RAIL REGULATOR Tom Winsor this week gave Railtrack two months to finish its post-Hatfield track repair and replacement programme or face huge compensation claims from train operators.
He said that if the track operator failed to finish the work by 21 May, it would be in breach of its network licence and could be sued by train operators for delays and cancellations.
The warning came in a letter Winsor sent to Railtrack chief executive Steve Marshall this week. It sets out details of the provisional enforcement order, following a 'continuing and prospective' breach of Condition 7 of Railtrack's network licence. The order does not carry a fine, as Winsor feels 'it does not need it'.
Railtrack had originally planned to get the rail network back to normal by Easter following the Hatfield crash. But it has since put the target back to 21 May.
Winsor said he had set the same deadline because he doubted that Railtrack would be able to meet it. He added that the date now specified followed a thorough analysis by his office, and was 'realistic'.
He said that the public had a right to be sceptical of Railtrack's claims. 'We are, which is why we have put this order on, ' he said.
If Railtrack fails to meet the deadline it will be in breach of its statutory duty, which will leave it open to civil liability claims from both train operators and passenger groups.
Railtrack responded by saying that it was 'striving' to remove as many speed restrictions as possible, but added it would not compromise safety to meet the target.
It is only the fourth time Railtrack has had an enforcement order placed upon it.
In a separate development, Winsor has recruited consultant Booz Allen to check Railtrack's claim that the re-railing programme has only had a minor effect on routine maintenance and renewals.
Railtrack claims that a minimal amount of work has been lost over the last six months, putting the estimate at 6%, which a spokesman said would be caught up in the next 12 months.
Rail regulator Tom Winsor this week said he was giving Railtrack an extra two months to produce its next network management statement, to allow it more time to plan for the future.