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Thursday, 21 March, 2002, 14:56 GMT
Railtrack decision delayed
Train
Railtrack was put into administration in October
The process of bringing Railtrack out of administration has been delayed.

It had been hoped that the company's administration period would be ended by September.

However, delays in finalising a five-year business plan for the rail infrastructure company has put the process back by at least a month.

Accountants Ernst & Young have been running Railtrack since it was put into administration by Transport Secretary Stephen Byers in October last year.

'Taxpayers' misery

At the time, Mr Byers said he hoped the administration period would last three to six months.

Ernst and Young said: "We have a data room full of around 25,000 documents that bidders need to study, but we also need a Railtrack business plan."

The government ideally want a non profit-making body to replace Railtrack.

Conservative transport spokesman Eric Pickles said the news meant more misery for taxpayers.

He said: "It has been estimated that keeping Railtrack in administration is costing the taxpayer 1m a day.

"This is the most costly folly perpetrated by Stephen Byers and it appears we are still no nearer a solution."

The decision to place Railtrack into administration met with condemnation from shareholders.

'Confidence shaken'

Stephen Byers is facing court action unless he releases confidential documents relating to his decision to stop funding for the company.

Railtrack has always maintained that it was not insolvent when it was placed in administration, while Mr Byers has insisted that the company was in "financial meltdown".

Fund managers have told the government that the Railtrack decision had badly shaken investor confidence and would increase the cost of future public private partnerships.

But Mr Byers has insisted private companies were as keen as ever to plough much-needed cash into Britain's railways.

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