Railtrack is still quibbling over paying safety bill

OVER THE past 12 months Railtrack has arguably become Britain's most unpopular business organisation. Under fire from the Rail Regulator over broken rails, train delays and a profound ignorance of the state of the assets it took over at privatisation, Railtrack has been at the centre of rows about safety since the Paddington disaster, which claimed 31 lives.

It is now routinely used as the seminal example of a company that has failed to reconcile private profit and public service. More specifically, it was held to have failed in its responsibility for safety in the industry, and the Transport minister, Lord Macdonald, said he was "minded" to strip the company of its control of the issue.

Gerald Corbett, the chief executive, and other directors can now expect to come under intense pressure to resign as the business grapples with yet another massive blow.

Yesterday's news makes it highly unlikely that the Government will press ahead with its plan to introduce the profit motive into air-traffic control. The Transport Bill, to be published today, is expected to contain "enabling" legislation for the introduction of private interest into the National Air Traffic Service, but it is likely to leave open the option of a non- profit-making group taking over the 49 per cent of equity on offer. Unions famously warned the Government that it was in danger of creating a "Railtrack of the skies".

Railtrack's inability to see past its commercial interests was illustrated yesterday at the rail safety summit, where Rod Muttrum, its safety director, made clear that no one had yet decided who should pay for new train safety systems in response to Paddington. Railtrack will introduce the train protection warning system (TPWS) to 12,000 sites by the year 2002, a year earlier than planned. The device can be overridden by drivers passing cautionary yellow lights, but stops the train automatically at red signals.

In fact, Mr Corbett indicated that the pounds 200m cost could be passed on to passengers. Although he said his company would provide pounds 200m in the short term, he left open the option of passing the burden on to train operators, which could raise fares to compensate.

The Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, said the new safety measures would be delivered, but he acknowledged that the arguments over who pays "will go on".

The company yesterday compounded its poor public image when it appealed against an order to shut down SN109 - the signal passed at danger by a Thames Trains service as it sped towards the Great Western express outside Paddington.

Railtrack continues to make high returns; it recorded half-year pre-tax profits of pounds 236m, 5 per cent up on last year, and is making pounds 1.3m a day. However, it needs good profits so that it can borrow money to invest in the future of the industry.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with excess, cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?