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Morton accuses Railtrack of poor project management

RAILTRACK IS failing to manage its projects effectively and is weak at long term planning, shadow Strategic Rail Authority chairman Sir Alastair Morton said this week.

In an interview published in NCE's sSRA supplement he questions Railtrack's decision to assign so many of its senior managers to the West Coast Main Line upgrade when it has appointed outside programme managers for the project.

'Of the top 13 people on the West Coast Main Line, 12 were from Railtrack. How many project teams can Railtrack put together with 12 out of 13 people? How many people has it got available to do that?' he said.

Morton also criticises the way Railtrack puts together its Network Management Statement. 'I'm not happy that once a year Railtrack starts from nothing and writes a document. This year's isn't a complete document.

'Railtrack is supposed to set out its stall based on its understanding of what its users and funders want. This year it says the NMS is a menu of things it can do and it is up to its customers to pick what they want. This is not the right answer.'

Morton also repeats his call for Railtrack to use specially set- up companies to finance and carry out rail infrastructure work. Railtrack has opposed this on the grounds that it will confuse ownership of the rail network, affecting safety.

'It doesn't matter how many owners we have, ' said Morton. But he adds that ultimately Railtrack will be in control of the whole network, even if other companies are put in charge of upgrades.

Morton added that Railtrack was unable to finance its planned investment programme on its own even though its strong balance sheet enabled it to borrow more cheaply than other investors.

'Yes, corporate debt costs less than project debt because it depends on the risks against which the project debt is made - but not a lot less, ' he said.

Railtrack fined record £10M for train delays

RAILTRACK FACES a massive £10M fine after failing to meet targets for reducing train delays.

Figures published last week show that the track operator had reduced delays by 10%. But this was below the 12.7% target set by Rail Regulator Tom Winsor.

The fine - potentially the biggest in UK corporate history - represents £4M for each percentage point by which it missed the target.

Railtrack appealed against the fine regime in January, and described the fine as disproportionate. No date has been set for the hearing.

Railtrack operating statistics also showed:

A decrease in the number of trains passing signals at danger of 12.2% to 595

Less train delays in six out of its seven operating zones although the London north east zone showed a two per cent increase in delays

Railtrack investment up to £2bn last year

A 15% drop in temporary speed restrictions.

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