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Virgin agreed to scrap WCML upgrade before Railtrack collapse

RAIL IN CRISIS RAIL IN CRISIS

RAILTRACK AND Virgin had agreed to scrap the £4.2bn second phase of the West Coast Main Line (WCML) upgrade before the government put Railtrack into administration, it emerged this week.

Virgin is understood to have agreed to abandon the second phase of the upgrade in exchange for a lower access charge for trains using the WCML.

The proposals were to be submitted directly to transport secretary Stephen Byers without the knowledge of the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA).

The plan was one of three options for the project which were due to be presented to the government on 18 October - a week last Monday. They were never submitted because Railtrack was put into administration the day before.

Phase two, known as Passenger Upgrade 2 (PUG 2), was due to be completed by 2005, allowing trains to travel at up to 140mph.

PUG1, or phase one, is due to be completed next year. It will enable trains to travel at up to 125mph.

Completion of PUG2 was only expected to save an extra 10 minutes on the London to Glasgow journey time.

Costs on the project have spiralled from £2.5bn to £6.5bn.

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