Page last updated at 08:46 GMT, Monday, 23 June 2008 09:46 UK

Call for shake-up at Network Rail

Publicity material for the People's Rail campaign
The campaign says the public should have "real control" over Network Rail

A campaign to end the "systematic weaknesses" of Network Rail which cause "unnecessary" chaos to travellers has been launched by a group of MPs.

The 29 Co-operative Party MPs, who work with the Labour Party, want the public to have more of a say over the way the rail infrastructure firm is governed.

They say if it were run as efficiently as the European average there would be cash for 1,000 new rail coaches yearly.

But Network Rail said it was already "incredibly accountable" to the public.

The organisation controls Britain's tracks and signals, plus most stations and tunnels.

A spokesman said: "We're a private company delivering a public service. We have a unique structure; we don't have shareholders.

"All the profit Network Rail makes is directed straight back into the railways. It's not siphoned off."

'Systematic weakness'

There are 29 MPs, nine members of the Scottish Parliament and four Welsh Assembly members among the Co-operative Party's 8,000-strong membership.

A party spokesman said the People's Rail campaign aimed "to remedy the systemic weaknesses in Network Rail that have repeatedly and unnecessarily caused chaos to the travelling public".

He said the current governance structure of Network Rail was failing passengers and the rail industry.


"In effect, the board appoints Network Rail's members," he said.

"While an independent panel selects the members, this is effectively appointed and remunerated by the board as well.

"This puts Network Rail's board in the unparalleled position of being able to choose those to whom it is accountable."

"We believe that long-suffering passengers deserve better than a network run for the convenience of an unaccountable board, and that the British public deserves real control over how the network is run."

'Unfair accusation'

The campaign calls for all citizens to be given the right to become individual members of Network Rail.

The company would give all of its members the right to elect governor representatives to a members' council, which would replace the role currently fulfilled by its existing membership.

Industry members could continue to be nominated by their respective interest groups - from train operating companies or trade unions.

Network Rail staff
About half of Network Rail's income comes from the government
But Network Rail insisted the public had always been able to become members.

"We've always had a huge number of people applying," its spokesman said. "We have thousands of applications so people aren't struggling with the paperwork.

"Public members have all the powers and responsibilities that shareholders have. They're just as powerful as shareholders, so Network Rail is, in many ways, even more accountable than any traditional PLC."

He said any accusation of "failing passengers" was "very unfair".

Britain had a "very high-performing railway", with more passengers using the railway than at any time since 1946 and "record punctuality" of trains.

At the weekend Network Rail - which receives half of its income directly from government - said it was to look at the prospect of building five new high-speed lines in Britain to cope with increasing passenger demand.

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Daily Express Is Britain's transport a mess? - 22 hrs ago
Teletext Focus: Railway change - 23 hrs ago
South Wales Argus Campaign to give public rail control - 34 hrs ago

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