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Transport Minister Sarah Boyack
"The last two weeks have been absolutely horrendous for passengers"
 real 56k

First Minister Henry McLeish
"With the appalling farce that guises as Railtrack then that's the important priority"
 real 28k

Monday, 30 October, 2000, 23:36 GMT
Ministers attack Railtrack 'farce'
Checking rails
The Scottish Executive is targeting Raitrack
Railtrack has come under fire from the Scottish Executive over the chaos caused by emergency track repairs.

First Minister Henry McLeish described the company's performance as an "appalling farce" and Transport Minister Sarah Boyack criticised Railtrack's decision to close the West Coast Main Line last week.

But Railtrack Scotland director Jeanette Anderson has stressed that the company gave regular updates on the situation to the Scottish Executive.

Mr McLeish was speaking as rail passengers faced more disruption and Ms Boyack addressed a rail safety conference in Glasgow.

The first minister attacked Railtrack for its handling of track repairs and maintenance in the aftermath of the fatal derailment at Hatfield.

The work saw the 24-hour closure of the West Coast Main Line last week and a warning of continued delays.

Henry McLeish
Henry McLeish lambasted the company
He told BBC Scotland: "I think that Sarah's doing a rail summit/conference and quite frankly with the appalling farce that guises as Railtrack then that's the important priority for her today."

Ms Boyack was speaking at the Rail Passenger Committee for Scotland summit, which was taking place amid more severe disruption.

The Glasgow to Edinburgh service was subject to serious restrictions caused by a landslip and services to and from England were affected by bad weather.

The minister attacked Railtrack over its decision to close the West Coast Main Line last Wednesday at short notice and sympathised with passengers.

'Hellish week'

Ms Boyack said: "For travelling members of the public, it has been a hellish week.

"Last week's closure of the West Coast Main Line should have been handled better.

"Passengers and train operators were justifiably angry at the way in which the action was taken. They felt let down. They have my complete sympathy."

Sarah Boyack
Sarah Boyack highlighted industry "weaknesses"
The minister said she would seek to restore confidence in a troubled rail industry and urged rail companies to "meet the challenge" of improving the service.

Ms Boyack said incidents such as the Paddington and Hatfield crashes had exposed the "weakness and inadequacies of a fragmented industry".

She said train companies needed more information to let them plan services - and that they in turn needed to communicate that to passengers.

However, Jeanette Anderson said Railtrack had regularly updated the Scottish Executive on its track maintenance and investment plans.

"I personally briefed the first minister this evening on the current status at Polmont," she told BBC Scotland.

Great partnership

She said they had agreed that enhanced information for passengers was "crucial" and promised daily updates at Scottish stations.

"We have enjoyed a great partnership relationship with the Scottish Executive over the last three years and we intend to work with the Scottish Executive to address the concerns of rail users in Scotland," she said.

Scottish National Party transport spokesman, Bruce Crawford MSP, said the government must adopt a more interventionist approach to the railways.

He said: "The first thing that has to happen is that the government should announce it intends to set up a new, independent safety organisation which takes the responsibility for monitoring away from Railtrack, the Health and Safety Executive and the Rail Regulator.

It appears Railtrack are holding back on investment

George Lyon, Liberal Democrat enterprise spokesman
"Railtrack are there to make a profit and there's always going to be a conflict with safety, whether subconsciously or not.

"Railtrack ought to consider whether it should give the government equity shares in return for subsidy, to give the government a place at the top table.

"If Railtrack is not going to volunteer those shares, then the law should be changed to make sure they do."

Liberal Democrat enterprise spokesman George Lyon said that the time had come to end Railtrack's "obsession with performance and profit" and for safety to be made the priority.

"It appears Railtrack are holding back on investment as the figures show substantial increases in 2002/2003 & 2003/2004," he went on.

"This backlog is particularly concerning given that Railtrack is now instigating a programme of emergency repairs."

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See also:

30 Oct 00 | Scotland
Landslip means rail chaos
28 Oct 00 | Scotland
On track for more train delays
26 Oct 00 | Scotland
Delays warning as track reopens
24 Oct 00 | Talking Point
Scotland: Rail line closure - your views
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