Threat to Railtrack over West Coast main line upgrade delay

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The Independent Online

Railtrack is facing huge fines unless it takes urgent action to update the West Coast Main Line, the rail watchdog said today.

Railtrack is facing huge fines unless it takes urgent action to update the West Coast Main Line, the rail watchdog said today.

The Office of the Rail Regulator said the rail network company had failed to complete a strategic review agreed with the watchdog and was close to being in breach of its licence.

The watchdog said it was launching an enforcement action today and gave the company until the end of February to comply with its agreements over the line or face tough action "including the possibility of a monetary penalty".

The regulator approved plans by Railtrack to upgrade the West Coast Line earlier this year.

The plans included increasing capacity for freight and passengers and allowing Virgin Trains to introduce faster and more frequent services using its tilting trains.

But Rail Regulator Tom Winsor today said train operators and the Strategic Rail Authority had expressed concern that Railtrack's plans were not convincing.

"By failing to complete adequate strategic reviews, despite undertaking to do so by March this year, Railtrack is likely to breach its network licence," Mr Winsor said.

Mr Winsor said the company needed to publish its strategy, cost plans and timetables for the upgrade work needed on the line by February 29 or face further sanctions.

"I expect Railtrack to heed this warning. If Railtrack lets down train operators and funders, it will face even stronger enforcement action, including the possibility of a monetary penalty."

The regulator's attack on Railtrack's performance on the West Coast Line comes just a day after the company provoked fury by announcing its half year profits had jumped to £236 million - more than £1.3 million a day.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Winsor said he had stopped short of fining Railtrack at this stage.

"The enforcement action that I am initiating does not formally include a monetary penalty, I have decided that that is not necessary."

Asked about Railtrack's record levels of profits announced yesterday, he said: "I have no objection to healthy profits but healthy profits must be earned."

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