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Railhub Archive
1999-11-05 RTK-001
Railtrack plc


Statement in response to Rail Regulator's announcement re West Coast Main Line

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Railtrack plc

Statement in response to Rail Regulator's announcement re West Coast Main Line

5 November 1999
source Railtrack plc
type Press release

Responding to the Railway Regulator's draft order regarding plans for the West Coast Main Line, Railtrack said that it was disappointed that the Regulator had taken these steps at this time.

Robin Gisby, Network Development Director said 'This is an extremely complicated project involving a major upgrade of an operational railway and includes the introduction of leading edge technology in six years time. We need to ensure that our plans are robust while also meeting all our commitments to the Regulator and others. That is our intention and is the cornerstone of the current review which will be finalised by the end of year. We have already provided the Regulator and all other stakeholders with extensive information on our plans and we will now discuss with the regulator how we can meet these additional requests that we have received.

'The West Coast Main Line project will restore the performance of the existing infrastructure after thirty years of under investment and also provide the capability for high speed passenger operations, additional capacity for all train operators and improve safety benefits particularly an advanced train protection system.

Simon Murray, Railtrack's Major Projects Director, said 'Contracts for more than £800 million have been placed to date and work is already underway to deliver the infrastructure for Phase One to enable Virgin's new tilting trains to operate at 125 mph in 2002.'


The West Coast Mainline renewals programme was agreed in 1994/95, prior to Railtrack's flotation.

Moving block signalling technology was chosen at that time as representing the best approach to replace the existing signalling to give the benefits of improved line speed and safety.

Nowhere else in the world has this approach been implemented in a single step on a project of this scale and complexity.

Passenger Upgrade 1 (PUG1) was an enhancement agreed in 1996, prior to Virgin taking the franchise, which was to deliver 125 mph on the West Coast by summer 2002 and with reduced journey times from London to Glasgow of under four hours.

Passenger Upgrade 11 (PUG11) was agreed with Virgin in Autumn 1997 to secure 140 mph and further capacity for 2005.

This was approved by the Regulator with additional undertakings by Railtrack in May 1998.

In late 1998 new management was appointed to the project.

The decision to split the project into two phases was taken with Phase 1 being totally focused on delivering the 2002 commitments.

Progress this year has been good, with £880 million of contracts let and detailed eighth of a mile by eighth of a mile implementation plans reviewed by Virgin.

A combination of Alliance deals with major suppliers and the Jarvis high speed track renewals machine will enable delivery of the outputs by Summer 2002.

Splitting the project into two phases has enabled the delivery team, under Tony Fletcher, to concentrate on delivery of Phase 1 whilst a second team, under Robin Gisby, supported by Nichols Consulting and Ernst & Young has been reviewing the specification of Phase 11.

Given the unfortunate example of the Jubilee Line, it is imperative that the right project is configured prior to entering into delivery mode.

The moving block approach, never before implemented on the scale of the West Coast Main Line would involve fitting 1,800 trains with high technology equipment which then communicates, via transponders in the track, with control centres. Line side signalling is not required. As with the Jubilee, a 'big bang' implementation is required. The lineside signalling is removed, and all 1,800 trains switch over to moving block. This is very high risk.

The review team, which reports to the Railtrack Board on December 9th, is likely to recommend a change in strategy for the signalling renewal of the West Coast. ERTMS level 11 is the preferred option. This meets the new European standard while giving the benefits of ATP (Advanced Train Protection) as well as improved capacity and line speed.

Existing trains can continue to work off line side signalling whilst new trains (initially the 53 Virgin Tilting Trains) can have cab radio communication with control centres and, therefore, achieve the faster line speeds. The implementation risk is, therefore, significantly reduced. The signalling can then migrate to cover more trains and moving block when the technology is sufficiently mature to handle it. In addition, the review team are likely to recommend four tracking the Trent Valley and additional work at Watford Junction as infrastructure work that provides further West Coast capacity. The review team are likely to confirm that the required capacity and train speed can be delivered and that Railtrack will meet its undertakings to the Regulator.

The Phase 11 commitments require an additional 42 paths a day on the slow lines, particularly to meet our freight customers' requirements. Currently, freight has 40 paths a day on the West Coast Mainline. There has been no demand for extra freight paths in the last two years. Virgin require for 2005 an increase from 9 paths an hour on the fast lines to 12 and an increase in line speed to 140 mph.

In addition, Railtrack has commissioned McKinsey & Co. to review the likely freight demand on the West Coast (and elsewhere). Given the current flat demand for freight it is important to have a firmly founded forecast for freight demand. Configuring a massive complex project around a forecast which may be unrealistic is not a sound basis on which to proceed.

A further piece of work is a costed third freight route to Scotland. This is likely to be via the ECML, the MidlandMainline and Settle and Carlisle and is currently estimated at £400 million. This potentially could take some of the additional freight traffic off the West Coast and be a useful addition to freight capacity for the network.

A combination of signalling migration via ERTMS level two signalling, extra infrastructure, a soundly based freight growth forecast and a third freight route to Scotland will create a Phase 11 project which is deliverable and in which the industry can have confidence. This will need substantial discussion with operators, funders, the SRA and our regulators. Only then will it be appropriate to move to baselining the project, getting the project delivery plan up to Railtrack's project management standard and preparing detailed timetables.

We quite understand the Regulator's demands for action. We equally wish to configure a project which is deliverable, low risk and meets requirements. This will take time, but it is more important to get it right before implementing, than proceeding with something unrealistic.

For more information or an interview, contact the Railtrack press 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 web site at the following address:http://www.railtrack.co.uk/corporate/notice

Railhub Archive ::: 1999-11-05 RTK-001


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