RAILTRACK chairman John Robinson has delivered a vicious assault on the Government, launching a salvo of criticism over its handling of the company's demise.

Speaking among the proudest remnants of Britain's railway history at the National Railway Museum in York last night, he attacked the Government for placing the firm in administration, describing ministers' behaviour as "unethical, if not immoral".

He condemned the "misinformation" over the Railtrack saga which he said had left many staff feeling "bitter and undervalued".

He maintained that Railtrack was not insolvent when the Government "pulled the rug" from under the company last month.

"The only reason Railtrack went into administration was Byers' (Transport Secretary Stephen Byers) decision to withdraw future financial support and to renege on a £450 million transaction," he said.

Mr Robinson, speaking at the annual dinner of the National Railway Museum, said Railtrack was stretched financially but was "absolutely not" going back month after month for extra Government money.

"Frankly what the Government did was unethical, if not immoral," he said.

"Trust and honesty are the basics of business relationships and government to business relationships. This was clearly lacking."

But Scarborough and Whitby MP Lawrie Quinn, who was a Railtrack engineer before gaining his seat in 1997, hit back today at the speech.

"Railtrack was a company in financial meltdown and the Government had to act to safeguard the interests of the travelling public," the chairman of the all-party Parliamentary rail group told the Evening Press.

"Railtrack was a disaster. They were bedevilled by bad management - of which Robinson was a central part - and they had totally lost the confidence of the railway industry and the travelling public.

"For Robinson to attempt to rewrite history is simply not on."

He added that the Government "shouldn't take any lectures from Railtrack".

Updated: 10:41 Friday, November 02, 2001