Assessing a major infrastructure project
A Railtrack case study

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Page 1: Introduction

Railtrack 4 Image 7The development of a transportation system which links up places both within the UK and across the world, has enabled people, goods and services to travel to and from distant communities and provide us with access to the lifestyles we enjoy. Recently, the media has spotlighted the increasing concerns regarding the infrastructure of the UK's existing transportation systems.

The competitive position between industries is changing as well as the position between competitors in any single industry. The railway industry has experienced significant change over recent years - not so long ago, it would have seemed inconceivable for a low value bulky load to be driven all the way from the south-east of England to a destination in central Scotland. But now, this is no longer the case. Recent rapid growth of air transportation services has also increased competition for passenger services

The 1993 Railways Act was designed to reform Britain’s railways with the hope that the private sector investment and management it would attract could be used to improve the quality and efficiency of rail services. One of the aims of privatisation was to change the competitive position of railways so that much of the traffic lost over the years to roads could be won back. Privatisation aimed to change the shape of the railways and provide new opportunities for business.

This case study focuses on a recent appraisal of a key infrastructure project involving the West Coast Main Line and examines how such a development could significantly change the competitive position of the railway industry.

The West Coast Main Line

The West Coast Main Line is Great Britain’s busiest mixed-traffic railway corridor. It runs from London Euston through Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool to Glasgow and also connects with Edinburgh. The line crosses 16 counties or regions with a population of some 16 million. It connects key towns and cities in the West Midlands, the North West, North Wales and Western Scotland as well as the ports of Holyhead, Liverpool, Heysham and Stranraer for Anglo-Irish traffic.

The line is used by more than 2,000 trains per day, carrying both passengers and freight. Annual traffic is approximately 5 billion passenger-km and 5.5 billion freight gross tonne-km.

Railtrack | Assessing a major infrastructure project