Safety omission 'breached licence'

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The Independent Online

Railtrack's battered reputation sustained another major blow yesterday when it was revealed that the company had allowed trains to run on the network that risked bumping into platforms.

The Rail Regulator Tom Winsor decided that the infrastructure company, which has been in administration since 7 October, had breached its network licence by failing to provide train manufacturers with critical safety information. Railtrack has taken much of the blame over the past year for long delays to the introduction of new trains.

Alstom complained to the regulator that a lack of information from Railtrack meant that the new class 175 diesel trains it provided for First North Western were, in effect, too wide for platforms. Alstom has had to make alterations to the suspension to try to overcome the problem

Bombardier, which also builds trains, found similar problems with the class 375 rolling stock it supplied to Connex South Eastern. An additional difficulty was that Railtrack did not point out that the "third rail" on this part of the network was unable to supply the additional power required by the trains. In his announcement yesterday Mr Winsor said there were "serious deficiencies" in the data supplied to the train manufacturers by the infrastructure company.

The regulator ordered Railtrack to introduce more efficient procedures to provide better information to companies such as Alstom and Bombardier.

Mr Winsor said Railtrack should begin "the process of compliance" immediately and have the procedures fully in place by 1 October next year.

He added: "Good information about the network is vital to the efficient design and approval of new rolling stock."