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Network Rail waits on news of cash boost

NETWORK RAIL will find out next month whether the Rail Regulator will consider giving it more money to upgrade the nation's rail system.

Railtrack successor Network Rail has committed to upgrade the current system with a massive maintenance and renewals programme.

It estimates that over the next 18 months its total outlay on maintenance, operations and renewals will be £13.7bn, 17% more than estimated by Rail Regulator Tom Winsor in October 2000 (NCE 26 October 2000).

The Regulator's office spent last month collecting evidence to determine whether an interim review will be granted.

Evidence gathering from the industry, including Network Rail, was completed by 12 August . The new operator wants to have a new financial framework in place by March 2004 and hopes any review would be complete by then.

Although Network Rail has not officially yet requested a review, the Regulator initiated the consultation because of the changes the industry has undergone since Railtrack went in to administration.

The October 2000 Hatfield crash, and the subsequent realisation that the network was in a much worse state than previously thought, have led to the increased projections.

Network Rail is expected to take over Railtrack by early October. It expects to take 18 months to get to grips with Railtrack's finances and work out why costs on major projects like the West Coast Main Line have increased so much.

Steve Turner INFOPLUS www. /rail

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