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Shares in Railtrack, which owns most of Britain's railway infrastructure, suffered a 9.5 per cent decline in the week on profit taking and brokers downgrading their recommendations and price targets. Earlier this week Railtrack asked the regulator to take a relaxed stance on the formula for setting access charges from 2001, so the company can invest in works such as the pounds 5.6bn rail link between London and the Channel Tunnel.

This may cause political problems as John Swift, the previous rail regulator, was replaced for not being tough enough and his successor may be more aggressive. The formula will be subject to consultation and is not likely to be settled until the summer of 2000.