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Railtrack spend exaggerated - Morton

RAILTRACK'S £27bn investment programme was called into question by chairman of the shadow Strategic Rail Authority Sir Alastair Morton this week.

Speaking at the Institution of Civil Engineers' Annual Dinner last Thursday, Morton claimed the figure published by Railtrack in last month's Network Management Statement should really only be 'somewhere between £10bn and £20bn'.

The former Eurotunnel chairman said the £6.5bn earmarked for maintenance in the NMS did not count as new investment as it was merely the 'small change of operating costs in heavy industry.'

Neither could renewal spending that failed to enhance the railway system be counted as new investment, he added.

'The first independent test of 'renewal' investment has to be whether it genuinely assures us that something new, up to date and efficient will be coming into the system - something recognised as modern good practice.

'If some renewal expenditure fails that primary test of more quantity and quality, let's take it off the table and back into the maintenance category, treating it as operating expense, not investment,' he said.

During his 17-minute speech Morton told the 800-strong audience that the task of regenerating Britain's railways would take 'at least a decade'. He emphasised that investment would be the key.

But a Railtrack spokesman told NCE: 'No matter how you look at the breakdown of the £27bn, it is still the biggest ever spend since Brunel and anybody in the industry has to consider that a good thing.'

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