Railtrack `hit squad' set up to tackle track repairs

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The Independent Online
RAILTRACK HAS set up a "flying squad" of senior managers to tackle major failings in its railway maintenance programme.

The company set up the six-strong team this summer after problems in the Bristol area led Amey, the contractor, to quit. The squad has targeted four areas, including Chiltern Railways, Manchester and Doncaster.

Train operating companies have blamed the condition of the track for contributing to falling reliability and punctuality.

Railtrack has decided to become "more intrusive" in its maintenance contracts. These are now all in private hands since British Rail Infrastructure Services was privatised.

Gerald Corbett, Railtrack chief executive, said: "Where we are not getting good performance our maintenance contractors are under a lot of pressure. The squad visits parts of the country where there is variable performance. I want everybody to perform but if the contractors don't perform then they will be terminated."

All 36 four-and-a-half year contracts are to be re-let in the next three years, and Railtrack hopes to achieve cost savings. Figures for the half- year to 30 September, published yesterday, showed that maintenance costs fell 8 per cent to pounds 345m.

The company said that just 8 per cent of the network contributed to 40 per cent of delays caused by Railtrack.

This week the Government called in the 25 train firms and Railtrack for talks. Railtrack has blamed train companies, saying delays attributable to it have fallen 40 per cent in three years. The operators say Railtrack sold too many "train paths".

Pre-tax profit rose 13 per cent to pounds 224m on turnover up to pounds 1.29bn from pounds 1.24bn in 1997. The shares rose 29p to 1,620p.

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