Investment call after rail firm's profit

THE firm in charge of Britain's railway tracks has confirmed it will be making a multi-million pound investment in East Anglia's network after announcing a profit for the first time in its history.

THE firm in charge of Britain's railway tracks has confirmed it will be making a multi-million pound investment in East Anglia's network after announcing a profit for the first time in its history.

But commuters' groups in the region last night said they feared Network Rail's pursuit of a profit meant it had not spent money on railway improvements “where needed”.

It comes after train passengers were plagued by delays caused by problems with overhead power lines earlier this year and then told of price hikes on commuter fares between East Anglia and London only last week.

Network Rail delivered a surplus of £747million for the six months to September 30, compared with losses of £108m a year earlier, it announced yesterday.


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But David Bigg, chairman of Witham and Braintree Passengers' Association, said: “We have had quite an appalling three months.

“First the wires went down at the end of August/beginning of September and the overhead line problems have occurred intermittently ever since.

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“We have had days and days when peak hour trains have been delayed because of infrastructure problems such as points, wires and signals.

“If Network Rail is in profit then I feel that, in achieving that objective they have not spent money where it is needed most - tracks, signals, wires and points.

“While there are promises of investments, there is no timescale and the need is quite desperate here in East Anglia.”

Stuart Buss, spokesman for Network Rail, which replaced Railtrack in 2002, said plans for investment in the region's overhead lines would now be “brought forward”.

While he could not yet confirm how much would be spent in the region nor the timetable for investment, he said the total would run to “tens of millions”.

“We are a not-for-dividend company so any profits we do make are reinvested back into the railway, which is good news for rail passengers,” he said.

“There have been problems in East Anglia over the last year, which has been unfortunate, and we have got plans to invest in the region, particularly in the overhead lines. I can certainly say that there will be big investment in the next few years.”

He added that more would be known about how much would be invested and when by the middle of next month.

Network Rail is now putting together a programme of works and meeting the region's MPs to address their concerns following problems in recent months.

These saw a series of faults with overhead power lines on the mainline to London cause serious delays in the region over five days at the beginning of September.

Peter Meades, spokesman for rail operator One, which last week announced rises in the cost of season tickets, said: “The good news for rail passengers from our point of view is that Network Rail have made a commitment to invest back into the railway.

“There have been a number of issues that we have been discussing with Network Rail where further investment is required in the region's infrastructure.”

rebecca.sheppard@eadt.co.uk

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