'Railtrack wasn't bust until October'

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The Independent Online

John Robinson, the former chairman of Railtrack, told the High Court yesterday "there was no financial crisis at Railtrack" in the months of 2001 leading up to the company's insolvency in the October that year.

Mr Robinson, who became chairman of Railtrack in the summer of 2001, told the court the company was not bust until 4.45pm on Friday 5 October 2001, when the Secretary of State [for Transport] said he was withdrawing support. "Until that moment, the company was solvent," Mr Robinson told the hearing

Railtrack shareholders are claiming that the Government took malicious action to bankrupt the company in order for it to be taken into public control, without any cost to the taxpayer.

About 50,000 shareholders, led by the Railtrack Private Shareholders Action Group (RPSAG), are seeking £160m in compensation from the Government for the alleged "misfeasance". The shareholders have raised more than £2m to bring the case to court. If the High Court finds in their favour, there will be another trial to determine the level of damages.

The Government, however, denies that it engineered the demise of the rail network group.

Mr Robinson concluded his evidence yesterday in the lawsuit. Today, David Rowlands, who was the director of railways at the Department of Transport in 2001, will give his evidence in the case.

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