Network Rail debt burden

15 July 2013

The Office of Rail Regulation has warned the government that Britain’s railways are ‘on the edge of a funding crisis’ and will have debts approaching £50 billion by the end of the decade. The ORR, in a report published today, reveals that interest payments will eat up one-third of Network Rail’s budget by 2029.

‘We think it will be closer to 50% than 33%,’ said Mick Whelan. ‘That’s the forecast of people who understand the numbers. But, whichever model you accept, it’s unsustainable.’

When Britain’s railways were privatised by John Major’s Conservative government in 1994, the infrastructure was left in the public sector because the private sector couldn’t work out how to make a profit from it.

‘The privatisation of Britain’s publicly-owned railways is portrayed – by the privatised rail companies – as a success,’ said Mick. ‘But even Margaret Thatcher admitted it was a privatisation too far.

‘The privatised train operating companies are making big profits at public expense – and then shipping those profits, in the form of dividends, off shore – while the burden for Network Rail gets ever heavier.

‘We want to improve our infrastructure, not to be spending half of Network Rail’s budget in interest payments to the banks.’

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