A ROW between Rail Regulator Tom Winsor and the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) has thrown a key section of the £10bn West Coast Main Line upgrade into chaos, sources close to the project said this week.
Engineers involved with design work for the £640M Trent Valley Capacity Enhancement said they were unsure whether or not the project was being shelved.
Confusion struck after Winsor told Network Rail to stop work last month. He ordered a delay of between 18 and 24 months until he had published final details of his review of track access charges.
The order was then contradicted by the SRA which told Network Rail to continue work.
The row is likely to continue until March as Winsor has allowed the SRA and the Department for Transport to come up with alternative ways of funding it, possibly by rescheduling other projects.
In the review, he said that the other projects were higher priority and Trent Valley project was not needed immediately.
The project involves four tracking 19km of twin track line and remodelling Rugby station to allow express trains to pass through at 125mph.
Work was due to start in 2005, although work to remodel Rugby station was programmed to start on site later this year. Track work near the station is also scheduled to start later this year.
Engineers close to the Trent Valley project said the row between Winsor and the SRA had left them in the dark about whether the project was to be put on hold or not.
They said design work was already 18 months behind schedule because the Department for Transport had delayed release of transport work orders which define the scope of design work.
'We're trying to establish if this is a further delay, and just what is currently on the table, ' said a senior engineer working on the project. Network Rail is understood to be seeking guidance on the issue.
The SRA said it was strongly opposed to Winsor's decision to delay the Trent Valley project.
'The West Coast Main Line is the busiest mixed traffic route in Europe. Our view is that we should press on and not lay down tools. We'll argue the case very strongly for the £640M, ' said an SRA spokesman.
The SRA was also reluctant to shift funds from other projects.
'We don't want to do that because other projects are important as well, ' the spokesman added.
Deferring work could also introduce extra costs when it restarted, he said.
INFOPLUS To access the regulator's decision go to www. nceplus.co.uk