TRAIN OPERATORS have accepted as inevitable last week's announcement that sections of the West Coast Main Line (WCML) will be closed for four months for two years running.
It is hoped the closures, known as blockades, will slash the time it takes to complete the increasingly expensive upgrade.
The first 17 week blockade will be on the line between Colwich in Staffordshire, via Stoke, to Cheadle Hulme next summer.
The second will start in 2004 on track between Crewe and Cheadle Hulme.
WCML operator Virgin's services between London and the North West and Scotland will be diverted to a nearby parallel route, but local services will be replaced by buses.
It is estimated that doing the work at weekends and during night time possessions would have taken two years.
A spokesman for Virgin said the blockade work would have long term benefits even though business would be hit while the track was shut.
Planning director of freight operator English Welsh & Scottish Railways, Graham Smith said although there would be some impact on its services, it has nine months to plan for the disruption.
Subsequent improvements in the track loading gauge and electrification would make the railway more flexible, he said.
Work delivered to date
Length of track where sleepers replaced: 327km
Length of track reballasted: 210km
Switches and crossings replaced: 101
Sections of overhead wiring replaced: 533.
INFOPLUS www. nceplus.co.uk/magazine/ rail