TRAIN OPERATORS this week accused Railtrack of making temporary speed restrictions into permanent speed limits to give the impression that it is improving its performance.
Railtrack said that 'very, very few' had been changed, but added that speed restrictions had been reclassified for safety reasons.
But one operator told NCE that Railtrack was proposing to change 60 temporary restrictions into permanent ones. He added that some were justified but claimed the main reason for the change was to improve figures.
Temporary speed restrictions are imposed at areas of poor track quality, such as soft spots in the ballast or flaws in the rail.
Hundreds were imposed across the network in the wake of the Hatfield disaster in 2000 at sites suspected of suffering from gauge corner cracking, the cause of the crash.
Railtrack said there were about 650 temporary restrictions on the network, which on an average day, would cause operators about 2,000 minutes of delay. It added that delays caused by train operators were higher.
Railtrack claimed that in areas where it was unlikely repairs would be carried out quickly, it was safer to make temporary speed restrictions into permanent speed limits. This is because larger speed boards would be erected trackside to replace temporary signs and drivers would be formally notified that a restriction's temporary status had been changed.
Penalties for causing train cancellations mean that Railtrack has to squeeze as much work as it can into night time possessions, making rapid progress difficult. This means that some work has to be done over several weeks rather than in a single possession.