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The BBC's Simon Montague
"How much compensation passengers will get isn't entirely clear"
 real 56k

Railtrack Chief Executive, Gerald Corbett
"It is going to be an extremely difficult week"
 real 28k

Railtrack asset manager Jim Bellingham
"We have found some minor cracks, but nothing to be concerned about"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 25 October, 2000, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Railtrack defends line closure
Euston Station in London
Railtrack says delays could continue for some time
Railtrack has defended its decision to close the Scottish part of the west coast main line, saying shutting it completely will avoid passengers suffering long-term disruption.

The controversial decision to shut the Gretna to south Glasgow section is part of a safety "blitz" in the wake of the Hatfield crash.

But it has been criticised by rail officials and passengers.


We are now going to have to blitz the network and run it for safet

Railtrack boss Gerald Corbett
After initially estimating the work will take until Saturday, Railtrack has said the line will reopen at 0800BST on Thursday.

Sir Alastair Morton, chairman of the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority, accused Railtrack of "over-reaction".

And the biggest rail union, the RMT, said the decision, taken on Tuesday night, suggested that "large parts of the network have been dangerously unsafe for some time".

Passenger groups have also criticised the 11th hour decision, which resulted in many people being stranded in Euston on Tuesday night on a London to Scotland sleeper train.

Railtrack has apologised to train passengers and freight customers for causing disruption, but is warning passengers they can expect an "extremely difficult week" as safety checks are carried out.

"We are now going to have to blitz the network and run it for safety," said Railtrack boss Gerald Corbett.

'Prosecution'

He defended the sudden closure of the Scottish West Coast main line.

"Of course, in the short term that is going to be awful for passengers, but our local people have the accountability for safety and if they get it wrong and make the wrong judgement, they can get prosecuted," he said.

Railtrack's Scottish asset manager Jim Bellingham said the decision to shut the line had not been made lightly, and that staggering the safety tests would have caused longer-term disruption.

The line has been closed between Glasgow and Carlisle to allow engineers to examine minor cracks found on the rails.

The closures came after Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott ordered the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to conduct an urgent review of Railtrack's work to repair broken rails.

Gerald Corbett
Railtrack boss Gerald Corbett has warned of an "extremely difficult week" ahead
With passengers suffering hour-long delays or more on some routes, Prime Minister Tony Blair told MPs: "We need to renew our transport infrastructure but it's a long-term project."

There are now an estimated 150 speed restrictions across the whole rail network.

Train operator ScotRail was "enraged" by the track closure.

Its managing director Alastair McPherson said: "We are Railtrack's biggest customer and if this is their idea of customer service it certainly isn't mine."

He promised refunds to all those inconvenienced by the sudden closures.

Passengers on Virgin services are being taken by bus to Carlisle and then onwards by train.

Managers on the other main London-Scotland service - East Coast Main Line - warned passengers not to switch to their route because their trains are full and subject to speed restrictions.

A broken rail is believed to have caused last Tuesday's derailment at Hatfield in Hertfordshire, in which four people were killed and more than 30 injured.

Passengers are being told to call 08457 484950 for further information on affected services.

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See also:

25 Oct 00 | Scotland
Minister steps into rail row
24 Oct 00 | Talking Point
Scotland: Rail line closure - your views
25 Oct 00 | Scotland
Rail line shutdown: What they said
20 Oct 00 | Scotland
Rail routes face more disruption
18 Oct 00 | UK
Crash track was 'not good'
25 Oct 00 | Scotland
Line closure: Picture gallery
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