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banner Friday, 11 January, 2002, 11:57 GMT
UK rail investment

Since the rail network was fully privatised in 1997, just a month before Labour came to power, private money has come to replace much of the cash that used to be doled out by the state.

But the network has never managed to maintain itself without delving into the taxpayers' pockets for an average of just under a couple of billion pounds a year.

The collapse of Railtrack last year may make it very hard for the government to attract the substantial private investment it had hoped for in the years to come.

Under its 10 year plan for transport, set out in 2000, Labour had hoped to bring in more than 34.3bn of private money into the rail industry, during the period 2001-11.

During the same decade public investment would come in well below this figure, at 29bn.

If ministers press ahead with plans to establish a successor company to Railtrack that may operate on a not-for-profit basis, it may seem difficult for investors to see the benefits of ploughing their cash into an industry tarnished by recent events.

But Transport Secretary Stephen Byers has insisted that the new company, should it go ahead, will be seen as a "good risk" and will have "a solid investment grade".

Links to more State of the railways stories are at the foot of the page.

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