Railtrack: 170 miles of track must be replaced

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Train passengers were warned of another "huge weekend" of rail repairs and told that the work could take up to six months to complete - four months longer than originally promised.

Train passengers were warned of another "huge weekend" of rail repairs and told that the work could take up to six months to complete - four months longer than originally promised.

Gerald Corbett, the beleaguered chief executive of Railtrack, estimated that 170 miles of track needed to be replaced after last month's Hatfield crash in which four people were tragically killed.

As the rail system struggled yesterday to cope with floods and Wednesday's train collision between freight trains at Bristol, he revealed that his company intended to shut down lines for whole days to complete track renewals.

Mr Corbett said the flagship West Coast and East Coast routes between England and Scotland would be the most disrupted by the work. But in a reference to the much-criticised last-minute decision to shut a long section of the Scottish end of the West Coast line last week, he added: "We will give people a lot of notice of closures."

He said the track work affected 15 of the 25 train operating companies, although the amount of work varied from company to company.

The next month would see big improvements in the service as Railtrack replaced track where there was some evidence of cracking - the cause of the Hatfield derailment.

Speaking after another "rail summit" yesterday Mr Corbett said: "It's not right to say it's going to be chaos for six months, but it is right to say that there will be some re-railing going in six months' time."

Originally Railtrack said the work would be completed by Christmas.

John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, again refused to endorse Mr Corbett's stewardship of Railtrack. Earlier in the day, Mr Prescott - speaking on BBC Radio - was asked several times if he had full confidence in Mr Corbett. He replied: "I have confidence in the company [Railtrack] to get on with the job, and that is what I have told them to do."

Later, at the press conference after the summit, Mr Prescott was asked again to back the Railtrack chief executive, to which he replied: "I don't think that's a question for me." Mr Prescott said the delays on the railway would reduce by next weekend and "the travelling public have been very patient in all this". He said he would be meeting rail chiefs again next Thursday to receive an update on safety work and its impact on services.

Sir Alastair Morton, chairman of the shadow Strategic Rail Authority, said all the main players in the industry would produce a report for Mr Prescott before Christmas on whether there was a conflict between performance and safety.

Mr Corbett has indicated his belief that there is a tension between the two objectives, but the Rail Regulator, Tom Winsor, disagrees. Quoting Rod Muttrum, a Railtrack director, Mr Winsor said: "There is no doubt at all that a punctual railway is a safer railway."

However the Deputy Prime Minister said that a case could be made for the regulator to waive financial penalties levied against Railtrack where safety measures might mean a deterioration in performance.

Comments