RAILTRACK COULD be forced to bring all of its stations, track and signalling equipment up to European standards because of new legislation which comes into force in 2003.
The new legislation follows hard on the heels of a similar European law under which Britain must harmonise track, station and signals standards on high speed railway lines by the end of the year (NCE 31 May).
This directive covers new construction work and could force Railtrack to widen tunnels and lengthen station platforms on high speed railway lines so European express trains can use them.
The new directive could spread similar standards across the national rail network as it applies to maintenance and renewals.
Legislation to implement Directive 96/48/EC on the Interoperability of the Trans European High Speed Rail System in Great Britain is due to come into force at the end of the year.
Britain's rail industry is due to finalise its response to plans for implementing this by next Tuesday.
The directive is driven by a European Commission desire for uniform rail standards across the European Union. It says that railway infrastructure including track, signalling and rolling stock should comply with mandatory 'technical specifications for interoperability'.
These have not yet been finalised. One senior industry source said: 'Those which will be finalised this year will not cover all the aspects of a high speed railway. It will take years to finalise these.'
The directive will give manufacturers easier access to markets in different countries as compliance will mean acceptance of products throughout the EU.
The proposals, already two years behind schedule, cover only high speed lines. In the UK, these are the East and West Coast Main Lines, the London to Bristol and Cardiff line, the Channel Tunnel within the UK and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.