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Railhub Archive
1999-11-05 RTK-002
Railtrack plc


Further statement on the Rail Regulator's announcement on West Coast Mainline renewals

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Railtrack plc

Further statement on the Rail Regulator's announcement on West Coast Mainline renewals

5 November 1999
source Railtrack plc
type Statement

Railtrack today pledged its commitment to delivery of a robust programme for the West Coast Main Line Renewals programme, and its Commercial Director Richard Middleton responded to key points made in the Rail Regulator's draft order.

Strategic Review Process

A further set of capacity reviews, detailing substantial information, were sent to the Rail Regulator's office on 13 October. We feel these have addressed the deficiencies we identified in the July timetable and we are pleased to report that general reaction from the rail industry has been favourable. We look forward to receiving the Regulator's response to this document.


Signalling is under review in accordance with the December timescale advised to the Regulator. Given the example of the Jubilee Line, Railtrack will not press ahead with a high-risk project involving moving block signalling and favours ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System) Level11 which meets new European standards while giving the benefits of ATP (Advanced Train Protection) as well as improved capacity and linespeed.


Freight operators are seeking very significant capacity increase - over and above that which Railtrack is already planning to provide. A review is currently underway with the SSRA, the UK's two freight operators and Railtrack to identify the appropriate level of freight demand for WCML. Freight traffic currently utilises 40 paths a day on the WCML, and there has been no demand for extra paths in the last two years. We are planning to provide an additional 42 paths, the request is for 150. We do need to decide if the very substantial investment to deliver this extra capacity will in fact be required.


Given the complexity of the WCML it is not surprising it takes a long time to finalise plans. Seventeen months seem like a long time but there are 18 passenger train companies and two freight operators, all of whom have to agree to timetable alterations. Railtrack is on track to deliver Phase I - the first stage of the upgrade - in 2002 and will finalise the plans for Phase 11 on completion of the review of signalling technology.


Over the last few months we have reviewed the infrastructure plans for the full route to confirm we will be removing all the potential capacity bottlenecks. We have also identified a number of locations where, subject to the necessary powers, we could expand the capacity of the route further to meet the upper end of long-term market forecasts. We are now reviewing these options with our customers andfunders to make sure we deliver a route to meet the market'srequirements.


Railtrack is pleased the Regulator does not propose to impose a financial penalty and that he himself comments that the company has 'already done much of the preparatory work'. Although he believes it is behind schedule and not of an adequate standard, Railtrack is working hard to change that perception.


The planning of the modernisation of the West Coast Mainline began in the mid 1980's. Since then the planning has developed to reflect the emerging understanding of Railtrack's customers' requirements in terms of capacity, journey times and train technology.

At the end of 1998, as the West Coast Route Modernisation (WCRM) programme concluded its development phase and began to move into implementation, Railtrack commissioned Nichols Group to carry out an independent review to baseline the WCRM programme and assess its readiness for implementation. A key consideration in this review was the choice of signalling and control systems particularly in the light of the experience of the LUL's Jubilee Line Extension project.

The review highlighted the unprecedented complexity of the WCRM programme and the challenge of implementing it on Europe's busiest mixed-traffic railway. As a result of the review Railtrack took a number of key decisions in order to ensure certainty of outcome during the implementation of the programme.

The first decision was to make Simon Murray, Director Major Projects and Investment, who had recently joined Railtrack from BAA, responsible for the implementation of the WCRM Programme.The Commercial Director, Richard Middleton and newly appointed Network Development Director, Robin Gisby,continued to work with Railtrack's customers and the Regulator to refine their requirements. Tony Fletcher, who had recently completed the Heathrow Express project, was appointed to lead the implementation team. At the same time the international engineering and project management company Parsons Brinckerhoff were appointed to support Railtrack in managing the programme.

The second key decision was to separate the programme of work for Phase 1 from the more technically challenging Phase 2. The Railtrack Board authorised work to proceed immediately on Phase 1 and instructed that further evaluation be done on the Phase 2 works in order that a decision could be made in December 1999.

To date contracts to the value of some £800m have been let for the Phase 1 works. These contracts cover the renewal of 230 miles of track using high output track renewals machine, improvements to the power supply and improvements to key junctions at Euston, Willesden, South Manchester and Proof House near Birmingham. In addition. work is progressing ont he replacement of some thirty-five pedestrian crossings with footbridges.

The third key decision was to carry out a detailed evaluation of the strategy for implementing the moving block signalling system and consider alternative configurations of infrastructure and signalling for Phase 2 that can be implemented with less risk to the efficient operation of the railway.

This evaluation is nearing completion and the results will be presented to the Railtrack Board in December 1999. It is likely to lead to the conclusion that the risks inherent in developing and implementing the infrastructure for moving block signalling and in fitting the necessary equipment to more than 1500 trains are too high. It is likely to recommend instead the adoption of a transmission-based fixed block signalling system overlaid on conventional line-side signalling with additional civil infrastructure. This solution would enable a phased introduction of the system. It would also meet the requirements of the emerging European standards on interoperability, provide full ATP and provide a base from which the system could be upgraded to a moving block system in the future.

The modernisation of the West Coast Mainline is the most complex rail investment programme in the World today. Railtrack is committed to deliver a programme of work which will meet both its customers and Regulator's requirements thus restoring the route to its rightful place within Britain'sr ail network.

For more information or an interview, contact the Railtrackpress office on 0171 557 8292/3.

Railtrack has full ISDN broadcast facilities available.

Interviews can normally be arranged on request.

All recent press releases can be found on the Railtrack website at the following address:http://www.railtrack.co.uk/corporate/notice

Railhub Archive ::: 1999-11-05 RTK-002


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