the rail network.

Rise and fall

Railtrack was privatised in 1996 and was at first a big favourite with City investors, with its shares reaching a peak of 17.68 in November 1998.

But confidence in the state of the railways was knocked by a number of rail crashes.

The fatal rail crash at Hatfield in October 2000 led to many speed restrictions being imposed across the network and maintenance costs soared.

Last year the then Transport Secretary Stephen Byers put Railtrack into administration rather than keep contributing to the company's rising track repair bill.

To have your say, e-mail us at breakfasttv@bbc.co.uk

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