Published at 08:29 on Friday 8th May 2015
Tags: WCR, Network Rail, West Coast, Charter

SR Battle of Britain No. 34067 Tangmere passes the site of the now defunct Wolfhall Junction on the Berks and Hants line, on 7th March 2015, on the 1-in-106 climb towards Savernake. Alan Holding

Updated: 10:14 Friday 8th May

Network Rail has confirmed that it reinstated West Coast Railway Company's track access agreement as of 00:01 this morning, five weeks after suspending the organisation over safety concerns.

In a letter to West Coast Railway Company, Paul McMahon, Director for Freight at Network Rail, said that the company welcomed the commitment WCR has made to improving safety through changes to the Safety Management System (SMS), and the appointing of a new Director/General Manager, Head of Safety and Non-Executive Director. The new interim Head of Safety, Alex McGregor, from Lloyds Register and a Non-Executive Director are being appointed before services recommence.

The letter continued that Network Rail "recognised and welcomed" that WCR intended to undertake a "phased return of services" to allow implementation of the new procedures, before returning to a wider range of operations. Network Rail is to review the progress made on working within the new governance structure and SMS in three months time.

A spokesperson for the Office of Rail and Road said that following its initial investigation, West Coast Railway Company (WCR) has established improved safety procedures and that ORR inspectors will be on site examining safety arrangements ahead of WCR running passenger services. These checks will ensure the company has introduced the necessary changes, such as improved safety procedures, enhanced management systems, and appropriate staff competence regimes. The ORR says it will continue to monitor WCR services for assurance that they are operating safely.

West Coast Railway Company has confirmed that its 'Jacobite' operation will commence as planned on Monday 11th May. Railway Herald understands that plans are already in hand to move Ian Riley's two 'Black 5' locomotives from their extended stay at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway to Fort William

The move will bring relief to many charter train operators whose business has suffered through the recent crisis situation. The outcome of any potential action by the Office of Rail and Road is still awaited and is unlikely to be known until the middle or end of the month, following the closure of its industry consultation on 15th May.

Many will view the latest move by Network Rail, as a positive sign among what has been a very difficult time for the industry.

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