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Fitters behind West Coast improvements

A new £40m initiative to reduce delays and improve services on the West Coast Main Line is largely the brainchild of maintenance staff up and down the line.

Chris Gibb, Chief Operating Officer, Virgin Trains, worked a six month secondment with Network Rail. Chris spent time with maintenance crews, mostly at night. His recommendations, published in a special report, are largely based on the ideas he heard from experienced staff at T&RS depots.

Network Rail is pushing ahead with a number of projects aimed at improving reliability. These range from overhead line improvements to new security fencing designed to reduce delays caused by trespass and vandalism.

Around 70% of delays to Virgin services are attributable to Network Rail, 35% of which are down to infrastructure faults and 25% to external factors such as cable theft, fatalities, trespass, vandalism and extreme weather.

A specialist team of engineers has walked the entire route between London and Rugby and recommended a series of improvements that are now being delivered over and above regular maintenance and inspection activity.

Around £10m will be invested to construct more than 11 miles of new fencing along the railway between London and Rugby at key locations, reducing the risk of incursions from people or livestock onto the track. Further north, a major project over 18 miles of railway near Wigan will see new junctions and track installed over nine days in July. In the longer term, similar infrastructure improvements in the Watford area will be getting underway in 2014.

Says Chris Gibb, ‘I am pleased that Network Rail has decided to progress all the recommendations and make a £40m investment to improve performance on the southern end of the West Coast Main Line. We are starting to see that investment actually taking place but both Network Rail and the train operators need to keep the pressure on to ensure that lasting improvements in performance are achieved.’

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