Network Rail is investigating how to introduce 24-hour main line services.
The proposal comes just days after a report said overnight trains made Thameslink route engineering works “virtually impossible” for Network Rail.
The rail operator will explore options to install technology from inspection trains on to passenger trains, and an increased use of drones and helicopters to monitor track conditions, a spokesperson said, as it pre-empts demands from train operators and passengers for a round-the-clock service.
“I am anticipating that my customers – the train operating companies – will come to me in the not-too-distant future and tell me they want to run 24-hour trains,” Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne told The Times newspaper.
“And I have got to be prepared for that and that’s why we’re thinking today about what that would look like.
“It comes back to the theme of looking one step ahead so that you’re not caught out.”
The announcement came days after a report by the Public Accounts Committee found that 24-hour services had caused engineering work delays on the Thameslink route.
Network Rail accepted that rail infrastructure has “deteriorated to the point here it is basically not reliable”, causing 13% of passenger delays between July 2015 and March 2017.
It told the parliamentary committee that a 24-hour timetable on some parts of the network made overnight infrastructure works ‘virtually impossible’.
“Carrying out maintenance work overnight is the least disruptive for passengers. However, Network Rail told us that until recently, it was ‘virtually impossible’ to carry out necessary maintenance work overnight as trains run through the night on some parts of the Great Northern network (TSGN),” the report said.
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