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Network Rail contractors face cuts after New Year overruns

Rail contractors and agency staff face cuts and 'Military-style' chains of command on future jobs by Network Rail, following serious delays at Rugby and Liverpool Street station over New Year

The announcement comes following an internal investigation into the delays, the initial results of which are published this afternoon.

The report also reveals a package of measures aimed at preventing a repetition.

Addressing a special meeting of Network Rail Members, Network Rail's chief executive Iain Coucher said: "We invested almost £125M in the railway during the Christmas holidays aimed at improving train services.

"Over 1,000 pieces of work were undertaken and all but three went well. That is three too many in our book.

"We let passengers and freight users down and I'm determined that it won't happen again. That is why we will be taking these far-reaching and decisive measures in the weeks and months ahead."

To try to ensure such overruns do not happen again, Network Rail will:

- Boost in-house capability in specific disciplines, notably overhead line (OHL) engineers
- Contractors must cut their dependence on agency staff for the delivery of big engineering projects
- 'Military-style' command posts will be established for all future major works, delivering clear 'lines of authority'
- Train and freight operators will be invited to have greater involvement at every stage of a project
- Certain specialist engineering resources, such as overhead line, will be overseen by Network Rail.

Chairman Ian McAllister added: "Over the past five years Network Rail has built up a reputation for delivery and we must now rebuild that by working even harder.

"We all want to see a bigger, better railway and the actions we will take following our investigation will help future projects run more smoothly."

Three projects overran over the new Year period - at and around Rugby, the demolition of the GE19 bridge at Liverpool Street and Shields Junction, near Glasgow.

Network Rail found that:

At Rugby,

- The work planned was deliverable with the resources allocated, however, there was poor productivity from overhead line workers, 80% of whom were agency staff. Staff were also poorly supervised.

- Other overhead line projects meant the usual pool of external manpower was unavailable

- People from Network Rail maintenance were brought in to complete the project

At Liverpool Street,

- Work was also considered to be deliverable, but again, there was poor productivity from overhead line workers, once again, 80% of whom were agency staff. Staff were again poorly supervised.

- Outstanding pieces of work were not properly identified by the contractor and time to finish these 'snagging' items was not built into the work plan.

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