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Possession charges unfair, says Railtrack

HIGH COMPENSATION charges paid by Railtrack to the train operating companies could lead to improvement contracts being 'inoperable', Railtrack director for network development Robin Gisby said this week.

The charges, paid when Railtrack takes possession of sections of track to carry out work, can add millions of pounds to contact costs and could prove a deterrent to future works, he said.

Rules governing how much can be charged are set by track access agreements with the Rail Regulator.

Final figures are negotiated though the train operating companies who can waive them if they wish.

If Railtrack overruns on works and causes train delays it has to pay compensation to the TOCs. However, Gisby said he found it unacceptable that possessions booked months in advance cost the company millions each year.

Compensation charges to various operators for the recent remodelling works at London's Euston station and at Proof House junction in Birmingham have run into tens of millions of pounds.

However, Virgin Trains chief executive Chris Green said that while he had sympathy for Railtrack, Virgin had already been 'generous'.

Train operators, he said 'have a big loss of income', during possessions and so had a right to claim.

Gisby said he thought the industry had to choose between 'short sharp shock' possessions, such as those used at Proof House, whereby engineers got a 19 day complete shutdown, or 'drip feeding' like at Euston.

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