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Last Updated: Monday, 4 July, 2005, 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK
Byers wished to 'kill' Railtrack
Stephen Byers
Stephen Byers is said to have wanted to "kill off" any rescue deal
The Railtrack court case has heard how former Transport Secretary Stephen Byers spoke of the need to "kill off" any possible rescue deal for the firm.

The evidence came from handwritten minutes of crucial Whitehall meetings the week before Railtrack went into administration in 2001.

Notes from the meetings also reported Mr Byers saying Railtrack should be given "no options" to avoid collapse.

The government denies engineering Railtrack's demise.

One possible escape route for Railtrack was a plan to bring forward payments worth millions of pounds to the company, but in the meeting notes Mr Byers' response to that was "got to kill it off".

Keith Rowley, acting for the Railtrack shareholders, told the High Court that the government took a secret and malicious decision to destroy the company.

'Bad faith'

The case revolves around whether the government plotted Railtrack's demise in 2001 by refusing it extra money.

Maintenance workers on track
Railtrack oversaw rail maintenance

About 50,000 Railtrack shareholders have launched a claim for 157m in compensation from the government.

They allege "misfeasance" - that the government and the then Transport Secretary Stephen Byers acted within the law but in bad faith - and a breach of human rights for confiscation of assets.

The government has always said the firm was not capable of running the railways and was insolvent without its support.

Second trial

The critical question in the case is whether the company - since replaced by the state-backed Network Rail - simply ran out of money or whether the government plotted its downfall.

The case is being led by the Railtrack Private Shareholders Action Group (RPSAG), which has raised 2.4m to bring the matter to court.

If the High Court finds in favour of the shareholders, then there will be a second trial to quantify damages.

Railtrack was formed in April 1994 after the privatisation of the UK railway network by the then Conservative government of John Major.

It was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1996.

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