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Railtrack shake-up puts WCML upgrade back on track

RAILTRACK'S WEST Coast Main Line management shake-up last year saved the project, according to train operator Virgin chief executive Chris Green.

Speaking as Railtrack announced plans for a 160-day summer blitz to complete its £180M remodelling of the approaches to London's Euston station, Green said: 'There has been a sea change in the management of this project. A year ago I would have said it would not be delivered in time. Now I say it will. Railtrack has got its act together.'

Railtrack major projects director Simon Murray replaced most of the top tier of management on the project after it starting drifting badly (NCE 15 April 1999). Key changes included introducing Tony Fletcher as general manager responsible for delivery and Robin Gisby as project sponsor.

In that time, Railtrack also abandoned plans to install the untried moving block signalling in favour of a less risky signalling system - a move which saw project costs rise from £2.2bn to £5.8bn (11 November 1999).

Since then, the three key station remodelling schemes at Euston, Proofhouse Junction in Birmingham and Manchester South are well advanced, with Euston's complex final stage work due to begin on 20 April (see box).

A Balfour Beatty/GTRM/WS Atkins joint venture is also progressing with the £130M first phase of the line's overhead electrification package. A Railtrack/Jarvis consortium responsible for the £230M track renewal contract took delivery of a high output track renewal train from the US last month.

Last week, the first of three WCML Transport & Works Orders required for land acquisition also went out for public consultation. This covers three capacity increase projects at Rugby, Nuneaton and Trent Valley and several road crossings along the route.

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