Railtrack investors set Byers deadline

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Railtrack shareholders have given Stephen Byers until next Friday to disclose key documents relating to his decision to place the network operator in administration or face court action.

The Railtrack Shareholders Action Group (RSAG) had originally given the Secretary of State for Transport a deadline of 31 December to hand over the documents that could be used to help it prepare a legal claim against the Government. The deadline passed without the documents being disclosed.

Instead, Mr Byers's department promised to reply "substantively" to the request in the first part of January. The RSAG said yesterday that unless Mr Byers made clear by 11 January that he was prepared to hand over the documents then it would "make the appropriate application to the court".

The deadline sets a fresh challenge for Mr Byers who is already facing widespread criticism for taking a two-week holiday in India while the rail network is in fresh disarray with commuters in the South-east facing four days of strike action.

Simon Haslam, the chairman of the RSAG, said the group was "very disappointed" that Mr Byers and his department had been unable to respond in a clear fashion to its request for disclosure. "If they are requesting more time to collate bundles of documents they will supply to our lawyers that is one thing," he added. "But it has taken them over a month to reply to our request and we still have no idea of the Government's position on whether they are prepared to disclose crucial information to our legal advisers, let alone the real intention of the Government towards millions of direct and indirect Railtrack shareholders."