RAILTRACK'S INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECT TO TOP $28 MILLION

RAILTRACK'S INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECT TO TOP $28 MILLION

Railtrack PLC, Britain's privately owned rail infrastructure company, said Wednesday it will spend 17 billion pounds ($28.2 billion) over the next 10 years to improve track, signaling, bridges and other infrastructure.

The project is the largest-ever investment plan for the company, privatized four years ago. The 230-page spending plan is ''a blueprint for regenerating Britain's railways, which outlines (Railtrack's) key role in delivering an integrated transport system,'' said Railtrack Chairman Sir Robert Horton.The company said it expects to triple its freight business over the 10-year period, as well as increase passenger services by 30 percent.

In the past year, Railtrack has spent roughly $4 billion on infrastructure improvements, which have increased freight and passenger traffic by 5 percent each, Sir Robert said. About $166 million were spent on 334 freight projects, including opening 30 freight sites in the past year. The future spending plan is part of Britain's effort to increase the use of rail freight to help relieve congestion on the country's roads.

It identifies 15 existing and 10 potential bottlenecks in the system and proposes solutions.

''The identification of capacity bottlenecks is a key step in the development of a robust network strategy,'' Sir Robert said. In addition to outlining investments on a route-by-route basis, the spending plan introduces quality indicators to measure the effectiveness of each upgrade.