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Network Rail admits failings over Easter engineering overruns

Network Rail has admitted it failed to allow enough contingency when planning work carried out at Reading station over the Easter holidays.

Travel chaos on the Thames Valley route between Oxford and Paddington was widely reported on the Tuesday following the Easter weekend. Problems were caused initially by over-running engineering works of Network Rail’s £900M Reading Station Upgrade project.

This is involving construction of four new platforms and associated track work, signalling, buildings and footbridges at the station.

A complete closure of the station was carried out over the Easter weekend as planned. Services were due to resume to a reduced timetable with platforms in service reduced from four to two as the station work continued during the following week, but the problems continued on the Wednesday with a signal failure and line blockage caused by a passenger taken ill on a train at Reading, leading First Great Western to cancel services and reduce its timetable further for the rest of the week.

A Network Rail spokesman said: “We always planned to have just two platforms in operation at Reading this week, but have to hold our hands up as services have not been able to run as planned. While we provided some contingency in the planning, we needed to allow more.

“The problems were the result of the operational realities of running a railway. We have to allow some contingencies for recovering from inevitable problems, but not too much. That’s the balance we always have to strike. This is one of the busiest lines in the country and we didn’t get the balance right this time.”

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