Privatised rail firms make pounds 1bn in profits

BRITAIN'S PRIVATISED rail companies are making profits of more than pounds 1bn a year even though standards of service are deteriorating, a report out today claims.

Railtrack, the company which took over the track, signalling and stations, has also made a surplus of pounds 125m because of changes in the way it apportions blame for delays between itself and the train operating companies.

The analysis, carried out by the Economist magazine, claims that the privatised rail firms made a combined profit of pounds 1.1bn in the year to March last year on revenues, including subsidies, of pounds 5.7bn, equivalent to a 19 per cent return.

Yet performance, as measured by reliability and punctuality, declined in the year following privatisation and has deteriorated further since last October when the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, called the railways a "national disgrace".

The Economist article describes Railtrack's pounds 27bn investment programme as a "sham", saying that two-thirds of it is routine maintenance.

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