Railtrack investors put Byers in the dock

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The Independent Online

Britain's biggest-ever class action lawsuit, over the Government's controversial decision to put Railtrack into administration four years ago, will come to court next week.

Britain's biggest-ever class action lawsuit, over the Government's controversial decision to put Railtrack into administration four years ago, will come to court next week.

The Railtrack Private Shareholders Action Group (RPSAG), representing 48,000 former Railtrack shareholders, will take its battle for tens of millions of pounds in compensation to the High Court.

The case is believed to be unprecedented in alleging "misfeasance" - that is, abuse of power - against a member of the Cabinet: Stephen Byers, who was the Secretary of State for Transport in 2001 and took the decision to place Railtrack into administration.

RPSAG has raised some £2.4m from its members to bring the claim. The group will be represented by Keith Rowley QC, who will argue that Mr Byers' conduct was "intended to injure and involved bad faith".

The second part of the claim uses the European Convention of Human Rights, which includes the protection of property, to argue that Railtrack shareholders' property was wrongly taken from them.

As well as Mr Byers, the civil case will see other key witnesses taking the stand. These include David Rowlands, who was director of railways at the Department of Transport in 2001, Sir Richard Mottram, then permanent secretary at the Department, and Dan Corry, who was a special adviser to Mr Byers and the author of a number of crucial e-mails that will be considered in court.

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