The £8.6 billion modernisation of the West Coast Main Line through Birmingham and the West Midlands should be finished by Christmas, according to the Office of Rail Regulation.
Passengers will be pleased to hear this, but could be forgiven if they treat yet another promise with scepticism.
The debacle of the Christmas run-over of engineering work at Rugby, with a damaging impact on services between Birmingham and London, is fresh in the minds of regular rail-users. So, too, are the seemingly endless closures over the past few years, making it almost impossible to plan journeys on Saturdays and Sundays with any certainty of arriving at the stated time.
On the face of it, long-suffering customers might just be prepared to put up with a bit more pain if they could be certain that the eventual gain in terms of faster and more frequent services will be delivered in a timely fashion. And pain there most certainly will be. Extensive line closures are planned for the rest of the year on bank holiday weekends, and in some cases on non-bank holiday weekends, when passengers will be forced to switch to replacement bus services.
The ORR must be true to its word when it promises strict monitoring of the remaining work Network Rail intends to carry out on the West Coast Main Line. The public perception remains that rail authorities have been permitted to get away with missed deadlines, although the £14 million fine recently handed out to Network Rail indicates that the days of complacency may be over.
The very least that must be done between now and Christmas is to compensate passengers who are forced to travel by bus. People who pay an exorbitant amount to travel by train deserve appropriate financial recompense when the service is sub-standard.