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Network Rail chief warning over extreme weather

Network Rail chief executive David Higgins has this week warned that further investment is needed if the UK’s rail infrastructure is to keep up with changing weather patterns.

His comments comes after the Office of Rail Regulation’s (ORR) latest report into rail performance said services had been poor during the bad weather.

“The damage that extreme weather can do to a Victorian rail network which was neither designed nor built for such challenges is clear,” said Higgins.

“Whole lines were closed by flooding and tracks came close to being washed away by rivers which burst their banks. On the worst affected parts of the network, torrential rain caused up to sixty landslides in a single day.”

ORR said overall punctuality on long distance services was 88.3% and for London and South East services was 91.4% - well adrift of funded targets according to ORR. It added there was substantial over-runs of engineering works during the festive period and several instances of basic operation planning mistakes causing delays.

“This has been a wake-up call for the whole industry, which we ignore at our peril. As we set out when we launched our strategic business plan in January we are playing catch up on decades of under-investment,” said Higgins.

“Nowhere is this more apparent than with the embankments, cuttings, bridges tunnels and other structures which have struggled to cope with extreme weather, alongside the burden of carrying more passengers that they were ever designed for. Our submission to our regulator for the next five-year funding settlement reflects our plan to tackle this.”

Network Rail recently published its strategic business plan, in which it called for an investment to increase by £300M to make sure the infrastructure could withstand changing weather patterns.

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