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Wednesday, 13 June, 2001, 09:24 GMT 10:24 UK
Railtrack told to stop 'begging'
Scene of Hatfield crash
Railtrack's fortunes have dived since the Hatfield crash
Rail regulator Tom Winsor has called on Railtrack to "put away the begging bowl" and concentrate on delivering a better service to rail passengers.

The rail network operator has said it is going to demand a further 2bn from the government, after already receiving a 1.5bn handout to cover spiralling costs.

Mr Winsor said Railtrack's attitude was damaging its reputation and stopping its management improving services with already increased revenues.

Forget humility, what we need is delivery

Tom Winsor
The rail company has seen its share price plummet by 70% since the fatal train crash at Hatfield last October which killed four people.

In the months since the rail disaster, the company has been struggling to cope with the costs of track repair, maintenance and compensation for train operators.

'Lack of trust'

Mr Winsor told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "They must put away the begging bowl, stop hawking themselves unwanted around Whitehall, and knuckle down to getting train services back to a sustainable level of reliability and quality of service."

He said Railtrack was wrong if it thought it would be repeatedly bailed out by the government.

Rail regulator Tom Winsor
Tom Winsor: "Railtrack must knuckle down"
"It is very damaging to the company's profile, not only in the city of London with its investors but also with its customers, if this notion is allowed to take any more hold.

"If there is this notion abroad that it will be [bailed out] by the government, by the taxpayer or by anybody else it will take away from the management the focus on actually delivering competent, timely and efficient public services.

"If the management truly believe in their hearts that there will always be a bail-out they are in for a rude shock.

Private discussions

"Forget humility, what we need is delivery."

A spokeswoman for Railtrack said on Tuesday the company was working closely with train operating companies to improve the quality of the rail network.

Mr Winsor defended his decision to make his point publicly.

If the management truly believe in their hearts that there will always be a bail-out they are in for a rude shock

Tom Winsor
"It has been made privately over many months but Railtrack persists in making public statements which either imply or almost state that the company is expecting to get additional large sums of money from the public purse.

"The company is not going to make an application for a re-opening of my review of their access charges until next year.

"If they make that application they must make a sound and strong case.

"Like every other regulator I can reassess the regulated companies' charges if additional work on the network is required."

But he added: "I increased only last October Railtrack's revenue by 50% - they can get on and spend that money and deliver the core service.

Ownership issue

"Management must reform itself including in matters of competence.

Mr Winsor said renationalisation was a matter for politicians but insisted that ownership was not important as long as a good service was delivered.

Railtrack is not yet believed to have made a formal request for more funding.

Last week, a number of leading Railtrack shareholders called for the UK Government to take an equity stake in the troubled rail infrastructure firm.

The recent falls in its market value ensured Railtrack was thrown out of the FTSE 100 index of leading shares when the index compiler carried out its quarterly rejig.

The BBC's Kim Barnes
"The company is still struggling to cope since the Hatfield crash"
See also:

05 Jun 01 | Business
Privatisation - the Railtrack way
24 May 01 | Business
Railtrack reports massive loss
06 Jun 01 | Business
Railtrack shares claw back losses
15 Jan 01 | Business
Railtrack under pressure
04 Jun 01 | Business
Rail companies play the blame game
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