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The BBC's Simon Montague
"The three day closure will let engineers carry out ultra-sonic testing"
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Wednesday, 25 October, 2000, 00:27 GMT 01:27 UK
Railtrack shuts West Coast mainline
Hatfield crash site
The Hatfield crash renewed track safety fears
Railtrack Scotland has announced plans to close the West Coast mainline between Glasgow and Carlisle for 72 hours from Wednesday morning.

The decision infuriated rail companies, who said they had been given just three hours' notice of the decision.

The company said the closure, which would take effect from 0800 BST, was to allow engineers to scan the track inch by inch for cracks with ultrasonic equipment.

This precautionary measure has been taken to cause the minimum of disruption to passengers

Railtrack spokeswoman
ScotRail said it was "enraged" and alleged that its officials were given little warning of the impending closure.

It said sleeper services were cancelled and the company had no way of contacting the 700 passengers booked on those trains. Speed restrictions had been imposed on Tuesday evening up until the closure.

The move follows last week's fatal derailment at Hatfield, in Hertfordshire, which prompted fresh concerns about track safety, and the subsequent introduction of speed restrictions.

A Railtrack spokeswoman said: "This precautionary measure has been taken to cause the minimum of disruption to passengers and freight services.

Glasgow Central station
Services into Glasgow Central will be affected
"We very much regret the delays this will cause and the disruption to services over the next few days."

The line was expected to reopen at 0700 BST on Saturday.

Allan McLean, Virgin's public affairs manager for Scotland, said: "Although safety is the first priority for our passengers we are however concerned that the railway has been allowed to deteriorate to the extent that Railtrack has been forced to close it for three days between Gretna and Glasgow."

Mr McLean said Virgin was drawing up an emergency timetable.

No guarantee

He said some rail services would be diverted via alternative routes while buses would be used to enable other passengers to reach their destinations.

A spokesman for ScotRail said all Anglo-Scottish Sleeper services have been suspended until further notice because of the track closure and because of emergency speed restrictions which were announced by Railtrack at 1800 BST on Tuesday.

A 40-mile stretch southwards from Law junction has been reduced to 20 mph and ScotRail said it could not guarantee the sleepers would get through to London Euston because of this.

Rail crossing
Speed restrictions were already introduced
ScotRail 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.

"Had we had this information earlier we could have contacted every one of the 700 passengers booked to travel on our services tonight.

"I even had a senior executive trying to charter a plane to ease the problems. The bid was unsuccessful.

"I can do no more than offer sincere apologies to all those who will be inconvenienced and ScotRail will, of course, offer full refunds for those who booked and were unable to travel."

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See also:

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'
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