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Monday, 15 January, 2001, 16:13 GMT
Railtrack faces 580m Hatfield bill
Delayed passengers in London's Kings Cross station
Passengers still face disruption on some services
Railtrack says the cost of repairs and compensation payments after the Hatfield train crash has almost doubled from the original estimate.

The company's chief executive Steve Marshall says the company could be 8bn in debt by 2003 as the cost of the national rail replacement programme and compensation has reached 580m.


We are going to be stretched

Steve Marshall, Railtrack
Railtrack says its shareholders will cover the entire cost.

At the same time, rail operators were hoping to have around 85% of services back to normal on Monday, but there was still serious disruption between Leeds and London.

Twenty three of 28 train operating companies say they are getting back to pre-Hatfield crash levels of service.

But Railtrack faced more problems on Monday morning when it failed to re-open Leeds City station as planned.

Hatfield crash
Hatfield costs are twice as high as expected
After a month-long closure for engineering works, many passengers reacted with fury when they found their trains still were not running properly.

Problems were compounded because rail replacement buses were apparently cancelled in anticipation of a normal train service.

Nigel Patterson, managing director of train operator Northern Spirit, admitted he had only heard of the engineering over-run early on Monday.

Commuters were being advised to find alternative means of travel though he admitted this was "wholly unsatisfactory".

Commuter Helen Lewis told the BBC the situation was "a farce".

'Expensive'

Railtrack shares dropped 3% to 966p after the costs announcement.

Mr Marshall said: "In the short term it is going to be expensive."

"We are not going to meet performance targets set for us.

"It is very clearly the case that passengers will not have to pay any of this, neither will tax payers.

"It is purely for the account of Railtrack shareholders."

About 400m was expected to relate to compensation payments contractually due to the train operating companies and freight operators.

The remaining 180m was due to the cost of re-railing around 450 miles of track and renewing points to restore normal operations.

Railtrack said it had also incurred a charge of 20m to cover the cost of recent flooding - bringing the total bill to about 600m.

'Breathtaking' debt

Mr Marshall said the cost of getting the network back to normal and starting future improvements would leave a "breathtaking" debt - 3bn by the end of this year, rising by a couple of billion pounds a year.

He said Railtrack still intended to complete the rail recovery programme by Easter and would approach the Strategic Rail Authority to ask for funds destined for the network to be released early.

Railtrack has also accepted the financial framework laid down for the company from 2001 to 2006 by Rail Regulator Tom Winsor.

This periodic review stipulates just how much Railtrack can charge for use of tracks.

The company said meeting Mr Winsor's targets would be "hugely challenging".

But Mr Winsor, who carried out his financial review before Hatfield, has left the door open to possibly make amendments in the light of the derailment.

Near-normal service

Despite the problems at Leeds, there were some encouraging signs for travellers.

A Railtrack spokesman said GNER would be running three trains an hour from Monday with shorter journey times but was still running a revised timetable.

Silverlink County Westcoast, that runs between London Euston and Hertfordshire, Virgin Westcoast, Virgin Cross Country and First Great Western were also still running revised timetables.

Great Eastern, Anglia were the latest companies to return to near-normal levels of service.

Remaining revised timetables
GNER
Silverlink County West Coast
Virgin West Coast
Virgin Cross Country
First Great Western
WAGN
The Railtrack spokesman said: "We are almost back at our target for the end of the month of 85% back to normal."

"The target for the complete network to be back to normal is still Easter, but by the end of January, the services on those five operating companies will be very much improved from where they were before Christmas," he said.

News of normalisation was welcomed by passenger group, the Rail Passengers' Council.

A spokesman said: "We are not quite there yet. Railtrack seems to have exceeded its own targets and has shown that it can undertake massive engineering work quickly."

The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) said that more than 80 speed restrictions have been lifted since Christmas and "the overall picture was improving week by week".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Simon Montague
"Railtrack's paid heavily for the Hatfield crash"
Railtrack Chief Executive, Steve Marshall
"We are not going to be able to meet the performance targets set for us"


Background

Recent tragedies

TALKING POINT
See also:

10 Jan 01 | Scotland
09 Jan 01 | UK Politics
15 Jan 01 | UK
15 Jan 01 | Business
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