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In the papers - Wednesday, 8 January 2008

An investigation into overrunning rail engineering work during Christmas and New Year is to examine whether the hold-ups threaten the punctual delivery of an important upgrade programme.

The Office of Rail Regulation probe into the overruns at Rugby, London Liverpool Street and Glasgow Shields Junction will look at whether plans for upgrade work on the west coast main line will deliver in time for scheduled timetable improvements in December. New tracks need to be laid between Rugby and Stafford while junctions at Rugby need to be remodelled before Virgin Trains can start running services more frequently and faster on the key London-Glasgow route - Financial Times

The architect commissioned to design a sports stadium on the site of Northern Ireland’s former Maze top security prison was locked out of a meeting of politicians to discuss the project last month. Janine Graham of architects HOK Sport had flown to Belfast to brief the assembly committee – only to find they refused to see her - Financial Times

The quasi-public ownership of Network Rail came under further scrutiny yesterday as the Conservative party accused the government of being complicit in the "monumental foul-up" of major engineering work last week. The shadow transport secretary, Theresa Villiers, said the government must bear responsibility for creating an organisation with inadequate regulatory and ownership structures - The Guardian

Bonuses paid to Network Rail bosses were under threat last night after an inquiry was ordered into its performance. In a surprise move, the Office of Rail Regulation decided to investigate the management of all engineering projects, not just the shambles which hit 300,000 passengers last week - The Daily Telegraph

Native water life at the bottom of the Thames is under threat from an invasion of foreign mussels, experts have warned. The Zebra mussel, so-called because of its striped shell, is breeding so quickly that it is feared that it could interfere with the capital's water supply - The Daily Telegraph

A reclusive billionaire whose family owns the Mars confectionery empire has emerged as a determined opponent of the energy industry's plans to develop one of America's last wilderness states. Forrest E Mars Jr, the 75-year-old former chief executive of Mars Inc, has drawn on his $14 billion fortune to fire off a clutch of lawsuits to prevent drilling for natural gas and coal on his 82,000 acre Diamond Cross ranch near the town of Birney in south eastern Montana - The Daily Telegraph

Transport for London's takeover of Metronet Rail is being held up by a dispute with one of Metronet's shareholders over the future of its £3.4bn contract with the collapsed maintenance contractor, according to people involved. TfL, the London mayor's transport organisation, is in acrimonious discussions with Bombardier Transportation about aspects of its contracts with Metronet including train maintenance and contracts for new signals - The Financial Times

The Conservative party will today give its backing to plans for a new generation of nuclear reactors in the UK, Alan Duncan, shadow business secretary, said last night ahead of a government announcement. "Our policy is for investors to be able to go ahead, but without subsidy. There should be a carbon regime, approval for reactor design and for their location and a clear regime for handling the waste," Mr Duncan told the FT - The Financial Times

Eurostar carried more than 8m passengers in a year for the first time in 2007, as the cross-Channel high-speed operator further increased its market share for travel between London and Paris and Brussels. The operator - run jointly by railway companies in the UK, France and Belgium - carried 8.26m travellers during the year, a 5.1 per cent increase on the 7.85m carried in 2006 - The Financial Times

Contractors working for Taylor Wimpey have been told that they will be paid 5 per cent less than previously agreed as the house builder tries to cut costs. A letter to contractors working for it's Bryant Homes division states: "We need to take urgent action to manage down our cost base." - The Times

Jack Straw was accused last night of misleading MPs after it emerged that the cost of a huge prison building programme is almost double the £1.2 billion figure he gave Parliament. The costs of providing an extra 10,500 jail spaces, including three "super-prisons" each holding 2,500 inmates, have been estimated at £2.3 billion - The Times

Two senior ex-ministers who will earn tens of thousands of pounds on top of their parliamentary salaries by working for the nuclear industry look set to be summoned before an inquiry into lobbying, The Times has learnt. As John Hutton, the Business Secretary, prepares to announce today that new nuclear power stations are to be built, the relationship between Parliament and the industry, which is bidding for millions of pounds of contracts, will come under scrutiny from the Public Administration Committee - The Times

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