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IN: Morton at the throttle

INDUSTRY HARD-HITTER Sir Alastair Morton was drafted in this week to head up the Government's new strategic rail watchdog.

Following wide leaking of the appointment, the former co-chairman of Eurotunnel and ex-chairman of the Private Finance Panel was named chairman of the British Railways Board at the Government's Rail Summit.

Morton will lead the shadow Strategic Rail Authority, due to be created on 1 April by merging the BRB, Office of the Passenger Rail Franchising Director and the consumer affairs element of the Office of the Rail Regulator.

He will oversee development of the rail industry and will have powers to act as an 'operator of last resort' should any of the train operating franchises fail. He will also be given tougher powers to fine operators not meeting service and punctuality targets under new legislation expected this summer.

Speaking at the summit, Morton warned that the industry needed better management and heavy investment from Railtrack and the train operators.

'This is about entering into a public private partnership,' he said.

See Analysis page 10

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