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Railtrack boosts network improvements by £3bn

RAILTRACK HAS boosted maintenance and renewal investment over the next five years by £2.9bn on its pre-Hatfield train crash figure.

Figures in the latest network management statement (NMS) published last week show a £14.8bn programme, reflecting Railtrack's need to start delivering real improvements to the existing network.

Railtrack's new engineering strategy, put into place last month as the company hauled itself from the financial brink, will see it concentrate resources on maintenance and renewal rather than new enhancements.

But the latest NMS also accepts that Railtrack will face major industry skills shortages as this work kicks off. It therefore includes plans to develop schemes to find and train engineers from other industries to become front line track engineers, including at least 20 within the next year. It will lead the development of nationally recognised qualifications for engineers and technicians.

This latest NMS will for the first time be published in two parts. The second part is set to follow later in the year, once the Strategic Rail Authority has released its Strategic Plan. This will give details of further plans to develop the network, in conjunction with the SRA.

But to help increase the amount of maintenance work that can be carried out, Railtrack has already set out plans to extend midweek track possessions and will no longer publish timetables beyond January 2003 for critical lines, to cut down lead-in times for possessions.

And in line with the rail regulator's requirements, Railtrack also vowed to put in place a preliminary register of the condition of its assets by 17 June. The network operator will then overhaul the standards and specifications that set out the required condition of its assets.

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