Railtrack should immediately take over direct responsibility for inspecting and maintaining its rail network, a parliamentary report recommended this week.
The report, from the environment, transport and regional affairs select committee, said Railtrack's management of its contractors had been a "woeful" failure.

The committee, which began interrogating Railtrack staff in July last year, said the company should directly employ those who work on the rails and should do so "without any further prevarication and delay, and without awaiting the outcomes of a spurious (in-house) 'review'".

The report said: "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 … address the issue." The committee called on the government to consider either taking an equity stake in Railtrack or taking it wholly back into public ownership. It also suggested that the Strategic Rail Authority be given greater responsibility over maintenance and renewal.

The report was based on oral evidence from representatives of Railtrack and bodies such as the Strategic Rail Authority, the government and the Rail Regulator.