Assessing a major infrastructure project
A Railtrack case study

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Page 3: Research

Following a statement in Parliament by the Secretary of State for Transport on 1 December 1993, Railtrack began its search for a private sector partner in order to carry out a feasibility study into the modernisation of the West Coast Main Line. Six of the 42 groups that expressed an interest in the study, were pre-qualified and WCML Development Company was selected on 24 March 1994. This company is a consortium formed specifically to invest in modernising the West Coast Main Line and comprises experts in areas such as:

  • project finance and leasing
  • management and technology
  • advanced train control
  • signalling and communication systems
  • railway and transportation consultancy.

The feasibility study was designed to investigate what needed to be done to develop the infrastructure of the West Coast Main Line and determine the types of market-led railway services which would be attractive to the train operating companies and rolling stock companies.

Railtrack’s terms of reference for the study were to use a business-led approach, balancing managerial, commercial and technical skills, to assess all options for a privately financed modernisation of the West Coast Main Line.

The process of consultation

In order to establish market needs, the study team consulted with:

  • politicians with constituencies on or near the line
  • county and metropolitan authorities
  • district and regional councils
  • business groups - such as the Confederation of British Industry, Institute of Directors and Chamber of Commerce
  • railway and transport groups - such as Transport 2000 and various Rail Users’ Consultative Committees
  • organised consortia - such as The North of England Regional Consortium and West Coast Rail 250 Group
  • customers, potential customers and other stakeholders in the new railway industry.

Over 1,000 organisations and individuals were contacted. Feedback from this research indicated a need for:

  1. Improved reliability. There was a major opportunity for Railtrack to enhance its market image and competitiveness through genuine improvements in reliability, particularly as the two major sources of delay are signalling and civil engineering works.
  2. Increased ride comfort. The business passenger market values ride quality highly, so that passengers can use laptop computers, eat and drink, uninterrupted by disturbance from the ride. This cannot occur unless the track is in a good state of repair.
  3. Reduced journey times. Faster journey times benefit both train operators and passengers. Some groups suggested top speeds of 186 mph while others lobbied for a more modest 125 mph.
  4. Increased structure gauge. Various groups proposed increasing the load and structure gauge along the West Coast Main Line to allow trains carrying lorry trailers (piggyback). This would also enable the introduction of double-deck passenger trains.
  5. Increased capacity. An increase in line capacity could accommodate new passenger services and cater for growth in freight traffic.
  6. Cost reduction. A reduction in costs would not only benefit Railtrack, but also its stakeholders and customers. Technology change offers the potential to reduce infrastructure maintenance costs.

Railtrack | Assessing a major infrastructure project