Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Sixth Report


The Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee has agreed to the following Report:—



1. In May 2000, the Transport Sub-committee decided that it would undertake a major inquiry into rail investment. Our decision was made in the context of the publication of Railtrack's 2000 Network Management Statement for Great Britain[3] and a National Audit Office report on the effectiveness of the Office of the Rail Regulator.[4] The two documents together describe in detail Railtrack's past and planned investment in the renewal, maintenance and development of the national rail network. In deciding to conduct the inquiry we were also mindful of the then on-going review by the Rail Regulator of track access charges paid by train operating companies to Railtrack,[5] the process of re-franchising passenger rail services being carried out by the shadow Strategic Rail Authority,[6] and the forthcoming announcement of the Government's Ten Year Plan for Transport.[7]

2. We therefore agreed that "with reference to the 2000 Network Management Statement for Great Britain and the recent Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General on Ensuring that Railtrack maintain and renew the rail network, the Transport Sub-committee will examine the renewal, maintenance and development of rail infrastructure in the United Kingdom. It will do so by considering particularly Railtrack's past performance in renewing, maintaining and developing the national rail network, and the likely impact of its plans for the future; the adequacy of the oversight exercised in the past by the Office of the Rail Regulator of Railtrack's performance, its contribution to the development of Railtrack's future plans with particular reference to the review of track access charges, and the means by which the Office of the Rail Regulator intends to ensure that Railtrack in future honours its commitments; and what role should be played by the (currently shadow) Strategic Rail Authority in the renewal, maintenance and development of the rail network both directly and by securing investment from sources other than Railtrack, including from train operating companies through the franchise replacement process. In addition, the Sub-committee will consider what criteria the Authority is using to decide on the replacement of franchises".[8]

3. We invited written evidence from interested parties, and received twenty-five memoranda. We then took oral evidence in July from Railtrack, the Association of Train Operating Companies, the shadow Strategic Rail Authority and the Rail Regulator.[9] We also took evidence from Lord Macdonald, the Minister for Transport, on the Government's Ten Year Plan for Transport once the Plan had been announced.[10] Over the Summer recess we invited further written evidence, particularly to take account of the Ten Year Plan and the conclusions of the track access charges review, announced by the Rail Regulator in October. As a result we received a further eighteen memoranda, and took oral evidence on a further five occasions, from the Association of Train Operating Companies, Railtrack, the shadow Strategic Rail Authority and the Rail Regulator for a second time, and from the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) Union, the Passenger Transport Executive Group, the Rail Freight Group, and Lord Macdonald and officials from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.[11] In addition to our evidence, we were helped throughout by our specialist adviser, Mr Chris Bolt, the former Rail Regulator. We are most grateful to him, to those who submitted written and oral evidence, and to all who otherwise assisted us in our inquiry.

4. During our inquiry, on 17 October 2000, there was a serious accident on the East Coast Main Line at Hatfield. The crash was followed by an assessment of the state of the rail network, and the institution by Railtrack of a programme to repair parts of it. That programme is continuing still. As our inquiry progressed, and we took further oral evidence, we attempted to take account of developments since the Hatfield crash, and we have commented on those developments in this Report. Inevitably, therefore, we have given a great deal of attention to the maintenance of the railway, the means by which such maintenance has been managed and carried out, and the improvements proposed for the future. On 1 November we invited the then Chief Executive of Railtrack to give evidence specifically about the Hatfield accident and Railtrack's immediate response to it:[12] our conclusions about those matters were published in our Report on Recent Events on the Railway.[13] That Report is intended to complement what we say in this Report about Railtrack and its record of maintaining, renewing and improving the national rail network. As we prepared our Report, on 28 February 2001, there was another major rail accident, on the East Coast Main Line near Selby. We have not taken evidence about that accident, and do not refer to it in the remainder of this Report.

The state of the network


5. Before it was restructured in the run-up to privatisation, the British Railways Board (hereinafter 'British Rail') was charged with providing "railway services in Great Britain and such other services and facilities as appear to the Board to be expedient, having due regard to the efficiency, economy and safety of operation".[14] In short British Rail was solely responsible for all aspects of railway operations in Great Britain: it was the operator of passenger and freight rail services and the provider of the railway infrastructure, responsible for the maintenance, renewal and development of the track, signalling, power supply, stations and so on. It also provided other services: British Rail Maintenance Limited, headquartered in Derby, carried out overhauls and repairs to British Rail's locomotives and rolling stock, and another subsidiary, Transmark, acted as a consultant to projects being carried out by foreign railway companies and others.[15] In 1990, British Rail employed more than 136,000 staff, the vast majority in the company's rail and corporate activities, and its turnover was £3,777 million. Annual Government grant to the industry was approximately £700 million.[16]

6. British Rail's Organising for Quality process, undertaken between 1990 and 1992, led to a significant restructuring of the company in the run-up to privatisation. The process aimed to give "managers ownership and bottom-line responsibility for the assets they use and moves responsibility for decision-making as close as possible to the customer".[17] Three passenger rail businesses were established: Intercity, Network SouthEast and Regional Railways. Each business was then further divided: Intercity into five 'routes', Network SouthEast into nine divisions, and Regional Railways into five regions, a structure still recognisable in the current system of rail passenger franchises.[18] The new organisation ended the division of the network into six geographical regions,[19] and transferred ownership of trains, stations, track and signalling to the new passenger rail businesses. The parcels business and the rail freight businesses were also restructured, and a number of central divisions were established to support the new group of businesses under the 'umbrella' of the British Railways Board.[20]


7. During the next three years British Rail continued to prepare for transfer to the private sector, following the framework provided by the Railways Act 1993.[21] The Act envisaged further restructuring of British Rail, including the separation of the railway infrastructure from the operation of passenger and freight train services. Regulation of the railway would be carried out by a new Rail Regulator, responsible for licensing all those involved in the railway, in accordance with public interest duties which included protecting the interests of users of railway services, promoting the use of the railway network for the carriage of passengers and goods, and the development of the network, to the greatest extent economically practicable, enabling persons providing railway services to plan the future of their business with a reasonable degree of assurance, and imposing on the operators of railway services the minimum restrictions consistent with the performance of the Regulator's functions.[22] The Act also established a Franchising Director, charged with letting time-limited franchises to those wishing to operate most passenger rail services, and with disbursing subsidies to them for doing so.[23] In addition, the Act set out a framework through which train operating companies could make arrangements with the owner of the rail infrastructure for the use of the network, and for payments to be made to the infrastructure owner in return.[24]

8. On 1 April 1994, Intercity, Network SouthEast and Regional Railways ceased to exist as single units. Passenger rail services became the direct responsibility of twenty-five train operating units: over the following few years each unit was operated as a shadow franchise, before finally being offered for sale by the Franchising Director. Ownership of domestic passenger trains and rolling stock was transferred from the passenger rail units to three rolling stock leasing companies (ROSCOs), which were eventually separated from British Rail in 1995 and sold.[25] Ownership of the track, signalling and freeholds of stations, other buildings and operational land were transferred to a new public-sector company, Railtrack.[26] The licence to operate the railway network granted to Railtrack by the Secretary of State for Transport under the Railways Act 1993 also came into force at the same time.[27] As well as taking responsibility for more than 19,000 miles of track and associated signalling and electrical control equipment, providing a network of almost 10,000 miles, Railtrack also took ownership of bridges, tunnels and viaducts, level crossings and light maintenance depots, as well as connections to more than 1,000 freight terminals.[28] The company also owned 2,500 stations which, with the exception of fourteen major stations, it has since leased to train operating companies.[29] The company was sold through a public flotation in May 1996: at that time, its annual turnover was £2,300 million, and it employed 11,340 staff.[30]

9. Freight services, which had already been restructured, were also privatised. The three train-load freight units[31] were sold in February 1996, and eventually amalgamated as English Welsh and Scottish Railway (EWS). Later in 1996 EWS purchased Rail Express Systems Limited, the division which dealt with mail for the Post Office,[32] and in 1997 it purchased Railfreight Distribution, the business which dealt with international rail freight through the Channel Tunnel.[33] Red Star Parcels Limited was sold off in 1995,[34] and Freightliner, which carried containers by rail, was privatised as an independent company in May 1996.[35] British Rail's heavy maintenance depots, which provided the ROSCOs with heavy maintenance services, were sold off between April and June 1995,[36] and other subsidiaries which provided services as diverse as training, engineering services, project management, information technology maintenance, and a range of consultancy services, were disposed of, mainly between July 1995 and March 1997.[37] In all, British Rail was split into more than a hundred different companies, most of which were then transferred to new private sector owners.[38]

Privatisation of the maintenance and renewal companies

10. At the time of privatisation, Railtrack said that its aim was to provide a "safe, modern and efficient railway which not only meets but anticipates the needs of our customers".[39] To do so it would be required to maintain, renew and develop the railway infrastructure. However, it was not intended that Railtrack would carry out such work itself: instead, it had long been envisaged that "much of the work involved in operating, developing and maintaining the infrastructure will be contracted out".[40] Initially, track, signalling, electrification and plant maintenance and renewal work was carried out under contract to the company by fourteen geographically-based infrastructure service units which had not been transferred to Railtrack but instead continued to be owned by British Rail.[41] Improvement, development and enhancement work would, it was thought, be carried out under contracts let for each specific project.

11. On 1 April 1995 the infrastructure service units were restructured into British Rail Infrastructure Services, which comprised seven Infrastructure Maintenance Units and six Track Renewal Units, as well as a number of design offices. At that time British Rail Infrastructure Services had a total workforce of 25,204 and a turnover of £1,129 million.[42] The relationship between Railtrack and the Maintenance and Renewal Units was then formalised in a series of contracts which encompassed, amongst other requirements, the Train Performance Scheme agreed between Railtrack and British Rail Infrastructure Services. Contracts between the Units and other companies within the rail industry were also signed. In all, more than two thousand formal agreements were made,[43] before the Infrastructure Maintenance Units and Track Renewal Units were sold between February and July 1996.[44]

Table: Maintenance Contracts up to March 2001 by Zone and Region[45]
  Zone  Region   Rail Maintenance Company
ScotlandNorth, East and Central

West and South West

First Engineering Limited

First Engineering Limited

North WestPreston


Liverpool and North Wales


GTRM Limited

First Engineering Limited

Jarvis Rail Limited

Jarvis Rail Limited

London North EasternEast Coast Main Line - North

East Coast Main Line - South


Balfour Beatty Rail Maintenance Ltd.

Balfour Beatty Rail Maintenance Ltd.

Jarvis Rail Limited

MidlandsW. Coast Main Line - Central

W. Coast Main Line - South

W. Midlands and Cambrian

East Midlands


GTRM Limited

GTRM Limited

GTRM Limited


Amey Rail Limited

East AngliaGreat Eastern


London Tilbury and Southend

West Anglia

North London Line

Balfour Beatty Rail Maintenance Ltd.

GTRM Limited

Balfour Beatty Rail Maintenance Ltd.

AMEC Rail Limited

AMEC Rail Limited

Great WesternGloucester


South Wales



GTRM Limited

GTRM Limited

GTRM Limited

Amey Rail Limited

Amey Rail Limited




Balfour Beatty Rail Maintenance Ltd.

Balfour Beatty Rail Maintenance Ltd.

AMEC Rail Limited

12. The seven Infrastructure Maintenance Units were sold to six main buyers,[46] which inherited the contracts agreed with Railtrack to undertake maintenance work in specific geographical areas based on the old British Rail zones. The maintenance contracts were actually based on thirty-five smaller regions within the seven zones:[47] over time contracts have been transferred or given up and re-let, so that companies now rarely have responsibility for maintenance across whole zones (see above). Maintenance companies are required to inspect the railway in their contracted regions, and where necessary repair the permanent way, signalling, electrification equipment, operational telecommunication equipment and lineside assets. The objective of such maintenance is to enable Railtrack to "provide consistent and reliable train paths to ... customers".[48] The original maintenance contracts (known as RT1a contracts) were let for between five and seven years. As they have come up for renewal, there have been further transfers between companies.[49]

13. Infrastructure renewal companies are contracted to Railtrack on a geographical basis similar to that for the maintenance companies. Rather than maintaining existing assets, renewal companies are called in to replace assets which have reached the end of their useful life, or to make replacements which will bring improved performance to the network.[50] Thus, for example, in 1999 Railtrack reported that it had sought to target renewals at 200 or so critical locations which would "have the greatest impact on train performance".[51] Seven companies are currently under contract to Railtrack to provide renewals.[52]


Arrangements to manage maintenance, renewal and development

14. Since the privatisation of the maintenance and renewal companies, works on the railway network have been carried out by them under contract to Railtrack. Similarly, development and enhancement works have been undertaken by companies specifically contracted to do so. Railtrack's role has been, as was envisaged before privatisation, has been to manage the process through its oversight of contractual arrangements with those working on the railway, ensuring that they meet set quality standards, and are competent and safe.[53] It does so through the 'cascade model': contractors are required to demonstrate to Railtrack that they have put in place management structures and developed a safety case which will ensure that they operate competently and safely. They are also required to monitor their own performance. The contractors in turn are expect to ensure that their sub-contractors put in place similar contractual arrangements.[54]

15. Thus what Railtrack acknowledges[55] is its sole responsibility for ensuring that infrastructure works are carried out, for their quality, and for safety standards on the network 'cascades' down through the system to contractors and sub-contractors.[56] In addition, Railtrack is expected to verify the quality and safety of its contractors through 'end product' checks, random and periodic site visits and safety management system reviews, as well as undertaking safety audits.[57] In its evidence to our inquiry into Railway Safety in 1998, Railtrack argued that the structure of contracts and safety cases, coupled with Railtrack's checking and auditing systems provided "an open and effective framework within which it is not necessary to 'second guess' those who are mutually committed to achieve safe operation".[58]

The contractual and regulatory framework

16. The structure put in place by privatisation meant that Railtrack's investment decisions could be formally influenced in a number of ways. First, Railtrack is contractually committed to enable the train operating companies to achieve better performance.[59] Second, as has been said, Railtrack is subject to regulation under the Railways Act 1993, on the grounds that it was "established by and on behalf of the State to own and to be responsible for the care and development of the nation's railway infrastructure which is largely funded by the State or other public authorities ... Regulation is here to ensure that the railway network works in the public interest. It has a particularly important role to play in respect of Railtrack's investment in the renewal and development of the nation's railway infrastructure - its stewardship responsibilities".[60] Therefore the Network Licence granted to Railtrack in 1994, overseen by the Rail Regulator, places duties on the company in respect of investment in the railway network.[61] Third, Railtrack's investment decisions, and particularly its practices, are affected by the fact that it is overseen, on safety grounds, by HM Railway Inspectorate, now part by the Health and Safety Executive, which seeks to control risks to the health and safety of employees, passengers and others affected by the operation of the railway.[62]

17. In the years since privatisation, changes have been made to the regulatory framework within which decisions are made. Most important was the revision of Condition 7 of the Network Licence in 1997, which followed the Rail Regulator's announcement in May of that year that he had begun negotiations with Railtrack with a view to "strengthening its existing contractual and licence obligations to ensure it achieves three key purposes: timely maintenance of the railway network; timely renewal and replacement of the network in modern equivalent form; and improvement, enhancement and development of the network".[63] The Regulator said that contracts between Railtrack and train operating companies were not strong enough in relation to investment, since "they do not guarantee that train operators get the modern equivalent railway that they and the Government (and Passenger Transport Authorities) are paying for [and], in part because most contracts are relatively short-term, they do not provide sufficient incentives for required long term enhancement of the nation's railway infrastructure".[64]

18. For that reason the Network Licence was seen to be "of critical importance",[65] allowing the Rail Regulator to influence Railtrack's investment decisions on public interest grounds. Condition 7 of the original Network Licence required Railtrack to "prepare and publish annually in a form, and covering a period, approved by the Regulator a statement showing projections of future network capacity requirements, planned modifications to Railtrack's network and the method proposed for financing such requirements and modifications within Railtrack's overall financial framework".[66] In other words, Railtrack was obliged to go beyond the requirements of its contracts with the train operating companies and publish its plans to deliver on its investment and stewardship role, according to a form determined by the Regulator. This statement is called the Network Management Statement.[67]

19. The 1997 Network Management Statement set out plans for the renewal and development of the railway network, and detailed a higher level of projected expenditure by Railtrack than had originally been planned.[68] Nevertheless, the Regulator concluded that the 1997 Network Management Statement was unsatisfactory because it did not give detailed forecasts of demand to use the network, or of the actions Railtrack is taking to provide capacity to meet those demands, because it did not set out specific action in respect of investment in stations and depots, because its proposals in respect of freight were not detailed enough, and because more positive commitments were needed in respect of network development and enhancement and working with customers over the renewal programme. Moreover, the Regulator observed that there was an outstanding backlog of expenditure on network assets, stations and depots, and that Railtrack's "delivery against its plans to date has been disappointing".[69] Finally, the 1997 Network Management Statement did not set out the results, in terms of improved quality and capability, expected to be delivered by the investment programme: the Regulator argued that Railtrack should "develop measurable benchmarks and targets for what Railtrack should be achieving".[70]

20. In short, the Regulator concluded, "at present Railtrack's obligations under its Licence Condition 7 are extremely light",[71] principally because "there is no direct means of ensuring that Railtrack complies with its acknowledged duty to spend the money it receives for investment and to spend these large sums wisely. Assurances that the capital and maintenance programme will be carried out, the more especially when most of the annual expenditure in effect is funded by the State, require something more bankable than the expression of intentions or the short-term pressures to meet contractual obligations".[72] Consequently, with Railtrack's agreement, Condition 7 was revised so that rather than simply being obliged to produce an annual Network Management Statement, Railtrack was required to secure the timely, economic and efficient maintenance, renewal and replacement, and improvement, enhancement and development of the rail network.[73]

21. Another significant development has been the establishment of the Strategic Rail Authority. The new Government elected in May 1997 declared that it intended to create such an Authority "to provide a clear, coherent and strategic programme for the development of the railways",[74] a proposal addressed in our first Report of the current Parliament. The Authority was set up in shadow form in July 1999,[75] taking over the duties and functions of the Office for Passenger Rail Franchising and the residual duties of the British Railways Board.[76] The Authority actually came into being on 1 February 2001, when it began to operate the powers and duties given to it by the Transport Act 2000.[77]

22. The Strategic Rail Authority says that its responsibilities "cover the three sectors of Passenger, Freight and Infrastructure ... the Strategic Rail Authority's key role is to promote and develop the rail network and encourage integration. As well as providing overall strategic direction for Britain's railways, the Strategic Rail Authority has responsibility for consumer protection, administering freight grants and steering forward investment projects aimed at opening up bottlenecks and expanding network capacity. It is also responsible for letting and managing passenger rail franchises".[78] In terms of investment in the rail network, the Authority is concerned with encouraging and enabling enhancement and development, and not with maintenance and renewal, which it says "are funded through access charges, paid by train operators, managed by Railtrack and subject to regulation through licence conditions by the Rail Regulator".[79]

The investment record

23. Track access charges, which are regulated under the Railways Act 1993, provide 90 per cent of Railtrack's revenue.[80] Thus the track access charges regime established by the Regulator is of critical importance in determining that revenue, and therefore the level of investment to be made by the company. In January 1995, the then Rail Regulator set track access charges for the price control period 1995-2001. He allowed £8.6 billion for the maintenance and renewal of the infrastructure over that period, plus an additional £570 million to tackle a backlog of expenditure.[81] The prospectus published to accompany the flotation of Railtrack in 1996 increased that estimate, and indicated that the company would spend £10.5 billion on maintenance and renewal over the period, an average of £1.7 billion each year.[82]

24. Railtrack has told the Rail Regulator that it has in fact spent an average of £2.25 billion each year on maintaining and renewing the network since privatisation. Thus its expenditure has exceeded that allowed for in the 1995 charging review by £2.2 billion, and that expected at the time of flotation by £900 million.[83] The company has also invested in the development and enhancement of the network: of its total expenditure of £3.1 billion in 1998-99, for example, 9 per cent, or £280 million, went to network enhancement. By contrast, 22 per cent (£682 million) was spent on maintenance, and 38 per cent (£1,178 million) on renewals.[84]

25. Nevertheless, although investment in the railway has increased, it is generally accepted that it has not been adequate. Research commissioned by the Office of the Rail Regulator examined Railtrack's performance in the first regulatory control period from privatisation until 2001. Although it found that although Railtrack had spent more money on renewal work than had been expected, there were significant areas of underachievement: in particular, the company's performance in terms of reducing train delays and asset renewal, for example, had generally been below expectations.[85]

26. Moreover, the level of investment by Railtrack must be seen in light of the fact that usage of the network has increased substantially. Between 1995-96 and 1999-2000 the total number of miles covered by passenger trains increased by 10.7 per cent,[86] while the equivalent figure for freight trains was an increase of 19.6 per cent.[87] Those increases, coupled with greater numbers of passengers on each train, and larger average loads, meant that total passenger miles rose by 27 per cent between 1995-96 and 1999, and freight traffic rose by 35 per cent.[88] It is argued that the reason why investment has failed to keep pace with increased usage is because of expectations when the industry was privatised: rather than planning for a bigger and better railway, it was assumed that there would be little, if any, increase in traffic.[89] Railtrack told us that the objective of privatisation was "to maximise proceeds to the Treasury and minimise future subsidy requirements....There was no vision of the size and type of railway the country needed".[90] Railtrack also claimed that the structure put in place from 1995 did not reflect the extent of the investment backlog nor provide the company with adequate incentives to invest in growth and development:[91] from its inception, Railtrack was expected to operate a railway with "static growth".[92] The Chairman of the then shadow Strategic Rail Authority agreed that it was widely believed at the time of privatisation that the railways would not grow significantly. As a consequence, the task facing Railtrack was not perceived as being as big as it is now. Although he did not think that Railtrack was wrong not to have done more during the early years of privatisation, he thought that it could be criticised for not anticipating the pace of the growth that has occurred more recently.[93]

27. The Rail Regulator agreed with Railtrack's assessment. He told us that the "ill-thought through" financial framework put in place at the time of privatisation was deficient, did little to promote investment, and that there was "no specification of what Railtrack had to do for the access charges which it receives and very little was encourage the making of investment".[94] In particular, the incentives given to Railtrack were neither adequate nor properly aligned with those of the train operating companies.[95] As we have described, the only commercial incentives for Railtrack to invest were provisions of the contracts that it held with train operators, which allowed for penalties or bonuses depending on Railtrack's performance in avoiding delays. These contracts were not satisfactorily framed: for example, Railtrack received a £25 million bonus in 1998-99 at a time when it remained responsible for around one-third of the total time that passenger and freight services were being delayed, and when the Regulator was considering enforcement action against Railtrack because it had missed its target for reducing the levels of delays occurring in that year.[96] The Rail Regulator has concluded that "the Network Licence which Railtrack holds is not fit for purpose for a private sector company".[97]

28. The regulatory regime, and the practices of the Regulator since Railtrack was privatised, have been examined by the Comptroller and Auditor General. He found a number of weaknesses, including the failure to specify clearly at the beginning of the first control period what was expected by the company from its maintenance and renewal expenditure, which has meant that it has been difficult to measure what Railtrack has achieved. Railtrack has said that as a result it has found the Rail Regulator's expectations unclear and unpredictable.[98] Another difficulty he uncovered centred on the concept of renewing assets in 'modern equivalent form', since it has not been clear what is meant by the term. Moreover, when new assets have been able to do a better job than those they replace, it is difficult to determine whether the replacement constitutes renewal, which is paid for from existing access charges, or enhancement, for which Railtrack is entitled to charge extra.[99]

29. A third problem identified by the Comptroller and Auditor General has been the lack of a national database detailing the condition of Railtrack's assets. Without such a database it has been difficult to assess the effectiveness of maintenance work, thus undermining Railtrack's management of its contractors. It has also limited the effectiveness of regulation: the Rail Regulator has said that his efforts to reach provisional conclusions about the next control period beginning in April 2001 "have been hindered by difficulties arising from the company's lack of knowledge about the condition of its assets".[100] Railtrack has in the past argued that the Regulator should focus on its performance, in terms of capacity, delays and ride quality, rather than on monitoring the state of the infrastructure directly.[101] The company has now, however, conceded that "at privatisation, Railtrack inherited an asset base which had been neglected for many years and very poor data records, many of which were still paper based":[102] it has now accepted that "its asset knowledge [is] ... unsatisfactory".[103] The advisors to the Rail Regulator, Booz Allen and Hamilton, told the Comptroller and Auditor General that, compared with the water industry which faced similar problems at privatisation, Railtrack has been "very slow in determining the condition of their structural assets and devising suitable measures for them".[104]

30. The fourth concern raised by the Comptroller and Auditor General is related to the quality of the asset database: he said that the Regulator should seek independent verification of the key monitoring data provided to him by Railtrack.[105] The final problem also relates to Railtrack's inadequate knowledge of the state of the railway. Railtrack has said that it intends to change its approach to renewal work, focussing on small-scale renewals of assets according to their condition, rather than more general renewals of large groups of assets based on their age.[106] The Rail Regulator has been concerned, however, that Railtrack's knowledge of its assets is not yet good enough "to allow them to adopt this approach without running the risk of unexpected failures of equipment in service or a decline in the long-term health of the network".[107] In short, improved data is required.

31. The proposals made by the Comptroller and Auditor General to improve the regulation of Railtrack,[108] have been broadly accepted by the Rail Regulator.[109] Some steps have already been taken to improve the situation. For example, Railtrack has already begun to try to improve its knowledge of its asset base.[110] One step it has taken has been to institute a review of its asset management activities, and to seek to increase the quantity and quality of information that it holds. Another step has been to introduce new 'IMC2000' contracts which require the rail maintenance contractors to provide a great deal more information about the railway, unlike the "old RT1A contracts ... [which] did not provide us with full access to the key data necessary for effective asset management".[111] Railtrack's efforts are to be built on by the Rail Regulator, who has proposed amendments to the conditions of the Network Licence, which will require the creation of a proper asset database, the establishment of a system of independent reporters to provide information to the Rail Regulator, and other changes to the way in which the condition of the railway is monitored.[112] Moreover, as we describe below, the track access charges review recently concluded by the Regulator has sought to establish better definition and monitoring of what Railtrack is expected to achieve, improved accountability of Railtrack to the Regulator and its customers, improved incentives for Railtrack to deliver a better railway, and greater transparency and stability in the regulatory framework.[113]

32. Although there are welcome signs that the regulatory framework in which Railtrack operates is being tightened, it remains the case that the regulation of Railtrack since its privatisation has not been adequate, considering the significant growth in passenger and freight traffic following privatisation. The regulatory regime set up at the time of privatisation was not intended to deal with a growing railway, and consequently has failed to ensure that Railtrack has delivered what has been required of it by train operators, passengers and the wider public during a period of growth. An example of the weakness of the regulatory regime is its failure to ensure that Railtrack had adequate knowledge of the condition of its assets. Without such knowledge it is difficult to know how Railtrack was supposed to manage its assets properly, or how the Regulator was to oversee investment by the company. Moreover, the actions of the Regulator were for a long time half-hearted and ineffectual: we welcome recent signs of a more vigorous approach.

Delays on the network

33. Weaknesses in the financial structure of the railway have contributed to increasing problems of congestion as traffic has grown on the network. Railtrack told us that a one per cent increase in passenger miles leads to 2½ per cent increase in delays to services:[114] both the total number of passenger train miles and freight tonne miles have, as we have seen, increased substantially. In 1998-99, Railtrack was found to be responsible for 46 per cent of passenger train delays (around seventy seconds per train), and 13 per cent of freight train delays (around four minutes per train). Railtrack was responsible for 8.6 million minutes delay to all trains, approximately one-third of the total.[115] Of those delays attributable to Railtrack, 70 per cent resulted from maintenance and renewal problems, such as track circuit failures, points failures, temporary speed restrictions resulting from the condition of the track, and broken rails and other track faults.[116]

34. Other delays result from a failure to enhance and improve the network in order to eliminate long-running causes of delays. There are particular problems with bottlenecks, or pinch-points, where infrastructure constraints cause endemic delays: fifteen such points were identified in the Integrated Transport White Paper, including problems on the West Coast Main Line, the East Coast Main Line and the Great Western Main Line, as well as on the approaches to major stations in London, Glasgow, Birmingham and Leeds.[117] Such problems can only be addressed through substantial programmes of investment, such as has been carried out in recent months at Leeds Station,[118] and is being carried out on the West Coast Main Line.[119]

35. Railtrack included in the 1998 Network Management Statement targets to reduce delays to train services: these, the Regulator told us, were considered by his predecessor to be inadequate.[120] Subsequently it was agreed that Railtrack would reduce delays for which it was responsible to passenger and freight trains by 7.5 per cent by 31 March 1999. Whilst the company met the freight target, it did not achieve that for passenger trains: delays to passenger train movements fell by just 2.2 per cent. In the interim Railtrack had set a target in the 1999 Network Management Statement for further reductions of 7.5 per cent in 1999-2000, and 5 per cent in 2000-2001.[121] The Rail Regulator told Railtrack that he expected the company both to meet its new target, and to make up the shortfall from the year before by 31 March 2000 (a cumulative reduction in delays to passenger trains of 12.7 per cent).[122] When Railtrack refused to commit to meeting this target, the Regulator made an enforcement order requiring Railtrack to meet it, subject to a penalty of £4 million for each percentage point by which it failed to do so. Railtrack has subsequently challenged this enforcement order in the courts,[123] although it later abandoned its legal challenge. It has been estimated that Railtrack in fact managed to reduce those delays attributable to it by around ten per cent by the end of March 2000.[124]

36. Even before the Regulator took action, the proportion of delays to trains attributable to Railtrack had already begun to decline. In the 2000 Network Management Statement the company pointed out that although it remains responsible for more than 40 per cent of all delays to trains, its share has fallen to that level from more than 70 per cent at the time of privatisation.[125] Cancellations attributable to maintenance and renewal problems, too, have fallen from 41,500 in 1995-96 to 20,500 in 1998-99.[126] Nevertheless, it is acknowledged that the company could do more: for example, Railtrack itself says that it anticipates an average annual reduction of 2.5 per cent in delays attributable to it between 2000-2001 and 2005-2006.[127]

The state of the track

37. One cause of delays, and a risk to the safety of passengers and others on the railway, is the quality of the track. Following a number of derailments, including that at Bexley in 1997,[128] HM Railway Inspectorate undertook a major assessment of track quality on the national rail network. It concluded that track quality was worsening. The quality of the track on 45 per cent of the network was found to be unchanged: 33 per cent was deteriorating, and only 22 per cent improving. The Inspectorate argued that safety would be affected if the overall deterioration was not reversed.[129] In addition, the Health and Safety Executive was increasingly worried by the number of broken rails on the network. The number of broken rails reported rose from 656 in 1994-95 to a provisional total of 945 in 1999-2000: in 1998-99, 973 incidents had been recorded. The Executive said that the figure was "unacceptably high"and "a significant cause for concern".[130] The Rail Regulator also examined the matter,[131] and the research he commissioned concluded that Railtrack appeared to perform "significantly worse" than other passenger railways in terms of the number of broken rails removed per year per track mile and at a level similar that of typical North American freight railways which carry much heavier axle loads.[132]

38. Railtrack has also been criticised by English Welsh and Scottish Railway (EWS), which has expressed concern that Railtrack has not introduced rail used by railways adopting international standards of best practice, which would last longer and require fewer repairs. EWS contended that using rail that was best suited to British traffic conditions would reduce by 93 per cent the instance of defects that lead to broken rails. The company was very concerned at the growing number of weight and speed restrictions that were being imposed by Railtrack as the freight infrastructure deteriorated. EWS estimated that the speed restrictions were costing the company up to £8 million per annum.[133]

39. The decline in track quality has been attributed to the unprecedented number of trains running on the network. This increase in the number caused the infrastructure to degrade more quickly and to require earlier renewal than originally anticipated.[134] The present Rail Regulator agreed that track quality had declined before privatisation, but pointed out that there had been little sign of improvement until his predecessor took action in July 1998,[135] when he reached an agreement with Railtrack that the condition of the track should be restored to its 1994 level by April 2000 where maintenance was required, and by April 2001 where renewal was needed.[136] Railtrack has now said that because of the unprecedented number of trains running on its network, its assets have degraded more quickly and require earlier renewal than originally anticipated. It introduced a major track quality improvement programme in May 1999, which included additional maintenance and ultrasonic testing amongst other measures.[137] The company told us prior to the Hatfield accident that it intended to restore track quality to 1994 levels by 2001, and said that it was within 1.2 per cent of its 2001 target.[138]

40. Railtrack has also taken specific action to deal with the problem of broken rails.[139] When he appeared before us in June 2000, the then Chief Executive of Railtrack, Gerald Corbett, reported that in the first three months of 2000 the number of broken rails had been reduced by more than 20 per cent.[140] Nevertheless, as the Regulator told us, it is "very regrettable" that Railtrack allowed the quality of the network to deteriorate to such an extent: if the company had "spent wisely and well and in a timely manner, then these problems would not have occurred".[141] Moreover, the Health and Safety Executive has raised concerns about the priorities set by the track quality improvement programme, which it fears might distract Railtrack and its contractors from ensuring that preventative track maintenance is undertaken.[142]

Railtrack's record on maintenance and renewal

41. Thus the question of whether or not the delivery of investment in maintenance and renewal of the railway network since its privatisation has been acceptable was a matter of some contention. Railtrack argued that by 2001 it has spent considerably more on rail maintenance and renewals than was expected at the time of its privatisation. It also pointed to its apparent successes in reducing the proportion of delays to trains attributable to it, in improving the quality of the track by, for example, reducing the number of broken rails, and in improving its knowledge of the condition of its assets. Moreover, Railtrack put its record in context. It said that it had taken over an infrastructure which had suffered from long-term under-investment under British Rail: between 1982 and 1995, investment in the railways in the United Kingdom was 0.12 per cent of gross domestic product in the United Kingdom, compared to an average of 0.25 per cent across Europe.[143] The company also pointed out that there had been a significant increase in usage of the railway since privatisation, compared to a decline in its use before.[144] The then Chief Executive of Railtrack told us that "we have ... delivered a bigger, better railway ... we have delivered output way ahead of what we were set up to deliver and way ahead of what we were funded to deliver".[145]

42. Railtrack's view conflicts with that of the Rail Regulator. He told us that he does "not believe that Railtrack provided all the outputs for which it was paid over the last five years ... I have been advised that, on track and signalling, Railtrack has not delivered what might reasonably have been expected".[146] He suggested that Railtrack had not been very efficient, and that its spending on maintenance and renewals had not necessarily been well directed.[147] Even before the Hatfield crash track quality had declined sharply, the number of broken rails has, until recently, increased markedly, and speed restrictions imposed have increased. It has also been reported that the Chief Inspector of Railways is concerned about the state of bridges, embankments and track beds across the network.[148] Railtrack has undoubtedly spent a great deal of money on the maintenance and renewal of the rail network since privatisation. It has faced the problems of historic under-investment in the railways in the United Kingdom, and greatly increased rail passenger and freight traffic following privatisation. Nevertheless, we note that track quality had been shown to have deteriorated even before the inspections of the network which followed the Hatfield crash. We therefore agree with the Rail Regulator's assessment, that Railtrack has not maintained and renewed the network to a standard which could reasonably be expected of it. Its past record is simply not acceptable.

Safety of staff working on the railway

43. It is, however, important to find a balance between requiring Railtrack to improve its record in rail maintenance and renewals and ensuring that the company reduce delays as much as possible. A desire to maintain operational capacity can reduce opportunities for carrying out maintenance, and can lead to more work being done between train movements in order to avoid line closures. This places maintenance staff at greater risk.[149] Finding the right balance is always difficult, but the problem has been particularly severe during the national rail recovery programme. The RMT agreed that track workers are finding it increasingly difficult to gain completely safe access to the railway, when the movement of trains has been stopped (known as 'green zone' working). Instead, tasks are being undertaken while services are running ('red zone' working) and this leaves staff reliant on the traditional 'lookout' system to warn them of the need to move out of the path of oncoming trains.[150] The Health and Safety Executive has recently undertaken an inquiry into the dangers of 'red and green zone' working, which concluded that fatality rates amongst trackside workers were too high, and that a number of changes were needed to the procedures followed by such workers and their managers.[151]

44. The RMT said that trackside staff were put at risk because of the performance regime which penalises Railtrack when infrastructure-related delays to trains are above a certain level. It said that signallers had been instructed not to allow 'green zone' access unless it was necessary in order to repair a fault that was already causing delays. Further pressure had been placed on Railtrack by the Regulator's enforcement order which required delays to be reduced.[152] In short, as the RMT pointed out, growing rail traffic leads to increasing wear and tear on the infrastructure, but also means that less time is available for maintenance and renewal work. The union has called for a performance regime which enables targets to be achieved without compromising the ability of staff to carry out maintenance and renewal work safely.[153]

45. In addition, the RMT expressed concern about the casualisation of the workforce as the sub-contracting of railway maintenance has increased.[154] It told us that the number of permanently-employed staff engaged in maintenance work has fallen by as much as half between 1994 and 2000, from 31,000 to between 15,000 and 19,000.[155] The union told us also that there are, however, 84,000 holders of the Personal Track Safety Certificate, the majority of whom are casual staff. There have also been allegations that contractors have been using unqualified and inadequately trained staff to work on the railway.[156] Failings in the way that Railtrack manages its infrastructure maintenance contractors and sub-contractors[157] and problems related to the recruitment of staff of these companies have been highlighted repeatedly.[158] We recommend, therefore, that HM Railway Inspectorate review Railtrack's management of its contractors once again, to ensure that the company either takes full responsibility for the training of maintenance staff or puts adequate safeguards in place to ensure that they are already properly trained before they are allowed to work on the railway.

The Hatfield accident and its aftermath

46. The Hatfield rail crash occurred during our inquiry, on 17 October 2000. Four passengers died in the accident, and seventy people were injured. The accident was the result of the derailment of an Intercity train at 115 miles per hour: the derailment was caused by a broken rail.[159] The broken rail has been attributed to a phenomenon known as 'gauge corner cracking', which is a specific form of a failure known generically as 'rolling contact fatigue': these are cracks which appear in the rail as a result of stresses placed on it by the wheels of trains, and which weaken the rail. The rail at Hatfield, which was only five years old,[160] broke up during the accident: 35 metres of rail broke into 300 fragments, and another length of 54 metres also fragmented.[161] Other sections of rail, which did not actually break during the accident, were seen to be badly affected by rolling contact fatigue.[162]

47. Railtrack announced on the day of the accident that it intended to put in place emergency speed restrictions at a large number of sites on the network, pending their inspection for signs of rolling contact fatigue.[163] Within a month, 3,000 sites had been inspected.[164] Where track quality was found to be poor, the company embarked on track renewal. The programme of speed restrictions, inspections and renewals became known as the national rail recovery plan,[165] and caused extensive disruption to the network through cancellations and delays for a number of months after the accident: between 17 October and 11 December there was no advertised timetable at all.[166] Work on the railway according to the rail recovery plan has continued into 2001, with particular progress being made over Christmas and New Year. By mid-January Railtrack was able to announce that 23 out of 28 of the train operating companies were able to operate according to their 'pre-Hatfield' timetables, and that more than 260 miles of rail had already been replaced, relieving many of the speed restrictions which had been placed on the network.[167] It was expected that rail services would return to normal by Easter.[168]

48. We took evidence from Railtrack about the Hatfield crash two weeks after the accident, and published a Report on the matter in December 2000.[169] We concluded that Railtrack's management of the company responsible for rail maintenance on the southern section of the East Coast Main Line, Balfour Beatty, had been totally inadequate,[170] that the culture of safety espoused by Railtrack was not always shared by those actually working on the railway,[171] and that Railtrack's decision to employ more staff with engineering and other relevant experience throughout the company, and especially at the highest levels, had come rather late, and was somewhat half-hearted.[172] We recommended that Railtrack "should now institute radical changes to the way the company is managed, and to the personnel involved, to ensure that Railtrack once again takes control of events on the railway".[173]

49. Our concerns about Railtrack's management of its contractors have deepened since the Hatfield accident took place. The fact that Railtrack has been compelled to undertake so many inspections of the network in order to ascertain the state of the track demonstrates how ineffective its monitoring of contractors had been: it is impossible not to conclude that the company had little knowledge of its own infrastructure, and could not rely on the information provided by contractors. In particular, the degree to which the track at Hatfield had been allowed to deteriorate without remedial action being taken, is profoundly disturbing.[174] Finally, the fact that so much rail has been replaced as part of the national rail recovery plan shows that maintenance and renewal work across the country had not been carried out when it should. In short, the system of managing contractors who carry out maintenance and renewal work on the railway through the system of 'cascaded safety cases' has been shown to have utterly failed. It is not just the system that has failed: Railtrack's management of its contractors has been woeful.

50. Railtrack told us that in light of the accident at Hatfield it intended to take "a hard look at our maintenance and renewal contractual arrangements".[175] We welcome that review, although we are disappointed by the new Chief Executive's comment that it would be "several months" before the company reached the conclusion of its review.[176] We also note Railtrack's commitment to employ more engineers,[177] and that the company is considering taking over inspection of the railway, and of the works carried out by contractors, and perhaps some of the "engineering decision-making".[178] In 1998, we undertook an inquiry into Railway Safety, during which we noted the concerns of HM Railway Inspectorate about Railtrack's selection, control and monitoring of its maintenance contractors.[179] The Inspectorate said that it "expected Railtrack to institute systems that enabled it to assure itself and the Inspectorate that the track was being maintained safely":[180] we concluded that "the monitoring of the work of contractors by Railtrack has not been good enough".[181] We note that Railtrack appears not to have acted on those warnings until after the Hatfield accident: Railtrack has been told several times that its management and monitoring of maintenance and renewals contractors has not been adequate. It is clear that it was only after a major accident that Railtrack decided to take steps to address the issue.

51. Another way of managing maintenance and renewal work would be for Railtrack to take it 'in-house', employing and managing railway workers itself rather than using contractors. This proposal is being considered by Railtrack.[182] Given that the previous means of managing maintenance and renewal contractors has failed, we strongly recommend that Railtrack take over direct responsibility for inspecting the network, and for directly employing those who work on the maintenance and renewal of the rail network. It should do so without any further prevarication and delay, and without awaiting the outcome of a spurious 'review'. In order to carry out these functions properly we recommend that Railtrack employ adequate engineering and project management expertise. Moreover, the Board of Railtrack should reflect a knowledge of engineering that complements these responsibilities.

52. Railtrack initially announced that it intended to set aside £250 million to cover the cost of the national rail recovery plan, in part to recompense train operating companies, and in part to fund the plan itself.[183] By mid-January 2001, the company estimated that costs had risen to £600 million, and were likely to rise still further.[184] By mid-February, it was reported that the Rail Regulator now doubted whether train services would be back to normal by Easter, as had been expected, since Railtrack's concentration on the rail recovery plan had created a backlog in scheduled maintenance and renewal work which would not be eliminated until the Summer.[185] As a result train operating companies were believed to be seeking additional compensation from Railtrack: they had been offered £400 million, and were understood to require at least an additional £200 million.[186] By the end of February, it was reported that the total cost of the rail recovery plan and the compensation to be paid to train operating companies would be at least £800 million.[187]

53. The impact of the Hatfield accident and its aftermath is likely to extend beyond the short- to medium-term. Many passengers have been forced to use alternative means of transport: BAA, for example, has reported "unusually robust growth in [air] passenger traffic", in part because of disruption to the rail industry.[188] Some of those passengers, and others forced to travel by car, may not return to rail travel even when the situation improves. The rail freight industry, as we have previously described,[189] already faces strong competition from the road haulage industry, and some competition from air freight: the loss of confidence caused by the disruption following the Hatfield accident may cause it long-term difficulties.[190] If passenger and freight volumes do decline, or do not grow as strongly, as a result of Hatfield and the rail recovery plan, there will obviously be serious implications for income for the rail industry, and therefore for investment in the rail network.

54. The disruption following Hatfield has, as we have said, cost Railtrack a great deal of money. The current structure of funding of the railway is such that the Government is likely to be obliged to provide additional money, either directly or via the Strategic Rail Authority and the train operating companies, to Railtrack in order that investment in the railway will be maintained at the expected, and indeed required, level. It has been widely reported that Railtrack has already sought additional funding so that it can meet the costs of the national rail recovery plan and still deliver the investment expected in the next control period:[191] indeed it has been suggested that Railtrack "cannot survive as it is without the injection of further Government money".[192] Recent reports suggest that the Government has decided to bring forward payment of £1 billion due to be made to Railtrack in a few years time.[193] The short-term and long-term costs which have arisen as a result of the Hatfield accident and the national rail recovery plan have arisen principally because Railtrack has failed in the past properly to manage maintenance and renewal of the national rail network. Such costs are likely to end up being borne, in one way or another, by the Government: the only alternative would be to permit Railtrack to cut back vital investment in the railway. It is unacceptable that the taxpayer should be compelled to bail out a private monopoly company which has acted so incompetently, without taking any stake in the company in return.


55. As we have said, since the mid-1990s the railways have been experiencing a remarkable period of increasing passenger rail demand with growth averaging more than six per cent per annum over the last four years. In 1999, the number of passenger kilometres travelled reached its highest level since 1947.[194] Growth has been experienced across the passenger rail sector, although recently demand has been particularly strong for inter-city and London commuter services.[195] The trends in rail freight have also been encouraging. The amount of freight carried by rail was declining until the mid-1990s, but this position has since reversed with a 40 per cent increase in rail freight tonne kilometres and a market share that has returned to its mid-1980s level.[196]

56. As a consequence of the new traffic, the network in operating close to capacity in many places, which, as well as affecting the quality of service experienced by existing passengers and freight customers, has implications for future growth. In the Ten Year Plan for Transport, the Government anticipates that passenger rail travel, measured in terms of passenger kilometres travelled, will increase by more than 34 per cent by 2010, but that this growth could be limited to 23 per cent by capacity constraints. Conversely, the provision of additional capacity and improved services could enable a 50 per cent in passenger travel.[197] Similarly, the Government believes that rail's share of the freight market could rise to ten per cent by 2010, which is equivalent to an 80 per cent increase on current levels.[198] Without major investment in the sector and the removal of capacity constraints on the network, however, the Government has estimated that rail freight traffic might grow by only ten per cent by 2010, which would mean that its market share would fall to 6.5 per cent.[199]

57. Railtrack has forecast that rail passenger traffic will increase by 47 per cent over the next ten years.[200] The company's plans for developing the network to respond to that forecast growth in demand are set out in the 2000 Network Management Statement,[201] which sets out a range of options for investment costing up to £52 billion over 12 years. Railtrack has initially recommended that an £8 billion programme of enhancements should be carried out over the next five years in order to provide for the 25 per cent increase in traffic projected for that period.

58. The initial £8 billion programme of investment has been developed on a route-by-route basis, and includes major projects where work is underway, such as the upgrading of the West Coast Main Line and improvements to the East Coast Main Line, where remodelling of the track layout at Leeds station has already taken place, and other projects such as improvements to the route between London and Stansted Airport, the up-grade of the North Trans-Pennine route, capacity improvements around Manchester, Coventry and Birmingham, and the Thameslink 2000 project.[202] Prior to the reported difficulties with funding after the Hatfield accident, Railtrack had committed £3 billion of the cost of the programme and was discussing the remaining £5 billion with the Strategic Rail Authority and the Rail Regulator.[203] Construction of the first phase of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link is also already underway.[204]

59. Railtrack admitted that its programme of developing and enhancing the rail network represents "a particularly demanding challenge",[205] but said that it had taken action to ensure that its plans are "delivered effectively and efficiently".[206] The company told us that lessons had been learned from the West Coast Main Line modernisation project,[207] where the cost of the project had risen from £2.3 billion to about £5.85 billion,[208] and where a lack of progress with the scheme led to the Regulator taking enforcement action against Railtrack.[209] Similarly, problems which arose during the work at Leeds station have also been reviewed,[210] and have led to further changes.[211] Railtrack told us in December 2001 that its new approach to major projects had already brought benefits at Leeds, and had helped to ensure that the first section of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link was proceeding on time and within budget. Railtrack claimed that it now had the proper incentives and capability to complete major infrastructure works on time and within budget.[212]

60. Doubts remain, however, that the rail industry will be able easily to cope with the scale of the investment planned, particularly since it follows a long period of under-investment. The Passenger Transport Executive Group told us that the investment plans would lead to disruption of existing services, and that it was concerned that projects would not be completed within budget and to the required standards.[213] The RMT felt that the Railtrack's poor stewardship of the West Coast Main Line modernisation scheme brought into question its ability to manage major projects effectively.[214] Finally, Railtrack's liaison with franchise operators and those providing funds about major renewals projects was also described by Merseytravel as poor.[215]

61. Recent events have shown such concerns to be well-founded. Major works scheduled to be carried out over Christmas and New Year 2000 at Willesden in north London, as part of West Coast Route Modernisation scheme, and at Leeds station were not completed on schedule, which caused considerable disruption for passengers and freight users.[216] Both projects should have been completed before the end of the holiday period, but Railtrack missed four deadlines for finishing the work at Leeds,[217] and two extra weeks were required for completion of the Willesden project, after the original timetable proved to be untenable.[218] There was considerable dissatisfaction with Railtrack's conduct of these projects, which were described as being "seriously badly handled" by the Chairman of the Association of Train Operating Companies.[219] In the light of these failures, the Regulator said that he was considering further action against Railtrack in order to improve the way in which it plans and manages the temporary closures that are required to enable major work to be undertaken on the railway.[220]

Channel Tunnel Rail Link

62. Specific concerns have been expressed about the future of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link project. It has been reported that a review commissioned by Railtrack suggests that the second phase of the link will cost "much more" than the initial cost of £2.5 billion at 1997 prices, and that the company is ready to withdraw from the project without additional financial support from the Government.[221] Railtrack had originally intended to exercise its option for the second phase in late 2000, which would have enabled construction to start in 2001.[222] In November 2000, the company told us that it was "too early" for it to take a decision: instead Railtrack would decide whether to exercise its option during the first quarter of 2001 after the periodic review of its access charges had been completed and other factors could be taken into account. The company did say that rumours about the increased cost of the project were "wide of the mark".[223] After the costs of restoring the network in the wake of the Hatfield derailment became apparent, however, Railtrack said that it would not proceed with the second phase of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link if payment of £1 billion by the Government under the Ten Year Plan was not brought forward: as we have said, recent reports have suggested that the Government will do so.[224] The company claimed that without the additional funds, it would be £8 billion in debt by 2003 and unable to afford any new schemes.[225]

Railtrack's record on development

63. Major infrastructure projects under Railtrack's charge have generally been subject to delays and rising costs, most notably in the case of the modernisation of the West Coast Main Line. Difficulties with the project to re-model the track at Leeds station have exposed, by Railtrack's own account, "inadequate planning, over-ambition and poor site management".[226] We are also concerned at the possible escalation of the cost of the second stage of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and the uncertainty that surrounds Railtrack's future participation in the project. In short, Railtrack's record in managing major infrastructure projects is a matter of serious concern. Doubts remain about the company's ability to deliver developments and enhancements to the network. We are far from confident about Railtrack's competence in this regard.

3   2000 Network Management Statement for Great Britain, Railtrack PLC, March 2000: Volume 1, Sustaining and developing Britain's rail network, and Volume 2, Customer plans, zone plans and route strategies. The 2000 Network Management Statement for Great Britain, which can be viewed at Back

4   Ensuring that Railtrack maintain and renew the railway network, Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, HC (1999-2000) 397, which can be viewed on the internet at Back

5   Published in October 2000 as The Periodic Review of Railtrack's Access Charges, Office of the Rail Regulator, which can be viewed on the internet at www.rail­ Back

6   For more information, see Back

7   Published in July 2000 as Transport 2010 - The Ten Year Plan, Department of the environment, Transport and the Regions, which can be viewed on the internet at Back

8   Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee Press Notice No.34, 18 May 2000, which can be viewed on the internet at Back

9   On 5 July and 12 July: see Press Notice No.42, at Back

10   On 26 July: see Press Notice No.47, at Back

11   On 15 November, 22 November, 29 November, 6 December and 12 December: see Press Notices Nos.59 and 70, at and Back

12   Announced in Press Notice No.56, at Back

13   Recent Events on the Railway, HC (2000-2001) 17: the Report can be viewed on the internet at Back

14   British Railways Board Annual Report and Accounts 1990-91, p.1. Back

15   British Railways Board Annual Report and Accounts 1990-91, p.27. Back

16   British Railways Board Annual Report and Accounts 1990-91, pp.54 and 56. Back

17   British Railways Board Annual Report and Accounts 1990-91, p.11. Back

18   Intercity included East Coast Main Line (now the Great North Eastern Railway), Great Western Main Line (First Great Western), West Coast Main Line (Virgin West Coast), Cross Country and Midland Main Line (Virgin Cross Country and Midland Main Line), and Gatwick/Anglia (Gatwick Express and Anglia Railways). Network SouthEast comprised Thames and Chiltern (Thames Trains and Chiltern Railway), South West (South West Trains), South Central (currently Connex South Central), South East (Connex South East), London Tilbury and Southend (c2c), Great Eastern (First Great Eastern), West Anglia (West Anglia Great Northern), Thameslink (still Thameslink), and North (Silverlink). Regional Railways included North East (Northern Spirit), North West (First North Western and Merseyrail Electrics), Central (Central Trains), South Wales and West (Wales and West and Valley Lines), and ScotRail (still known as ScotRail). The only current franchise not mentioned is Island Line on the Isle of Wight. Back

19   Anglia, Eastern, London Midland, ScotRail, Southern and Western. Back

20   See British Railways Board Annual Report and Accounts 1990-91, p.11. Back

21   Railways Act 1993, Chapter 43. Back

22   See the Railways Act 1993, Section 4(1)(a), (b), (f) and (g). Back

23   See the Railways Act 1993, Section 5. Back

24   See the Railways Act 1993, Sections 17 ff. Back

25   See Privatisation of the Rolling Stock Leasing Companies, Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, HC (1997-98) 576. Back

26   See British Railways Board Annual Report and Accounts 1993-94, p.9. Back

27   See the Network Licence granted to Railtrack plc, Part I, paragraph 1: the whole of the Network Licence can be viewed on the internet at http://www.rail­ Back

28   See the 1999 Network Management Statement for Great Britain, p.14. Back

29   The fourteen major stations owned and operated by Railtrack are: Birmingham New Street, Edinburgh Waverley, Gatwick Airport, Glasgow Central, Leeds City, London Bridge, London Charing Cross, London Euston, London King's Cross, London Liverpool Street, London Paddington, London Victoria, London Waterloo, and Manchester Piccadilly. Back

30   Railtrack Annual Report and Accounts 1996, pp.2 and 46: see Back

31   Mainline, Loadhaul Limited and Transrail Limited: see the details given in British Railways Board Annual Report and Accounts 1995-96, p.21. Back

32   See British Railways Board Annual Report and Accounts 1995-96, p.8. Back

33   See http://www.ews­ Back

34   See British Railways Board Annual Report and Accounts 1993-94, p.9. Back

35   See British Railways Board Annual Report and Accounts 1996-97, p.52. Back

36   See The Flotation of Railtrack, Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, HC (1995-96) 583. Six maintenance depots and an electronic service centre were sold, for a total of £32 million. Three of the depots and the service centre were purchased by Adtranz (formerly ABB) for £19 million, a further two were purchased for £6 million by Railcare (a joint venture between Babcock and Siemens), and the remaining depot was sold to a management buy-out team, Wessex Traincare Limited, for £7 million. Back

37   See the British Railways Board Annual Report and Accounts 1995-96 and 1996-97, p.74 and p.52 respectively. Back

38   See the British Railways Board Annual Report and Accounts 1997-98, at Back

39   Railtrack Network Management Statement 1995-96, p.2. Back

40   Ensuring Safety on Britain's Railways, Health and Safety Commission, January 1993, para.6.25. Back

41   See British Railways Board Annual Report and Accounts 1993-94, p.9. Back

42   See British Railways Board Annual Report and Accounts 1995-96, p.23. Back

43   See British Railways Board Annual Report and Accounts 1995-96, p.23. Back

44   See British Railways Board Annual Report and Accounts 1995-96, p.23, and British Railways Board Annual Report and Accounts 1996-97, p.52. Back

45   Based on information supplied by Railtrack. Not all regions are included. Back

46   The Infrastructure Maintenance Units (IMUs) were distributed as follows: Scotland IMU (Railtrack's Scotland zone) to First Engineering (a management team backed by the Weir Group, 3i and the Bank of Scotland), Northern IMU (North West zone) to Jarvis, Central IMU (Midlands zone) to GTRM (Alstom UK and Carillion plc), Western IMU (Great Western zone) to Amey Rail, South Western IMU (Southern zone) to AMEC Rail, and both South Eastern and Eastern IMUs (East Anglia and London North Eastern zone) to Balfour Beatty Rail Maintenance (information supplied by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers). Back

47   The 1999 Network Management Statement for Great Britain, p.36. Back

48   See the 1999 Network Management Statement for Great Britain, p.36. Back

49   Most recently, contracts for the Central region of the London North Eastern Zone has been let to Jarvis, for the Preston region of the North West zone to GTRM, for the Manchester region of the North West Zone to First Engineering, and for the East Midlands region of the Midlands zone to Serco Rail. See Infrastructure Maintenance Contracts, Railtrack Press Notice, 14 August 2000. Back

50   See the 1999 Network Management Statement for Great Britain, p.37. Back

51   The 1999 Network Management Statement for Great Britain, p.37. Back

52   Scotland is covered by First Engineering Limited and by Jarvis Rail Limited; North West, London and North Eastern, and Midlands are all covered by Jarvis Rail Limited; East Anglia is covered by Centrac Limited and Grant Rail Limited; Great Western is covered by Amey SECO JV; and Southern is covered by Balfour Beatty Rail Renewals Limited. In addition, Motherwell Bridge Rail carries out works in various locations (information provided by Railtrack). Back

53   See Ensuring Safety on Britain's Railways, Health and Safety Commission, January 1993, para.6.25. Back

54   See Railway Safety (HC (1998-99) 30), para.15. Back

55   See HC (1999-2000) 17, Q.7; see also Q.571. Back

56   Ensuring Safety on Britain's Railways, Health and Safety Commission, January 1993, para.6.25. Back

57   See Railway Safety (HC (1998-99) 30), p.56. Back

58   Railway Safety (HC (1998-99) 30), p.44. Back

59   See Railtrack's Investment Programme: Statement by the Rail Regulator, May 1997, para.3: the statement can be viewed on the internet at http://www.rail­ Back

60   Railtrack's Investment Programme: Statement by the Rail Regulator, May 1997, para.2. Back

61   See the Network Licence, p.1 and Conditions 3 and 7 (http://www.rail­; see also the Office of the Rail Regulator Annual Report 1993-94, para.27. Back

62   See HM Railways Inspectorate's Role, at - the relevant legislation includes the Health and Safety at Work, Etc Act 1974, the Railways (Safety Case) Regulations 1994 and the Railways (Safety Critical Work) Regulations 1994. Back

63   Railtrack's Investment Programme: Statement by the Rail Regulator, May 1997, para.1. Back

64   Railtrack's Investment Programme: Statement by the Rail Regulator, May 1997, para.4. Back

65   Railtrack's Investment Programme: Statement by the Rail Regulator, May 1997, para.5. Back

66   Railtrack's Investment Programme: Statement by the Rail Regulator, May 1997, para.5. Back

67   Five have been produced, annually: the latest can be viewed at Back

68   See Railtrack's Investment Programme: Statement by the Rail Regulator, May 1997, para.7. Back

69   Railtrack's Investment Programme: Statement by the Rail Regulator, May 1997, paras.7 and 8. Back

70   Railtrack's Investment Programme: Statement by the Rail Regulator, May 1997, para.9. Back

71   Railtrack's Investment Programme: Statement by the Rail Regulator, May 1997, para.11. Back

72   Railtrack's Investment Programme: Statement by the Rail Regulator, May 1997, para.13. Back

73   See Railtrack's Investment Programme: Increasing Public Accountability, July 1997, Annex B, p.19. Back

74   Third Report of the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee, HC (1997-98) 286-I, para.1, which can be viewed via our website at Back

75   See Back

76   Mainly relating to the disposal of property: see Back

77   Transport Act 2000, Chapter 38, which can be viewed at Back

78   See Back

79   See RI12, para.2. Back

80   See Ensuring that Railtrack maintain and renew the railway network, NAO, HC (199-2000) 397, para.1.5. Back

81   See RI21, para.5. Back

82   See HC (199-2000) 397, para.13. Back

83   See RI21, para.7. Back

84   See HC (199-2000) 397, figure 6, p.20. Back

85   Railtrack's Performance in the Control Period 1995-2001: Final Report, Booz Allen and Hamilton, April 1999, paras. 126-132. Back

86   From 231.3 million to 256.0 million: see RI21, para.13. Back

87   From 24.5 million to 29.3 million: see RI21, para.13. Back

88   See HC (1999-2000) 397, para.2.7. Back

89   RI07.  Back

90   RI20. Back

91   RI20. Back

92   Q. 2. Back

93  Q. 793. Back

94   Q. 255. Back

95   Q. 43. Back

96   HC (1999-2000) 397, para. 2.25. In 1998-99, Railtrack was responsible for 46 per cent of passenger and 13 per of freight train delays respectively. Maintenance and renewal and renewal problems accounted for approximately 70 per cent of Railtrack's delays (ibid, para. 2.6). Delays to passenger services for infrastructure-related reasons have fallen since privatisation (see RI20).  Back

97   Q.255. Back

98   See HC (1999-2000) 397, para.3.30. Back

99   See HC (1999-2000) 397, Executive Summary, para.17(b). Back

100   Regulator sets out Railtrack's future financial framework, Press Notice ORR 99/53, 15 December 1999. Back

101   See HC (1999-2000) 397, Executive Summary, para.17(c). Back

102   2000 Network Management Statement for Great Britain, p.40. Back

103   Consultation on proposed modifications to Railtrack's network licence, Office of the Rail Regulator, 14 September 2000, p.5. Back

104   Ensuring that Railtrack maintain and renew the railway network, para. 3.50. Back

105   Ensuring that Railtrack maintain and renew the railway network, para.17(d). Back

106   Ensuring that Railtrack maintain and renew the railway network, para.17(d). Back

107   Ensuring that Railtrack maintain and renew the railway network, para.17(d). Back

108   See Ensuring that Railtrack maintain and renew the railway network, para.18 ff. Back

109   See RI21, para.27. Back

110   See Consultation on proposed modifications to Railtrack's network licence, p.5, and the 2000 Network Management Statement for Great Britain, p.40. Back

111   2000 Network Management Statement for Great Britain, p.40. Back

112   See RI21, para.32; see also Consultation on proposed modifications to Railtrack's network licence, Office of the Rail Regulator, 14 September 2000. Back

113   See RI21, para.29. Back

114   Q. 8. Back

115   HC (1999-2000) 397, para.2.6. The remainder of all delays were caused by train operators themselves. Back

116   See HC (1999-2000) 397, Figure 8, p.27. Back

117   A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone, Cm 3950, map on p.162 (Annex F). Back

118   See the 2000 Network Management Statement for Great Britain, Volume 2, p.71. Back

119   See the 2000 Network Management Statement for Great Britain, Volume 2, p.58. Back

120   See RI21, para.26. Back

121   See the 1999 Network Management Statement for Great Britain, p.9. Back

122   See RI21, para.26. Back

123   See RI21, para.26. Back

124   See RI21, para.26. Back

125   See the 2000 Network Management Statement for Great Britain, Volume 1, pp.32 and 33. Back

126   See HC (1999-2000) 397, Executive Summary, para.12. Back

127   See the 1999 Network Management Statement for Great Britain, p.9. Back

128   On 4 February 1997, a freight train derailed when crossing a bridge close to Bexley station. Four members of the public were injured in the accident which caused extensive damage was caused to a railway viaduct and nearby buildings. The condition of the track support and its fastenings on the bridge and deteriorated so badly that the rails moved apart under the weight of the train. The South East Infrastructure Maintenance Company, Southern Track Renewals Company and Railtrack were fined a total of £150,000 plus costs for Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 offences. Railtrack was criticised by the Railway Inspectorate for failing to monitor the performance of its contractor and, although it was aware of the unsafe condition of the track, it failed to take action to address the problem (Railway Accident at Bexley, HM Railway Inspectorate, 1999).  Back

129   RI06, paras. 6 and 7. Back

130   RI16, paras. 9-12. Back

131   Rail Failure Assessment for the Office of the Rail Regulator: an Assessment of Railtrack's Methods for Managing Broken and Defective Rails, Transportation Technology Center Inc, October 2000. Back

132   Ibid, p. ii. Back

133   RI9. Back

134   RI21. Back

135   RI21, para. 10. Back

136   HC (1999-2000) 397, exec summary, para. 15.  Back

137   Q. 10. Back

138   See RI20, pp. 4 and 5. Back

139   Q. 10. Back

140   Q. 10. Back

141   Q. 268. Back

142   RI06, para.8. Back

143   See RI20, p.1; see also Q.64. Back

144   See RI20, p.2. Back

145   Q.2. Back

146   RI21, para.10. Back

147   See Q.260, Q.268 and Q.305. Back

148   See Safety chief blames Railtrack for neglect, Independent on Sunday, 18 February 2001. Back

149   RI06, para. 8. Back

150   RI02. Back

151   Red/green zone working - A report on the progress with maximisation of green zone working on Railtrack infrastructure, HM Railway Inspectorate, 12 February 2001, which is at Back

152   This required Railtrack to achieve a 12.7 per cent improvement in its passenger train performance (as measured by minutes delay per passenger train caused by Railtrack) in the ended 31 March 2000. A fine would be imposed if the target was not achieved (see Railtrack's performance targets: statement by the Rail Regulator, Office of the Rail Regulator, August 1999). Back

153   RI02. Back

154   Q. 356. Back

155   Information supplied by the RMT: see HC (2000-01) 17, para.11. Back

156   See Recent Events on the Railway (HC (2000-01) 17), para. 11. Back

157   For example, see RI06, paras. 3-5. In 1995-96, the Railway Inspectorate found that the systems that Railtrack had in place to manage its contractors needed to be improved.  Back

158   See HC (1998-99) 30, paras. 15-24. Back

159   See Train Derailment at Hatfield, 17 October 2000, Second HSE Interim Report, 23 January 2001. Back

160   See Train Derailment at Hatfield, para.12. Back

161   See Train Derailment at Hatfield, para.5. Back

162   See Train Derailment at Hatfield, para.23. Back

163   See Statement from Railtrack, Railtrack Press Release, 18 October 2000. Back

164   See Railtrack announces interim results, Railtrack Press Release, 13 November 2000. Back

165   See Prescott calls on industry to work together to produce a national track recovery plan, DETR Press Release No.670, 26 October 2000. Back

166   See Rail Industry Statistics Published, shadow Strategic Rail Authority, 15 December 2000. Back

167   See National rail recovery plan delivers real improvements to train services, Railtrack Press Release, 12 January 2001. Back

168   See, for example, Railtrack Targets Timetables for Significant Improvements, Railtrack Press Release, 13 December 2000. Back

169   Recent Events on the Railway, HC (2000-01) 17: see Back

170   See Recent Events on the Railway, HC (2000-01) 17, para.10. Back

171   See Recent Events on the Railway, HC (2000-01) 17, para.12. Back

172   See Recent Events on the Railway, HC (2000-01) 17, para.15. Back

173   Recent Events on the Railway, HC (2000-01) 17, para.22; see also Railtrack Response to Select Committee Report, Railtrack Press Release, 14 December 2000. Back

174   See Train Derailment at Hatfield: 17 October 2000, Second HSE Interim Report, 23 January 2001. Back

175   Q.608. Back

176   See Q.685. Back

177   See Q.610 ff. Back

178   See Q.614. Back

179   See Railway Safety, First Report, HC (1998-99) 30, para.21 ff. Back

180   Railway Safety, HC (1998-99) 30, para.22. Back

181   Railway Safety, HC (1998-99) 30, para.24. Back

182   See Q.639; see also Q.841. Back

183   See Railtrack announces interim results, Railtrack Press Release, 13 November 2000. Back

184   See Regulator puts pressure on Railtrack over £15 billion package, Guardian Unlimited, 13 January 2001; see,4273,4117118,00.html. Back

185   See HC Deb, 14 February 2001, col.308; see also Rail chaos 'until summer', Sunday Business, 11 February 2001, and Train delays will continue until summer, Sunday Times, 11 February 2001. Back

186   See Railtrack faces massive cash claims from train firms, Guardian Unlimited, 13 February 2001; see,4273,4135500,00.html. Back

187   See Railtrack faces claims bill of £800 million, The Times, 26 February 2001. Back

188   See Rail chaos drives passengers into BAA's arms, Guardian Unlimited, 3 February 2001; see,2763,432851,00.html. Back

189   Fifteenth Report of the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee, The Road Haulage Industry, HC (1999-2000) 296. Back

190   See Eight weeks after Hatfield - real and continuing chaos for rail freight, Rail Freight Group Press Release, 12 December 2000.  Back

191   See Regulator puts pressure on Railtrack over £15 billion package, Guardian Unlimited, 15 January 2001; see also Railtrack 'nearly bankrupt', The Guardian, 19 February 2001, Railtrack's SOS for £2bn, The Observer, 18 February 200, and Embattled Railtrack will slash investment, Sunday Times, 18 February 2001. Back

192   Railtrack 'nearly bankrupt', The Guardian, 19 February 2001. Back

193   See Prescott bails out Railtrack with £1 bn, The Sunday Times, 25 February 2001, and Railtrack seeks early £1 bn aid, Daily Telegraph, 26 February 2001. Back

194   RI17. See National Rail Trends, shadow Strategic Rail Authority, 15 December 2000. Back

195   Transport 2010: the background analysis, para. 9. Back

196   Transport 2010: the background analysis, para. 17. Back

197   Transport 2010: the ten-year plan, para. 3.5.  Back

198   Transport 2010: the ten-year plan, para. 6.16. Back

199   Transport 2010: the background analysis, para. 22. Back

200   RI20. Forecasts produced for Railtrack in conjunction with the Association of Train Operating Companies suggested that growth in passenger traffic could range from 23 per cent to 64 per cent over the next ten years. It was subsequently reported that Railtrack had adopted a lower central forecast of 37 per cent following the Government's decision to end the fuel duty escalator, which had previously increased petrol and diesel prices above the rate of inflation (Railtrack cuts passenger growth forecast, Financial Times, 29 December 2000).  Back

201   2000 Network Management Statement, March 2000, Railtrack. Back

202   RI20. Back

203   RI20. Back

204   Under the revised financing arrangements announced in 1998, Railtrack has committed to acquiring the assets of and to assuming construction risk for the first phase (the Channel Tunnel to Fawkham Junction, Kent) of the project. It also has the option (exercisable until July 2003) to commit to acquire the assets of phase 2 (Southfleet, Kent to St Pancras station in London) (The Channel Tunnel Rail Link, DETR see Back

205   RI20. Back

206   RI20. Back

207   RI20. Back

208   Maintenance and renewal of the West Coast Main Line, Office of the Rail Regulator Press Notice, 20 June 2000. Back

209   RI21, para. 14. Back

210   See More rail chaos mars station reopening, Guardian Unlimited, 16 January 2001, which can be viewed on the internet at,4273,4117758,00.html. Back

211   Information provided in a letter to the Chairman of the Transport Sub-committee from the Director, London North Eastern, Railtrack, which has not been published. Back

212   RI20C. Back

213   RI16. Back

214   RI02A. Back

215   RI30, para. 3.8. Back

216   See Leeds station plans run off the rails, Guardian Unlimited, 15 January 2001, and Rail repairs close delivery centre, Guardian Unlimited, 10 January 2001. Back

217   Railtrack misses new deadline as Leeds suffers, The Times, 16 January 2001. Back

218   Modern Railways, February 2001, p. 6.  Back

219   Quoted in Regulator gets tough with Railtrack after operator anger, Financial Times, 3 January 2001. Back

220   RI21B, para. 36(c). Back

221   Railtrack seeks more State help for Channel link, The Daily Telegraph, 11 November 2000. Back

222   The Channel Tunnel Rail Link, Back

223   QQ. 623 and 624. Back

224   See Prescott bails out Railtrack with £1 bn, The Sunday Times, 25 February 2001. Back

225   Railtrack in £1 billion threat to new lines, The Times, 16 January 2001. Back

226   Quotation from a letter to the Chairman of the Transport Sub-committee from the Director, London North Eastern, Railtrack, which has not been published. Back

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