Transport secretary Lord Adonis last week admitted that the £9bn spent on the West Coast Main Line would have been far better spent on developing a truly high speed line.
More from: Adonis rues West Coast Main Line
Speaking at the summit he said the upgrade provided an incremental increase in capacity, but fell short of providing what was required.
“Essentially it was an upgraded Victorian railway line,” he said. “But if we could rerun the past … I’m clear that we would have taken a different decision.”
Network Rail chief executive Iain Coucher added that current spending plans could also be questioned if high speed rail was further advanced.
“Over the next five years we’re spending £12bn on enhancements,” he said.
“You could argue whether we would need to spend that much if high speed rail comes in.” The West Coast upgrade was intended to enable trains to run at increased speeds from 200km/h to 225km/h.
But costs soared from £2.2bn to £9bn and plans to increase speeds were ditched, partly due to the failure to convert the system to moving block signalling.
“We haven’t been particularly good at planning in this country,” said Adonis. He added that the upgrade caused “huge disruption”.
He said compensation costs of £500M that have been paid to operators while lines were out of operation would not have been incurred if a new line had been built instead.