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West Coast upgrade waits for signal

RAILTRACK WILL learn by the end of next month whether it can proceed with the innovative profit-sharing deal which underpins the 2.1bn upgrade of the West Coast Main Line.

Railtrack will share the profits with train operator Virgin once new track and signalling infrastructure is in place, allowing the tilting trains to travel from London to Manchester in 1 hour 45 minutes.

However, the deal can only go ahead with the agreement of the Rail Regulator. Submissions from other train operators objecting to the deal must be with the regulator by tomorrow. A decision is expected by March. Virgin this week placed an 800M order with the GEC Alsthom/ Fiat Ferroviaria joint venture for 55 tilting trains. The trains will be delivered in 2002.

Also this week, Railtrack received tenders for the 600M upgrade of the signalling system. This had been planned to come into operation in 2005, but Railtrack is hoping to speed up development and introduce it in 2003, further increasing the number of trains and cutting journey times.

The new signals are based on a moving block principle, as is the ill- fated system being designed for the Jubilee Line Extension by Westinghouse Signals whose chief executive John Mills was ousted this week. Railtrack hopes to avoid problems such as those plaguing the underground project, by running the system in parallel with the existing network until bugs are ironed out.

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