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Taxpayers keep trains on track

PUBLISHED: 07:30 30 March 2002 | UPDATED: 11:38 03 March 2010

TAXPAYERS have been left to bail out the region's major rail operator to the tune of £27 million in order to keep trains running after the company warned it was facing significant financial losses.

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TAXPAYERS have been left to bail out the region's major rail operator to the tune of £27 million in order to keep trains running after the company warned it was facing significant financial losses.

Anglia Railways has received the massive handout from the Government's rail agency after it claimed its business suffered following the Hatfield crash.

The company saw about a 20pc decrease in passenger numbers in the months after the disaster and the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) has now come to its rescue to help maintain services across East Anglia for the next two years.

Officials at the SRA could have found another firm to operate the timetables currently offered by Anglia Railways but instead threw the company a multi-million pound lifeline.

The agency has given a £3.2m grant and an extra subsidy of £23.7m to the rail operator to compensate for its drop in passengers following the October 2000 tragedy.

Peter Meades, Anglia Railways spokesman, said the deal was justified because it was an "innocent victim" of the repercussions of the Hatfield incident and the subsequent extensive engineering work carried out by Railtrack.

"The SRA could have looked at another option, to look for somebody else to take over the franchise. The SRA did not want to go down that route and we believe it was a vote of confidence in Anglia Railways.

"We are not the only train operators to have received money. The vast majority who operate regional services have had similar support because of the acknowledgement of the impact of Hatfield on business."

Trevor Garrod, East Suffolk Travellers' Association chairman, said: "Having effectively bailed out the Railtrack shareholders it's only right and proper the Government should also be helping companies like Anglia who have suffered through no fault of their own."

But last night one regular Anglia Railways user – who was evacuated from a burning train one evening in December – said he thought the Government's bail out was "ridiculous."

The Colchester-based PR man, who declined to be named, said: "They are like any other private company, and should not expect the Government to hand money out to them willy-nilly every time they get into difficulty."


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