Labour today called for major changes in the system of rail finances. Shadow transport secretary Michael Meacher said track access charges in the run-up to privatisation were being set too high. He blamed a new system for covering the depreciation of assets for forcing up costs to the train- operating companies, which run the services. The system, called "modern equivalent asset value," puts the annual depreciation cost at pounds 700m, compared to just pounds 160 million in British Rail's statement for last year. In a report on rail finances, Mr Meacher said up to pounds 500m of the rise in public subsidy to the railways was accounted for by the rise in depreciation charges. But instead of the money being earmarked specifically for buying new assets, the money went to Railtrack, which is responsible for the rail infrastructure, and could eventually end up in the pockets of private shareholders.
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Rail access charges 'too high'