Plans to rebuild Birmingham's New Street station could be delayed until at least 2009 after Network Rail put in a new bid for funding, the Conservatives claimed last night.
But the company in charge of Britain's rail network insisted it still hoped to start work on the new station in 2008.
Network Rail has submitted a request to the Treasury for about £7 billion for major improvements. This included £142 million for the rebuild of New Street, which is estimated to cost a total of £350 million.
The funding document estimated that the station would add more than £1 billion to the local economy, by boosting the regeneration of the city centre.
But the funding is to cover the period 2009 to 2014.
Conservative Shadow Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling said the station should have been rebuilt much sooner.
He said: "I expected it to be quicker than this. It suggests work cannot begin until 2009 at the earliest.
"It is another example of a process that we all thought would happen much sooner being delayed.
"Tony Blair said during the Hodge Hill by-election in 2004 that New Street would be rebuilt, but now it is being kicked into the long grass."
A spokesman for Network Rail said: "The total cost to the public is £142 million, and we are asking for £77 million in this funding round. The rest of the funding could be made available before 2009.
"It has not been delayed. As far as we are concerned, it is going to start in 2008."
The submission predicted a cost-benefit ratio for New Street of 3.64, meaning a rebuild will boost the local economy by more than three times what it costs.
"This is a significant improvement on the average figure for a project like this, which is a cost-benefit ratio of two."
Labour MP Gisela Stuart (Edgbaston), who is chairing a cross-party campaign by
Birmingham MPs to get New Street rebuilt, said: "Network Rail still has a fair amount of work to do to convince every-body they are going to deliver the best for Birmingham.
"But in terms of the bidding process, they are doing the right thing. We have a cross-party consensus on New Street in Birmingham.
"The parties are working together, along with the agencies, and for a national party to try to play politics doesn't reflect well on them."
Other schemes included in Network Rail's bid include the London Thameslink project, which will cost more than £3 billion and will triple the number of trains passing through London Bridge station.
There were proposals for Edinburgh and Glasgow airport rail links, the redevelopment of London's Waterloo station, improved capacity on the North London Line and the Airdrie-Bathgate line reinstatement between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Network Rail also put in a bid for £20.8 billion just to run the existing network between 2009 and 2014.
Now the Department for Transport and the Office of Rail Regulation will consider the bids.
John Armitt, Network Rail's chief executive, said: "It's a lot of money, but it's our proposal and the start of what will be a two-year discussion between ourselves and the Government and the Rail Regulator.
"What we are doing is setting out the money needed to increase the capacity to meet increasing demand while at the same time we are reducing the yearly cost of running the railway by about £1 billion a year."
Mr Armitt said that the additional money "will go a very long way to reducing the overcrowding on the railway". ..SUPL: