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Regulator targets broken rails

RAIL REGULATOR Tom Winsor this week gave Railtrack £150M to tackle broken rails on the network but only demanded that numbers fall by 20% over five years from 2001.

Winsor also promised to pay Railtrack a bonus if it beats the target of reducing the number of breaks to 615 by 2006. This will earn Railtrack more than £1M for every broken rail below the target.

But under the plan agreed with the regulator, Railtrack will also have to reduce broken rail numbers from 917 last year to 765 by next April - a reduction of 17% in just 12 months.

Winsor hopes the incentives will remove the need for him to fine the track operator for failing to act. But Railtrack still faces an £80,000 fine for every break short of the target.

The targets were revealed this week in the regulator's periodic review. This sets out a projected spend of £14.9bn over the next five years from next April and outlines how much Railtrack can earn from passenger operations.

Winsor has earmarked £3.5bn for track renewal and maintenance, £4bn for signalling and £500M for the train protection and warning system.

Railtrack welcomed the report and said the regulator had 'listened to our concerns in a number of areas.'

The report shows that Winsor compromised over broken rail targets by setting an initial target of 765 for 2000/01. This figure is lower than the 811 put forward recently by Railtrack, but higher than January's target of 700 .

Railtrack's failure to address its broken rail problem prompted Winsor to appoint American research company Transportation Technology Centre last August to examine its procedures.

If TTCI indicates further reductions in broken rail numbers can be achieved at a lower cost, the proposed figures could still be reviewed.

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