Railtrack in talks with crisis PR consultants

Railtrack and the administrators of its operating company are to

take on PR support as the transport firm tackles the biggest crisis in

its short history.



Senior board figures at Railtrack Group are understood to have had talks

with Ceri Evans, MD of Golin/ Harris Ludgate's PA operation, following

the announcement last Sunday by trade secretary Stephen Byers that its

operating company was to be put into administration.



Railtrack, which was privitised in 1996, is taking legal action to

recover £350m of assets frozen after administrators Ernst & Young

moved in.



Railtrack has now started a PR campaign to argue that the assets were in

the Railtrack group, which has a property portfolio, not the operating

company, which runs the track network.



The company is arguing that funds should be made accessible to its

shareholders, who fear they may lose out.



Meanwhile at Ernst & Young, director of media relations Kevin Russell

has confirmed that staff at two agencies are on the verge of being

appointed to help with the crisis PR effort. This is thought likely to

involve two briefs - one for PA support and another for general PR work

and issues management.



Russell said: 'We are not looking at vast teams, but at individuals with

expertise.'



He said Ernst & Young's nine-strong media team was working alongside

Railtrack Group's in-house PROs to communicate reassurance to customers,

staff and contractors, that despite the crisis it is business as

usual.



Railtrack switched financial PR support just days before Byers'

announcement.



The Maitland Consultancy was appointed late last week, taking over from

Brunswick after a competitive pitch.



Previous crises for Railtrack include being blamed for the Hatfield rail

crash last year.



The company was forced to clear a backlog of maintenance work and pay

millions of pounds in compensation to train operators for the disruption

caused.



- Leader, p10.



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