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Thursday, 31 January, 2002, 13:34 GMT
Rail revival plan 'falls short'
Train station
The committee blames all parties for the state of the railways
Investment is needed on a scale which "dwarfs" current spending plans if Britain is to have an efficient railway by 2010, an influential committee of MPs has said.

The Labour-dominated Commons transport committee also claims the future of Britain's railways is in danger unless a replacement for Railtrack is brought in quickly.

Calling for the beleaguered network operator to be replaced by this autumn, the committee suggests stability is the key to better services.

Just about all the players in the industry have contributed to the chaos that the railways are now in

Commons Transport Committee report

The call comes as Railtrack's administrator has reportedly warned that the troubled company will need significantly more government money than the 3.5bn it has already borrowed.

Transport Secretary Stephen Byers originally said the question of how to replace Railtrack would be resolved within six months.

That was last October and so far no proposals have been produced.

'Additional public money'

The MPs' report was widely critical in its assessment of the causes of the current state of the rail network.

"Just about all the players in the industry have contributed to the chaos that the railways are now in," it found.

The committee stressed that Britain's economy depended on an efficient railway, in the report entitled Passenger Rail Franchising and the Future of Railway Infrastructure.

"This will not be achieved without investment on a scale which dwarfs the figures proposed in the first 10-year plan.

"We recommend that the forthcoming review of the 10-year plan establish the amount of additional public money needed to provide the necessary long-term funding."

'In the dark'

Current spending plans, involving the public and private sector over the next 10 years, amount to about 65bn.

But the MPs' report expressed astonishment that no contingency plan was in place to cover for Railtrack's failure to perform.

And they said they were still in the dark about Railtrack's financial position at the time it was put into receivership.

The report also exposed a split along party lines on Mr Byers' decision to put Railtrack into receivership.

'Significant sum'

Labour members, who dominate the committee, supported the move but the Conservatives were appalled at his actions.

After Railtrack was put into administration on 7 October, a 3.5bn government loan was paid to the administrator, Ernst & Young [E&Y], to cover the period to 31 March.

But more than half has already been paid to Railtrack's creditors, according to E&Y joint administrator Alan Bloom.

He told the Daily Telegraph newspaper that E&Y would be asking the government for a further "significant sum", which might leave taxpayers footing the bill.

See also:

14 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Rail masterplan unveiled
14 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Rail funding fears remain
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