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Railhub Archive
1997-10-28 RTK-001
Railtrack plc


Railtrack and Virgin Rail Group announce largest ever investment in Britain's railways

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West Coast Main Line
West Coast Main Line modernisation

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Railtrack plc

Railtrack and Virgin Rail Group announce largest ever investment in Britain's railways

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28 October 1997
source Railtrack plc
type Press release

o £2.1 billion infrastructure project now underway
o doubling high speed train services by 2005
o £750 million committed to trains
o Innovative revenue sharing agreement

Railtrack PLC and Virgin Rail Group announced today that they have agreed on a new deal to transform the ageing West Coast Main Line and give Britain its first true high speed railway.

In addition to the current £1.5 billion Railtrack has already committed to modernise the route, another £600 million on the infrastructure has now been agreed. Virgin is in the final stages of selecting a manufacturer for its state of the art fleet of more than 55 new advanced tilting trains (ATT) which should be introduced on the route from summer 2002. An additional 75 diesel trains are planned to be acquired to serve a variety of national routes. This £750 million commitment should enable Virgin Rail Group to increase the number of passengers it carries from 25 million per annum today to an estimated 50 million per annum in 2005.

In addition to the improved capacity, the combined investment will see shorter journey times, much higher levels of passenger comfort and improved punctuality. In particular, it will provide a network to accommodate tilting trains operating at speeds of up to 140 mph - slashing journey times on routes to the Midlands, North West England and Scotland.

The work which will be undertaken in two stages, includes substantial improvements to the whole railway to reflect the needs of all West Coast passenger and freight users. The first stage of the upgrade will provide an operating speed of 125 mph. This will be completed by 2002 and the slow lines will be upgraded to 100 mph at the same time.

The second stage will create a high speed, high capacity railway offering all train operating customers, using the route, considerable benefits. The investment will allow Virgin to effectively double its service to 11 trains an hour into and out of London Euston and other operators to expand their services. The introduction of a state of the art train control system replaces existing signalling and is designed to bring enhanced levels of safety.

The phase two £600 million infrastructure investment will be financed partially through conventional track access charges and partially by a revenue sharing deal agreed by Railtrack and Virgin Rail Group. This stage is due to be completed by May 2005 and is subject to approval by OPRAF and ORR. A final decision by ORR is expected early 1998, once all interested parties have been consulted.

Railtrack and Virgin are now working on a further deal to secure maximum customer benefits from the introduction of the new fleet of at least 75 diesel trains on the Cross Country network. This should result in higher frequencies and shorter journey times for the nationwide route network stretching from Aberdeen to Penzance and Brighton and Glasgow.

Announcing the deal, Richard Middleton, Railtrack’s Commercial Director said: " We have consulted all the users of the route to understand their future aspirations. This next stage means we can offer an exciting and hugely competitive alternative to road and air transport and puts us on course to deliver the world’s best railway."

Brian Barrett, Chief Executive, Virgin Rail Group said "This pathfinder deal reflects the confidence that both Railtrack and Virgin have in an expanding future for the UK rail industry and will set new standards for the millennium. Such investment has been long overdue and the benefits for customers from more frequent, reliable and faster trains will revolutionise the industry."

The two stage investment process listed above is expected to transform Virgin services as indicated below:

Frequency each way: 1997 2002 2005
per hour 5 6 11
Journey times:
Manchester 2hr 30 2hr 1hr 45
Birmingham 1hr 40 1hr 15 under 1hr 15
Glasgow 5hr 20 4hr 20 3hr 50
Liverpool 2 hr 45 2hr 05 1hr 55

Railhub Archive ::: 1997-10-28 RTK-001


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