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Railtrack rejects in house maintenance

RAILTRACK IS planning to take a more hands on track inspection role but is 'unlikely' to bring maintenance in house, the track operator told MPs last week.

Speaking to the Commons transport sub-committee, new chief executive Steve Marshall answered calls made by the Rail Maritime & Transport Workers Union general secretary Jimmy Knapp last week to bring maintenance in house.

These follow last month's Hatfield derailment which killed four people (NCE 23 November).

Marshall said: 'We are going to have a hard look at maintenance and renewal of track arrangements. We could take everything back in house but I personally think that is very unlikely.'

He added that it was more likely Railtrack would take control of inspection, involving recruiting hundreds of civil engineers.

Lord Berkeley, director of freight lobby organisation Rail Freight Group, told the committee that rail safety would be improved by splitting Railtrack into seven separate regional companies.

He said: 'At the moment the Rail Regulator has very few powers apart from fining Railtrack or closing it down, in which case the network would be closed down. If there were six or seven pieces they would know it was possible to have their licence taken away. We would need a new safety authority to sort out co-ordination. A similar thing happened in the gas industry. I think it could be done voluntarily with the right persuasion.'

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