The twists and turns of Network Rail

Owner and operator of Britain's rail infrastructure (but not its trains), this state-owned private company is never far from controversy. So how well does it manage to run the railways?

Formative years

Network Rail was created by government decree in 2002 after the Hatfield crash in which four people died as a result of maintenance failures by its predecessor, Railtrack. Network Rail was supposed to lay the ghosts of both Railtrack and long-standing national joke British Rail by making the trains run safely and on time.

Its job is to run the UK rail infrastructure - 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and tunnels and major stations, such as King's Cross - and to provide a 'level playing field', with the various train operating companies (TOCs) competing to run the trains.

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