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Thursday, 30 May, 2002, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Darling warned of Railtrack rough ride
Alistair Darling
Shareholders are anxious to begin talks again
New Transport Secretary Alistair Darling has been warned by Railtrack's angry shareholders - make us a decent offer or we will see you in court.

Since his predecessor Stephen Byers put Railtrack into administration, the affected shareholders have been asking for a better compensation deal.

Now, on his first day in office, Mr Darling has been told if he does not reopen dialogue, he will be taken to court.

David Green, solicitor for the Railtrack Shareholders' Action Group, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme they wanted a "fair value" for the shares and assets Mr Byers took away.

Stephen Byers
Mr Byers put an end to months of pressure

He said: "We want to see the new secretary of state re-establish the dialogue that existed until the autumn of last year when Mr Byers called it off.

"There was a policy decision by the government to renationalise the railways - which is fine and is entirely in the hands of the government - but they chose the method of renationalisation as administration.

"The effect of that was to try and take the assets without paying for them."

'Unlawful'

Mr Green described that action as a "misuse of power".

"It is an unlawful act, I believe, and it's an abuse of power," he said.

Their claims are based upon "misfeasance in public office on grounds of targeted malice" as well as a breach of the Human Rights Convention.

The group described misfeasance as "the exercise of power by a public officer (in this case Mr Byers) acting in bad faith on behalf of the government, causing loss to the claimant (in this case the shareholders)".

Crumbling

A spokesman for the Department of Transport told BBC News Online the position on the shareholders "had not changed".

He added: "We have always maintained we are willing to talk to those involved in this issue and that includes the Railtrack shareholders."

Mr Darling warned on taking office on Wednesday that improving Britain's crumbling transport system would "take time".

He was appointed to the post after Mr Byers resigned on Tuesday, following months of mounting pressure which began with him controversially putting Railtrack into administration.


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Analysis

Byers resignation

Main players

TALKING POINT

AUDIO VIDEO
 VOTE RESULTS
Was Stephen Byers right to resign?

Yes
 84.15% 

No
 15.85% 

13895 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

30 May 02 | UK Politics
29 May 02 | UK Politics

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