Gatwick Express wins deal over track

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The Independent Online
GATWICK EXPRESS, scheduled to be the first railway line to be privatised, has been given a cheap deal on its track charges in an effort to ensure that it is profitable.

Yesterday, John MacGregor, the Secretary of State for Transport, disclosed the track charges for each of the 24 train operating companies which the Government hopes will be franchised out to private operators over the next decade.

Gatwick Express, which is currently the first 'shadow franchise', has been given the cheapest track charge on the whole network, pounds 5.71 per train mile even though it operates between Victoria and Gatwick, one of the busiest lines on the network. This contrasts with other InterCity services which have been charged much more with, for example, pounds 15.50 on the East Coast mainline and pounds 12.94 for both St Pancras services and the West Coast mainline. Even operators of much less used regional services such as those on the North West division of Regional Railways will pay as much as pounds 7 per train mile.

Another line scheduled for early privatisation, South Western Lines, has been given the cheapest charges of all Network SouthEast lines.

Roger Ford, technical editor of Modern Railways, said: 'According to my calculations, Gatwick Express is the only line which, on paper, looks cheaper to operate under the new regime. All other lines have had their costs increased.'

Bob Horton, the chairman of Railtrack which will take over the rail infrastructure on 1 April when BR is broken up ready for privatisation, said track charges reflected a number of factors including cost of power, use of stations and depots, and the effect on the track of trains.