Railtrack will miss a 2005 deadline to increase slow train paths on the West Coast Main Line because it has yet to apply for planning permission for two key projects.
Uncertainty about the planning process means the work is unlikely to finish until 2007.
Later this year the network manager intends to apply for Transport & Works Orders for two key projects with a combined value of £225M. When complete these projects will provide an extra 42 slow train paths.
Both are part of capacity increase commitments agreed with Virgin Trains and both require land acquisition. Getting permission for this through TWOs can be difficult.
Railtack will apply for TWOs for a £150M plan for 9.6km of four tracking in the Trent Valley and a £75M platform reworking scheme at Watford Junction in the summer and autumn respectively.
Network development director Robin Gisby said the consent process for each would probably take about two years and that this left Railtrack with a tight deadline.
'We are assuming a worst case of 2007 but we will try for 2005. It depends on the Transport & Works Act process. There are a whole lot of people in Trent Valley and Watford to whom this is new. It would be wrong of us to say we will do it by 2005.'