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Friday, 17 November, 2000, 18:12 GMT
Railtrack chief quits
Gerald Corbett
The Chief Executive of Railtrack, Gerald Corbett, has resigned in the wake of the fatal Hatfield and Ladbroke Grove crashes.

The Railtrack board said "with regret" it had accepted Mr Corbett's resignation and that Steven Marshall, currently finance director, had been appointed chief executive with immediate effect.

It is quite right that the company should now look forward and draw a line in the sand

Gerald Corbett
It is the second time Mr Corbett has announced his departure - his first attempt was rejected so he could put a national recovery plan in place.

Mr Corbett said he felt "the time was now right for someone fresh to lead the company forward".

Railtrack also announced that its chairman, Sir Philip Beck, will stand down, next summer.

Steven Marshall
Steven Marshall': Paddington victims worried about his background
Mr Corbett said he was leaving the job because "in the last few weeks my own profile has been far too high for my own good, my family's good and also for the company's good".

He added it was "quite right that the company should now look forward and draw a line in the sand".

He is expected to receive a six figure severance payment.

'Time to renationalise'

In a statement, Sir Philip said: "The directors would like to thank Gerald for his enormous contribution to the company, through his leadership, energy and enthusiasm the company has made major steps forward."

Mr Corbett, 49, first offered to stand down from the 377,000 a year post on 18 October, a day after the derailment, in which four passengers were killed.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said the choice of chief executive was a matter for the Railtrack board but it was important to maintain stability.

His priority will remain to get the rail network fully up and running again safely and efficiently

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott
Mr Corbett's decision has drawn a mixed response from unions and passengers' representatives.

Rail unions and passenger groups say the real issue is not about one man standing down.

Solicitor Louise Christian, representing the victims of the Paddington and Southall train crashes, said they were concerned that Mr Corbett was to be replaced by a finance director.

"More people who know about railways are needed on the board at Railtrack," she said.

Mr Corbet's replacement is former chief executive of television rentals group Thorn.

Before that Mr Marshall, 43, worked in the finance department of Grand Metropolitan alongside Mr Corbett.

Hatfield crash
Mr Corbett first offered to resign after the Hatfield crash
Train drivers union Aslef approved of Mr Corbett's decision, but also called for Railtrack to be renationalised.

Assistant general secretary of the rail union RMT Vernon Hince agreed the best way forward would be to pull Railtrack back into public ownership.

"It would have been an ideal time for the government to rethink their attitude and take back over the responsibility of Railtrack," he said.

However, Anthony Smith from the Rail Passengers' Council said he was disappointed Mr Corbett had resigned.

'Crassly insensitive'

"Our concern is that the network is going to enter a period of instability and that can't be good for passengers," he said.

Mr Smith said the past month had revealed the extent of the problems faced by the rail network.

On Monday rail unions attacked a 5% increase in dividends to Railtrack shareholders despite a slump in profits. One City analyst said the dividend payment was "crassly insensitive".

On the same day, the beleaguered rail infrastructure company announced that its pre-tax profits for April-September 2000 fell by 31% to 175m.

Railtrack is likely to have to pay out 250m to cover the cost of re-railing and compensation for delays to train companies following the Hatfield crash.

The BBC's Tom Symonds
"Passengers were relaxed to see Mr Corbett go"
Rail Passengers' Council, Anthony Smith
"Our concern is we are going to enter a period of great instability"
Paddington crash victim solicitor, Louise Christian
"The problem is not about one man"
See also:

13 Jul 00 | UK
More trains running late
17 Nov 00 | Business
The new Railtrack boss
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