The Health and Safety Executive took the unusual step of issuing Railtrack with an improvement notice to ensure that it carried out remedial work on the five-mile stretch of track in north London. It is highly embarrassing for Railtrack, which is due to be privatised in May, as it involves a key area of the rail network and it raises doubts over Railtrack's ability to manage the network.
Roger Ford, editor of Rail Privatisation News, said: "Railtrack has let the track deteriorate badly. When it was transferred from BR to Railtrack in April 1994, there were no speed restrictions and it was in good condition. This is just a case of neglect."
In December, a charter train operated by Waterman Railways, was derailed at Primrose Hill, completely wrecking two coaches. Pete Waterman, who runs the company, is considering legal action against Railtrack.
The HSE has given Railtrack until the end of February 1997 to improve the track and failure to do so will result in a fine. The track is around 30 years old, about the limit for such heavily used rails. Following the accident, inspections revealed the track to be in a very poor state.
Commuters and other rail passengers can expect a lengthy period of speed restrictions until the work is carried out.
A Railtrack spokesman said: "The problem is that there is a long-term scheme to improve the West Coast Main Line and we do not want to have to carry out the work twice by replacing large sections of track at this stage.
"But safety is paramount and we will do whatever is required of us by the HSE."Reuse content