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Virgin demands more tracks

VIRGIN TRAINS' chief executive Chris Green has called for Railtrack to expand its plans to upgrade the West Coast Main Line.

Green told NCE: 'Our concern is that Railtrack cannot run the level of service we require between London and Birmingham. Of most concern is the Coventry to Birmingham corridor where we need to run six trains per hour between nine stations but there are only plans for two tracks. We are looking for an 8km stretch of four tracking [to allow fast and slow trains to operate simultaneously].'

New Railtrack director of network development Robin Gisby revealed that he was looking at options to add tracks.

'We are doing some work with all the operators and the Office of Passenger Rail Franchising to look at changes in the basic functional specification, including more track and high speed junctions up and down the route,' he said.

Gisby added that Railtrack was also looking at alternative routes for freight that would ease congestion on the Coventry corridor.

Green's call follows news two weeks ago that new Rail Regulator Tom Winsor was investigating Railtrack's ability to meet its capacity commitments on the upgraded WCML (NCE 8 July). Railtrack has to provide 12 high speed train paths an hour for Virgin's new tilting trains plus an additional 42 slow train paths a day. The concerns centre on the number of slow paths available.

(See rail feature page 21)

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