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Coucher sets out vision at Scott Wilson lecture

Network Rail will deliver the government's railway spending shopping list, its chief executive Iain Coucher told a meeting at the ICE last month.

He also set out the company's commitment to training in a speech at the ICE in London.

At a packed Telford theatre, Coucher was the speaker at Scott Wilson's third annual transport lecture, chaired by Geoff French.

Coucher went over some of the projects Network Rail is developing to meet rapidly increasing demand.

He said Network Rail would meet the demands of the government's 2009–2014, High-Level Output Specification, published this summer.

Network Rail's Strategic Business Plan, published earlier this month, is said to be a little more expensive than the government has allowed for. The Office of Rail Regulation is going over Network Rail's plan to see whether it can indeed do what the government wants with the available money.

"There is a mismatch, but it is there or therebouts," he told the audience. "We expect debt to grow from £18.9bn now to £34bn or £35bn. We will raise much of that without Government help. It is an issue to resolve," he said.

He also said that Network Rail would like to upgrade much of the track to tougher slab track. "While the inital outlay is greater, slab track will pay for itself over time," he said.

Coucher also outlined Network Rail's commitment to training, and said he would like to employ "200 or 300 graduates per year, which is an investment, even if they do not stay working for us, they will most likely stay within the industry".

He also praised Network Rail's apprentice scheme at Gosport.

"In three years, 750 new engineers and technicians have gone onto our books. These are our future," he said.

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