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UK train monster Railtrack has enlisted the help of IBM and Oracle after it discovered it was running a web of more than 1000 different software "systems".

The figures were discovered during a W2K audit by IBM two years ago. Big Blue said it counted a total of 1100 diverse software applications, databases, platforms et al that Railtrack staff were working with.

The train company inherited a gaggle of British Rail divisions on the eve of privatisation four years ago, and each division had been responsible for choosing and buying its own software. Hence the plethora of software on offer.

Over the last two years this number has been slimmed down to 270. This week Railtrack revealed a six-year £300 million deal to cut this number to 35 with IBM and Oracle. It is also looking for other partners to help with its quest, a Railtrack representative said today.

IBM is providing its WebSphere software which will help integrate existing software in use at Railtrack. Oracle will be in charge of putting new applications in place.

Commenting on the systems overload, Anita Hockin, IBM WebSphere brand manager, said: "It was a very large number - but I wouldn't say Railtrack was the only company out there with this problem.

"Railtrack uses a very complex model. You would expect a reasonably large mix of systems."

Railtrack said it was also looking at putting customer information such as train delays online and considering using WAP technology. ®

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