The West Coast Main Line running alongside the M1 motorway near Daventry in Northamptonshire

Rail route to have �40m spent on upgrades

A key rail route from London to Scotland will receive £40m worth of upgrades in projects announced today by Network Rail.

The schemes on the West Coast main line (WCML), which runs through the North West, include overhead line improvements as well as new fencing to stop trespassers.

The projects, some of which are already under way, have been announced at a time when NR has been warned by rail regulators about poor performance on some lines.

Virgin Trains, which operates the WCML, announced earlier this month it was taking action against NR over what it claims is breach of contract concerning train punctuality with the case to be heard by a rail industry body – the Access Disputes Resolution Committee.

Dyan Crowther, NR's route managing director, says: "We are not satisfied with the current performance of our infrastructure on the southern end of the West Coast main line, which is one of Britain's most vital rail arteries.

"This line has seen tremendous growth in traffic and passengers over the last five years and, just like a busy motorway during rush hour, more trains mean that if something goes wrong, the knock on effects can be significant.

"We have identified almost £40m worth of investment aimed at improving performance by targeting some of the most common causes of delay. Some of the measures will be delivered in a few short months while others are more long term."

Chris Gibb, chief operating officer at Virgin Trains, added: "I am pleased that NR has decided to progress all the recommendations and make this investment.

"Already we are starting to see that investment actually taking place but both NR and the train operators need to keep the pressure on to ensure that lasting improvements in performance are achieved."

Speaking from the RMT's annual general meeting in Brighton, the union's general secretary, Bob Crow, said: "RMT welcomes any investment in rail infrastructure.

"However, £40m is not a huge sum compared to the money required to tackle the backlog of maintenance on Britain's railways, and if we put a stop to Virgin milking the route for every penny they can extract we could free up the funds needed to make a real difference."

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