SENIOR STRATEGIC Rail Authority (SRA) officials last week said the organisation would prevent future rail projects from going ahead unless everyone involved could agree on their scope.
They warned that the government could even scrap ill defined rail projects in favour of road schemes.
Delays and cost overruns on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) have already damaged confidence in future rail projects, said SRA managing director of strategic planning Jim Steer.
Steer added that the business case for the WCML was now 'touch and go.'
'This is something the industry should be worried about, ' he said. 'We're counting on people to work with each other and not knock chips off each other, because if they do, it adds up to very, very expensive rail projects.'
Steer said that the industry should have more realistic expectations of what benefits new railway lines can bring.
They must also work together to set out a clear, deliverable programme and then stick to it.
The WCML is being upgraded to boost freight and passenger capacity as well as train speeds. But costs have soared and the scheme has fallen well behind schedule.
Last week Steer unveiled a new strategy, which will be consulted on over the next 12 weeks. It has been drawn up following negotiations between the government, train operators, and freight and passenger groups.
It aims to increase line speeds to 200km/h and enable track to carry 80% more passenger trains and 70% more freight trains by 2004. The new plan is expected to cost £9.8bn.
The original scheme was expected to raise line speeds to 200km/h by this year and to 225km/h trains by 2005 at a cost of £2.2bn.