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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 May, 2003, 08:50 GMT 09:50 UK
Network Rail in the red, but upbeat
Train on tracks
Network Rail has to balance safefty and scheduling
Network Rail, the company that owns Britain's railway infrastructure, has unveiled heavy losses and mounting debt, but insisted that more money was being invested in upgrading track.

In the year to late March, Network Rail lost 290m, compared with a profit of 295m made by its predecessor, Railtrack, a year earlier.

And its debt ballooned to 9.4bn, from 6.3bn under Railtrack.

But Network Rail, which bought Railtrack's network last October, said it had increased spending on track maintenance by one-third, to 1.2bn.

Network Rail's optimism is hedged about with endless caveats

This investment, the firm said, is already paying off in terms of improvements in safety and train-time performance.

"It was a year in which the first steps were taken to address the difficulties of the past," said Ian McAllister, chairman of the company.

"It will take several years, but our goal is to build a rail infrastructure which will demonstrate sustainable improvement in performance at an acceptable cost to the nation."

'Fragile'

Network Rail was at pains to stress that its results are no clear indication of the financial health of the UK rail network.

The results cap a terrible 12 months for the industry: In May last year, seven people were killed in a train crash at Potters Bar - an incident that resulted in renewed calls for tighter rail safety.

Network Rail is under pressure to demonstrate that it is upgrading Britain's elderly track infrastructure, but also has to minimise disruption to services.

The company said that previous pressure to expand the rail network, combined with minimal investment, had resulted in a rail system that was "fragile".

The outlook, Network Rail said, was uncertain - not least because it is awaiting a regulatory review of the crucial West Coast mainline, which could result in heavy payments to Virgin, the main rail operator.




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SEE ALSO:
Q&A: Network Rail in the red
28 May 03  |  Business
Rail repair bill doubles
31 Mar 03  |  Business
Network Rail takes track back
27 Mar 03  |  Business
Rail improvements 'under threat'
16 Feb 03  |  Business


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