Assessing a major infrastructure project
A Railtrack case study

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Page 4: Methodology

Railtrack 4 Image 6Four approaches were established as a framework to develop, test and refine promising options for the West Coast Main Line. All studies require a base against which proposals can be judged. Two base cases were considered: ‘Bedrock’ - a patch and mend approach and ‘Recovery’ which allows some upfront investment to take place to drive down long term costs. Although neither case was viewed as a realistic case on its own, they helped put other proposals into perspective. Two other approaches were considered as investment cases; ‘Cost-Driven’ would make the railway as cost efficient as possible in terms of infrastructure costs while ‘Market- Driven’ would create an environment for growth and revenue enhancement.

Technical options

The key role of the study team was to research and analyse the options for the West Coast Main Line. Options which involved unacceptably high risks, environmental impacts, costs exceeding benefits and various technical problems were not developed further. The options which were examined included:

  • Cost-Driven principal technical options - including improving trackwork components, alternative types of train control and operation for longer trains
  • Train control options - such as colourlight signalling, track circuit cab-signalling and transmission-based cab train control
  • Maintenance strategies – designed to keep disruption to a minimum
  • Market-Driven technical options - such as heavier and faster freight trains, technologically advanced train control systems and high speed passenger trains with tilting systems
  • Journey times
  • Increased capacity for passenger services
  • Freight options - such as piggyback gauge.

After sifting through the various options, the study team decided on a Core Investment Programme which would combine elements of three of the modernisation strategies - Bedrock, Recovery and Cost-Driven - into a programme of works. This would include:

  • A transmission-based train control system enabling drivers to communicate by digital radio to a control centre and where train location would be determined using passive responders.
  • A small number of control centres to combine train control, production and traction power control functions.
  • Renewal of track structures which would be brought to a higher standard of repair.
  • Power supply points to be renewed or refurbished.
  • Changes to methods of operation which would be needed to benefit from the proposals.

Railtrack | Assessing a major infrastructure project