Watchdog scorns rail spending spree

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The Independent Online
PLANS for a 10-year, pounds 17bn spending spree on the nation's railways were attacked by the industry regulator yesterday, writes Randeep Ramesh.

Railtrack, which owns Britain's stations and signalling, published its spending programme, which it described as "a blueprint to regenerate the railways".

But John Swift QC, the regulator, said the programme contained "very few firm commitments to deliver significant improvements" for passengers and freight customers, and he launched an immediate investigation into the "commitments" to passengers.

Mr Swift said he would find out if train operators thought Railtrack's management statement met their needs. He received strong backing from the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, who welcomed Mr Swift's action.

Industry observers say the plans contain little new money for the network.