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Last Updated: Monday, 30 June, 2003, 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK
Train delays 'to drag on for years'
Network Rail must improve punctuality over the next decade
It could take until the end of the decade to bring train punctuality back to pre-Hatfield crash levels, according to the company which runs the UK's railways.

Network Rail's new 10 year business plan, published on Monday, also says it may have to cut up to 2,000 jobs to help it make savings of 12.9bn over the period.

Unions have reacted angrily to the strategy, describing the proposed job cuts as "obscene" and threatening possible industrial action.

In the plan the company says it wants to reduce the number of late-running trains to one in 10 by 2009, rather than the current 20%.

It is looking at cost saving measures to meet government targets on improved punctuality, including cutting its 14,000-strong workforce over the next three years.

The chairman of Network Rail, Ian McAllister, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "That will come out of admin staff, contracting staff and so on."

Resistance

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) has reacted angrily to the planned job cuts.

Its general secretary Bob Crow said: "It is huge bonuses for the directors and P45s for the rest.

"We will resist any compulsory redundancies, with industrial action if necessary."

Richard Rosser, general secretary of the TSSA rail union, said he was surprised and concerned by the announcement.

"We always knew that Railtrack was inefficient, but not so inefficient that it employed 2,000 people too many.

"How can Network Rail hope to get rail back on track having axed so many workers?

"Last week we hear of loyalty bonuses for directors and now thousands of jobs will go - this simply does not add up," he said.

Mr McAllister insists that Network Rail did not in fact pay bonuses to directors.

Tough decade ahead

He said executives were paid bonuses for six months last year when Railtrack continued as a company, but was under administration.

"I am not disputing the money was paid, I am simply making it clear that that money was not paid by Network Rail, but was paid by the administrator."

The rail regulator Tom Winsor told Today: "The administrators had to run a company which was in crisis, and they took the judgement that it was necessary to retain certain key individuals, and large amounts were calculated for that purpose.

We are absolutely determined to drive down costs
Iain Coucher, Network Rail deputy chief executive

"The administrators are accountants, they didn't know very much about running the railway."

Commenting on the 10 year plan, BBC transport correspondent Tom Symonds said the company - which replaced the troubled Railtrack last year - has a "tough decade" ahead.

Network Rail is also hoping to quadruple the rate at which it replaces tracks and introduce new equipment for testing and repair.

The company said it needed to spend about 54 billion over the next ten years in order to carry out the work it wants to do.

Its efficiency programme includes savings of 266 million from the maintenance budget, a 246 million reduction in operating costs and cumulative savings of 12.9 billion over the business plan period.

The company's deputy chief executive, Iain Coucher, said: "We are absolutely determined to drive down costs.

"The efficiency improvement programme sets out detailed plans to deliver annual efficiencies of 1.3 billion by 2006-07, while ensuring quality, performance and renewals volumes are maintained.

"Our key objective remains unchanged - to deliver safe, reliable and efficient rail infrastructure."

Target not met

A decision on how much Network Rail will receive in funding will be made by the Independent Rail Regulator.

The company failed to meet a train punctuality target of 83% in 2002-3.

The government wants the current 20% of trains running late to be reduced to 10%. Network Rail says they do not expect this to be achieved until at least 2009.

Network Rail employs signalling staff, engineers, administration workers and other employees.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Simon Montague
"Network Rail's plan is ambitious, difficult, but necessary"


Ian McAllister, Network Rail
"We are changing fundamentally the way the rail network is run"



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