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Railwatch 073 - October 1997

Spend and prosper

By David Bigg

On the face of it, Railtrack is in a healthy financial state with profits up by 15% to £339 million with dividends increasing to 22%. The share price is nearly double what it was when RDS bought shares. Everything in the garden looks rosy, but is it? True, £1.9 billion will be spent on increasing capacity over the next 10 years with a further £1 billion on station modernisation during the same period.

But where is the long-term investment in new stations and new lines? It simply does not appear to exist. The only new station, Luton Parkway - to serve the airport and to fit in with the Thameslink 2000 scheme - is the only expansion on the agenda.

While there may be infill electrification on the West Coast main line, nothing else is planned. As far as Railtrack is concerned, the responsibility for expanding the network lies with the train operators. Surely this isn't good enough?

The operators and Railtrack must come together to work out a proper development plan into the next century. We are all familiar with schemes that could easily be put in place, such as St Ives-Cambridge and Burton-Leicester. There seems no great enthusiasm on Railtrack's part to push these projects forward. Yet the long-term prosperity of the company depends on just such schemes.

As far as RDS is concerned, we must consider whether to place a motion for debate at next year's annual meeting in order to push an apparently reluctant directorate into taking expansion of our rail network seriously.

How do members feel about this? Let me know so that we can start laying our plans.

David Bigg is a fomer treasurer of RDS and currently chairs the society's parliamentary liaison committee.

Share in our campaign success

RDS owns shares in Railtrack and Eurotunnel and is in the process of buying shares in FirstBus as well. Over 60 individual members have also told us that they own Railtrack shares, over 50 own shares in Eurotunnel and we also have members with shares in all of those operating companies in which it is possible for the public to buy them. We are continually building up our register of shareholders, and our shareholder liaison officer, Mr C Oley, would be pleased to hear from more. Write to him at 37 New Road, Ormskirk, Lancashire L40 1SR.

There are five reasons why we own shares as a society and keep a confidential register of members with shares. It gives us extra clout when lobbying, because it shows we are not afraid to put "money where our mouths are". It enables us to study company annual reports and accounts. We can put questions and motions at company AGMs and support others who are doing so. We are more likely to be listened to if we speak as shareholders as well as customers. Shareholders unable to attend company meetings can appoint an RDS representative as their proxy.

We are also looking for help and advice from stockbrokers or company law experts in RDS. If you can help, contact general secretary Trevor Garrod, 15 Clapham Road, Lowestoft, Suffolk NR32 1RQ.

Note: contact details (postal and email addresses, along with telephone numbers) in old editions of Railwatch out of date. Click CONTACT US for latest contact details.

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