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SSRA seeks greater development role

RAILTRACK'S CONTROL over development of the nation's rail infrastructure was dented this week after shadow Strategic Rail Authority chief executive Mike Grant revealed plans to take a more hands-on role in projects.

Grant announced his intention to set up and lead the new project development boards during his presentation to the Government's rail summit last week.

The boards, he insisted, would work in partnership with Railtrack and its alliance contractors to develop plans and designs to enhance the rail network.

However, industry insiders told NCE that the move was seen as an attempt by Grant to gain more influence over Railtrack's spending plans and would help him to exert more pressure on the network operator to invest.

Railtrack was recently attacked by sSRA chairman Sir Alastair Morton over its failure to provide adequate management resources. Using the West Coast Main Line as an example, Morton criticised Railtrack for having 12 out of the 13 top people on the contract and asked: 'How many people has it available?'

Railtrack denied that the sSRA's proposals would be an intrusion into its business and insisted that it would remain just 'one cog in the machine'. A Railtrack spokesman said issues such as the lack of capacity around London Waterloo were areas where the sSRA and the train operating companies needed to get involved to help solve the problems.

Although details have not been finalised Grant believes the boards will be arranged on a regional basis. He wants them to drive projects ahead and believes money will be saved as the sSRA will not have to check Railtrack's proposals, having been involved from the start.

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