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Thursday, August 26, 1999 Published at 08:04 GMT 09:04 UK

Business: The Company File

Railtrack network under fire

Railtrack must "raise its game" before customers walk away

The rail regulator has slammed Railtrack's management of the rail network and threatened to change its network licence.

The company owns the track, stations and signalling of the rail network.

Railtrack's record on network performance, broken rails and the provision of capacity have attracted "severe and well deserved criticism", industry regulator Tom Winsor said.

Railtrack can "and must raise its game to justify the considerable amounts of money which it receives from farepaying passengers and freight shippers and in taxpayers subsidies", he added.

Winsor said the company "had all but squandered" the opportunity for leadership of the rail industry.

Review due soon

The regulator's review of access charges levied by the Railtrack Group on the train operating companies will be completed by July 2000. Provisional results will be available in December.

Winsor's criticisms follow earlier threats of a £40m fine for Railtrack, unless it dramatically reduces train delays across the rail system.

Windsor said the company must cut delays caused by track and signal related engineering by 12.7% by the end of March 2000.

Passenger complaints to train companies reached the one million mark last year - with Virgin Trains receiving the most written moans.

Written and telephone complaints in the 12 months to March 1999 totalled 1,072,958 - an 8% rise on the 1997-98 figure.

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