Railtrack Chief Executive Steve Marshall tendered his resignation on October 8, describing the government’s treatment of his company and its shareholders as ’shoddy and unacceptable’. Intending to work out his six-month period of notice, Marshall said that his priorities now were to ’support the company, its people and the administrator’s team and to realise any remaining value that we can for shareholders.’

Marshall has been working with Railtrack Chairman John Robinson - who on October 9 refused a government request to chair the future not-for-profit company - to negotiate a settlement with the government that would allow the assets of Railtrack Group, the non-regulated part of the business, to be drawn on to compensate shareholders. These include the right to buy and operate Section 1 of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, currently nearing the tracklaying stage.

On October 10, however, Byers disclosed that in meetings with his officials Railtrack had asked for additional public funding to value each share at £3·60, close to the original offer price when the company was floated in May 1996. The shares stood at £2·80 when trading was suspended. ’We will not provide extra funding from the taxpayer to compensate shareholders’, he said. ’The fact that Railtrack plc is in administration is a consequence of its failure to manage costs over a number of years, such as the £4bn cost over-run on the West Coast Main Line project alone.’