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The Independent Online
THE WEST Coast Main Line is the busiest rail corridor in Britain. The line, running from London to Glasgow, is a vital link for thousands of passengers, businesses and services. It is used by 14 train operators, including freight operators.

Claims that it was out of date and underperforming led to Railtrack's June 1998 agreement to a pounds 2bn modernisation - the first such upgrade for 30 years - which is set to be Europe's largest railway construction project. It came after talks with West Coast Train Limited, operator of the Virgin West Coast services, to upgrade track and signalling on the WCML.

This was to allow Virgin to run faster and more frequent services using tilting trains, seen by many as the jewel in the crown of the rail industry for the next century. Virgin rail operations have been dogged by punctuality problems and poor customer service, and have attracted record complaints.

Last month Virgin were said to be considering lodging a multi-million pound compensation claim against Railtrack for alleged failure to provide a blueprint of the 440-mile track and signalling on the WCML. Virgin said information about gauges and distances between lines was vital so that the 53 tilting trains, costing pounds 1.2bn, could run safely, and to allow adjustments to be made.