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Monday, 15 January, 2001, 13:12 GMT
Q and A: Railtrack losses
Railtrack has announced that the cost of safety

improvements after the Hatfield crash was double the expected amount. And Railtrack bosses now say that the company may be 8bn in debt by 2003. BBC transport reporter Tom Symonds answers the key questions:

How did Railtrack get its sums so badly wrong about the cost of the Hatfield crash?

It wasn't so much that the sums were wrong. More that having carried out an inspection of the track, additional places have been found where work needs to be done. That has increased the cost from 100m to 180m. Train companies have also been negotiating hard for increased compensation for the delays - raising the amount Railtrack has to pay from 150m to 400m.

What impact will such big losses have on Railtrack in the short term ?

The shareholders will have to bear the brunt of the extra costs. It will most likely mean Railtrack will make a loss this year according to the company.

Railtrack admits that it could be in debt by 8bn by 2003 - what impact could this have on rail services in the future?

Even if Hatfield had not happened, Railtrack would have expected to borrow billions to expand and improve the network. Now the company is dealing with the aftermath of the crash, it may have to find even more money. As a big company with a guaranteed source of income, borrowing will not be a problem. But the extra work may well make it more difficult for Railtrack to manage its improvements in the future.

Are there likely to be renewed calls for Railtrack to be broken up or replaced ?

Almost certainly. Many passengers seem to think the company has not coped well with this crisis. But even if it could, the government is unwilling to make major changes to the company because that would cause even more disruption.

Is anyone in government or the industry seriously considering taking Railtrack back into public ownership?

Yes. Ministers have thought about taking a stake in Railtrack to give them more influence over decisions. But so far the government is denying it is seriously considering the idea.

How damaging to Railtrack is the continuation of chaos at Leeds station, despite all the assurances?

It will cost the company dearly, because train companies using Leeds will want compensation - GNER in particular is suffering badly. But it is the passengers who are suffering the most.

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