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Thursday, June 3, 1999 Published at 09:32 GMT 10:32 UK


Railtrack told to reduce delays

Railtrack made £428m last year but cannot meet its own targets

Railtrack has been warned to reduce the delays it causes to train passengers or face the prospect of heavy fines.

The rail regulator said he was "disappointed" the company had failed to meet its own targets for improvement in 1998-99 and must make up the shortfall this year.

Transport Correspondent Simon Montague: "Row growing between Mr Bolt and Railtrack for some weeks"
Chris Bolt said Railtrack, which is in charge of the tracks, platforms and other infrastructure of the UK rail network, had achieved only a 2% reduction in delays.

This was far below the target of 7.5% a year for the two-year period from 1998 to 2000, which Railtrack set itself in January.

Chris Bolt, whose tenure ends next month, insisted that total delays must still be reduced by 15% by March 2000.

He said: "If Railtrack fails to deliver, it will be for Tom Winsor, who takes over as regulator from 5 July, to consider appropriate action."

[ image: Railtrack was also told to cut delays by 20% on the Great Western line]
Railtrack was also told to cut delays by 20% on the Great Western line
Mr Bolt's warning came after Railtrack said its targets were "probably not achievable" and asked if it could spread the improvements over three years.

The company said on Thursday: "We have always had the view that, with the growth on the railways, a 15% delay reduction target is unrealistic.

"But we will have to sit down and see what our next step is in response to the regulator."

Profits criticised

Mr Bolt also demanded action from Railtrack to reduce delays on one of the worst-performing lines, the Great Western service.

He said he expects delays on this line, which runs between London and the west country and Wales, to be reduced by 20% this year.

And he demanded to see Railtrack's infrastructure plans for increased capacity on the West Coast Main Line, which runs from London to Glasgow.

He said Railtrack may be in breach of its licence after operators told him credible plans probably do not exist.

Mr Bolt's announcement came in the same week that Railtrack announced 1998-99 pre-tax profits of £428m - a figure described as "a scandal" by passenger groups.

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