Speed boost for west coast rail line

After 10 years of disruption, £9bn upgrade will cut London to Glasgow journey times by almost an hour

Passengers on the west coast main line are being promised a major improvement in service following the long-awaited completion yesterday of a decade-long £9bn upgrade.

With the line rebuilt to accommodate tilting trains travelling at up to 125mph, as well as new junctions, signalling and other work, nearly an hour should be cut from journey times from London to Glasgow, Network Rail said.

The fastest time between Birmingham and London would fall by 30 per cent to just one hour and 12 minutes – 31 minutes quicker than before the project started – while Virgin Trains' northbound service from London to Glasgow will now take four hours, 30 minutes, rather than five hours, 20 minutes.

There will also be more than 1,100 extra services every week. Among the additional services are an extra train each hour between London Euston and Birmingham New Street with trains running every 20 minutes.

The upgrade has seen a series of disruptions to passenger journeys over the years as bits of track were closed for engineering work. Last January, over-running work on the line caused travel chaos for thousands of people returning to work after the Christmas break. They had to take bus services between Birmingham and Northampton as the line remained closed for several days. Network Rail was fined a record £14m by the Office of Rail Regulation for the disruption.

However, the company is hailing completion of the work as a "massive" achievement and said: "The result will be a quantum leap in services." Its chief executive, Iain Coucher, added: "This has been an extraordinarily complex project to rebuild Europe's busiest mixed-use railway. Now it is complete passengers and freight operators will reap the benefits."

The project involved 174 new or altered bridges, 53 new or extended platforms at places such as Milton Keynes and Manchester airport, the replacement of more than 800 points and the laying of more than three million yards of rail, ballast and sleepers.

Ashwin Kumar, of the watchdog group Passenger Focus, described the completion of the upgrade as "very positive". However, he said that there were some downsides as places such as Nuneaton in Warwickshire now have a reduced service with fewer trains stopping there as part of the drive to cut train times.

Mr Kumar also criticised ticketing policies. "In order to get the cheapest tickets, you're having to buy an advance ticket, which means you can only travel on one specific train."

Meanwhile, the Conservatives have called for a new supervisory board to oversee Network Rail, with powers to sack senior executives if they failed to perform. They want the board to include passenger, industry and independent representatives from the business sector.

The shadow Transport Secretary, Theresa Villiers, said this would end the "accountability vacuum" created in 2002 when Labour set up the company to run Britain's rail infrastructure.

Ups and downs West coast main line upgrade

*In February 1997, the former network operator Railtrack announces a £15bn plan for "the world's most efficient rail network" in the UK, which includes a deal with Virgin Rail enabling the use of high-speed trains on the west coast main line in return for a contribution towards the cost of the upgrade. The first major work on the line since 1974 is expected to cost £2bn and be completed by 2005.

*Work begins in 1998 with the first disruptions for passengers.

*In 2001, Railtrack goes bankrupt after the Hatfield rail crash. A re-assessment of the plans sees the cost of upgrading the line soar to £8-10bn.

*In September 2004, with Network Rail in charge, the first phase of the upgrade opens, cutting some journey times from Manchester to London to just over two hours. But delays continue: work in the Trent Valley results in trains being diverted to the Birmingham Loop, pushing Glasgow-London journey times to more than six hours.

*In September 2006, a record of three hours, 55 minutes is set for the 401-mile, Glasgow-central London route.

*In January 2008, an over-run on work results in one of the worst delays yet. Network Rail is fined £14m.

*14 December 2008: work finishes.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?