Railtrack has been given until 10 December to convince Tom Winsor, the newly-appointed rail regulator, that it can expand the capacity of the West Coast Main Line.
Winsor has drafted an enforcement order compelling the firm to produce detailed plans of how the expansion will be implemented. Train operators are worried that Railtrack will fail to complete the project by its 2005 deadline.
The West Coast Main Line is being upgraded in two phases. The second phase involves installing signalling to allow trains to travel at up to 140mph. Railtrack had planned to introduce a system of moving block train control, as opposed to the current fixed block signalling system, but is now uncertain following difficulties experienced with the system on London Underground’s Jubilee Line.
`It is likely that a more robust solution is available, but that will require discussion with our customers, the regulator and the Strategic Rail Authority. Choosing an alternative will affect cost, time and the capacity of what we deliver,’ a Railtrack spokesman said.
Winsor said that Railtrack must decide which signalling system it will install before the train operators could be expected to take the plan seriously.
`If Railtrack lets down the train operating companies and funders, it will face even stronger enforcement action from me,’ he said.