RAILTRACK IS set to re-target its track maintenance and renewals programme in an effort to cut train delays and improve safety.
Changes under the new programme are likely to see the more small scale renewals work being carried out by maintenance contractors rather than by specialist renewals units.
'We see the two types of work as coming closer together and the boundaries becoming more blurred than in the past,' said Railtrack head of contract management Andrew Hinton.
The initiative comes after months of criticism over continuing poor track quality, and growing suspicion among maintenance contractors that Railtrack spending has slowed.
The Rail Regulator ordered Railtrack to carry out a review of its maintenance and renewals programme in July following concerns from train operators over the quality of the network. The company will submit an action plan to the Regulator next week which will demonstrate how poor areas of track will be eliminated by April 2001.
But although Railtrack's contractors back the action plan, some still doubt whether Railtrack will actually increase its spending on maintenance and renewals. One said it was still unclear whether more money would be released, but claimed that the plans would definitely increase its own costs.
Hinton admitted that the main focus would be to get contractors to target work more accurately, but claimed an increase in spending on maintenance and renewals was possible in some areas.
He claimed the company would target poor track in all 35 maintenance areas: 'We have made specific commitments for what percentage of the track should meet certain levels of horizontal and vertical alignment.'
Meanwhile preferred bidders for Railtrack's first competitively tendered maintenance contracts have been appointed. GTRM is favourite for contracts in the West Midlands and Cambrian area and South Wales area, while Amec is preferred bidder for the West Anglia and North London Line contract area.
The contracts are due to start in April 1999, and are worth a total of £220M.