RAILTRACK THIS week revealed that it is unhappy about allowing train operating companies to invest in its core network.
Railtrack head of regulation and government John Smith told a rail conference last week that TOC investment in infrastructure raised many technical and operational problems and should be limited to single-user spurs and stations.
Smith's comments appear directly to contradict shadow Strategic Rail Authority chairman Sir Alastair Morton. He stated in January that Railtrack could not meet the nation's infrastructure needs on its own and called for new sources of investment in Britain's railways.
But Smith said: 'We see pretty severe limitations with respect to the core network. Most of it is multiuser so the notion of an operator undertaking investment in a piece of infrastructure raises a host of contractual issues.
'It could be seen as fragmenting the basic network and involve operational issues such as group safety standards and performance issues. It would lead to a significant increase in the level of complexity.'
He added: 'The integrity of the basic rail infrastructure - rails, signals and operations - are Railtrack's key business as network owner/operator of a multiuser railway. I have difficulty with alternatives.'
Smith said TOC investment was best suited to new connections to the existing network such as freight-only lines where there is no multiuser access. He added there was also considerable scope for TOCs to develop stations to become integrated transport 'gateways' to the railway.