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Bam Nuttall’s Chiltern line upgrade runs into trouble

Train operator Chiltern Railways has said it “remains confident” that its flagship rail upgrade project between Birmingham and London is on track, despite a rail regulator warning that it had indentified problems with the scheme.

The Office of Rail Regulation’s (ORR) quarterly Network Rail monitor casts doubt on the ability of Chiltern’s contractor Bam Nuttall to deliver the first stage of the upgrade by May 2011 as planned.

The upgrade of the Chiltern mainline between London Marylebone and Birmingham Snow Hill stations includes upgrades from Neasden junction near London to Aynho Junction near Birmingham.

The project will restore double track to most of the route, while new signalling and safety systems will allow trains to run at higher speeds, reducing the journey time from Marylebone to Birmingham from two hours to 98 minutes.

Problems

The ORR said that “several problems” have been found with the project’s plans, and that they are now being revised.

Consultant Halcrow has been asked to review a revised plan before a decision on the phasing of the project funding is taken.

Sources close to the project have said that the timescale of the work was always seen as “optimistic”, and a spokesman for Chiltern Railways admitted that following the collapse of Jarvis, the project’s principal sub contractor, in March, work started later than expected and the project programme has had to be re-phased.

This is despite Bam Nuttall’s assurances at the time that the loss of Jarvis would “not affect our ability and commitment to deliver this project to the total satisfaction of our client Chiltern Railways”. Chiltern said it was confident the project will be delivered to schedule.

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