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Virgin Trains urges Network Rail to improve West Coast Main Line

VIRGIN Trains has reignited a row about track and signal failures that have left it with the worst punctuality record of any UK train operator.

The company, which was awarded a 23-month extension to run London to Scotland services on Thursday, called on infrastructure owner Network Rail to take "meaningful action" to rectify long-standing problems on the West Coast Main Line.

More than 13% of its services were delayed by more than 10 minutes over the past year, while performance in the four weeks to November 10 was even worse, with 22% of services recorded as late.

The company's chief operating officer, Chris Gibb, who has been seconded to Network Rail for five months, has now published an improvement plan aimed at cutting delays attributable to NR, which account for more than 70% of the total.

Tony Collins, chief executive of Virgin Trains, said: "We have pressed time and again for improvement and been promised change. Yet still the performance of the West Coast route falls well short of any other part of the railway.

"We need effective and meaningful measurement and action by the regulator to bring about improvement and we will be pressing for this."

The improvement plan includes measures to prevent suicides on the line by putting up higher fencing and working with the Samaritans as well as cutting faults with overhead power lines and other equipment.

A spokesman for Network Rail said it was focused on driving up performance across Britain's railway.

"Working with our industry partners, we are committed to making further improvements."

The Scottish Government confirmed yesterday two railway stations would open on the route between Aberdeen and Inverness in a bid to improve commuter services.

Stations at Kintore, in Aberdeenshire, and Dalcross, near Inverness Airport, are planned to be built between 2014 and 2019 as part of a package of improvements to the route.

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