Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Passengers Face 6-Year Wait for End of West Coast Works

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Passengers Face 6-Year Wait for End of West Coast Works

Article excerpt

Byline: PATRICK SAWER

PASSENGERS on the creaking Londonto-Scotland West Coast rail line were today told they will have to wait until 2008 to see the much-delayed multibillion modernisation of their service finally completed.

But there will be substantial improvements for commuters by 2004.

The cost of the West Coast main line project has soared from the original pound sterling2.5 billion to about pound sterling9.8 billion - or pound sterling1.25million a mile - said the Strategic Rail Authority.

It also admitted Sir Richard Branson's tilting trains may never run at 140mph on the line as originally planned and the 125mph tilting trains, originally due to run this May, will not begin in earnest until autumn 2004.

The full upgrade, originally due for completion in 2005, will not be substantially finished until 2006, with a final completion in 2008, a measure of the difficulty the Government still faces in improving the parlous state of Britain's public transport infrastructure.

Together with Virgin, Railtrack had hoped to complete the modernisation of a line that had long been cashstarved and on which passengers endure patchy services.

But Railtrack's cash crisis threatened the entire project and the SRA was forced to intervene, using taxpayers' money.

Reacting to the announcement, London Transport Users Committee's spokesman, Jerry Gold, said: "Getting the 125mph trains running in 2004 is sooner than if the project had been left to stagger on as it had done. It is welcome that the SRA is getting to grips with the West Coast line, but it's disappointing that the whole thing has dragged on so long with costs escalating to the point where it is almost unaffordable."

About pound sterling7.5billion will be spent on a backlog of track renewal and replacement and another pound sterling2.3 billion on upgrading the line to take Virgin's Pendolino trains.

The modernisation will mean that from autumn 2004, London to Manchester journey times will be reduced to two hours, while by 2006 London-Glasgow times will be reduced by around 45 minutes to four hours 30 minutes. …

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