TWO sections of new line are among options Network Rail is considering to raise capacity at Stafford on the UK's busy West Coast Main Line.

The route through Stafford is handicapped by sharp curves and conflicting movements, and NR expects to have £483m available to remodel the area in 2009-14.

Less ambitious schemes include dive-unders or flyovers in at least two locations, but the two alternative alignments of 14 km or 21 km would avoid the bottleneck completely and offer the attraction of cutting London - Glasgow timings to around 4 h.

Our UK newsletter Rail Business Intelligence has been told that a Stafford bypass would cost around £550m. Although the business case for both new line options is weak, the Department for Transport is understood to believe that if London - Glasgow timings can be cut to 3 h 58 min with one stop at Preston, there will be a significant shift from air to rail in the Anglo-Scottish market. Virgin West Coast is already planning a flagship journey time of 4 h 8 min from next December.

A Transport & Works Order would be required for the scheme to go ahead.