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Network Rail under fire over broken rails

Network Rail is accelerating track maintenance work on the East Coast Main Line after the number of broken rails on the route hit a four year high.

Hatfield_171000

Hatfield: Caused by broken rail

Urgent efforts to tackle the soaring rate of rail breaks have been revealed in the rail regulator’s latest quarterly monitoring report.

Four people died in October 2000 when an express train on the East Coast Main Line crashed when a broken rail disintegrated near Hatfield.

The crash changed the face of the rail industry, causing the demise of Railtrack and birth of Network Rail and leading to the creation of a new law of Corporate Manslaughter.

Twelve years on, the rail regulator fears a repeat.

“We are concerned about deteriorating track quality and the number of broken rails in the London North Eastern route,” says the monitoring report.

“We have monitored Network Rail’s progress in addressing the root problems and priority areas and have seen some improvement.

“However, recent provisional data shows the highest level of rail breaks for four years and Network Rail is planning to enhance and accelerate some of its plans to address this,” it said.

Office of Rail Regulation figures show that there were 47 broken rails on the route in 2011/12, almost twice the number on the second-worst affected route.

Network Rail said the issue was being taken “very seriously”. It has introduced a new instruction on the route which mandates action above the national standard.

Track maintenance engineers are increasing inspections and repairs. “Costs will not hamper this work,” stressed a spokesman.

The regulator is also waiting for Network Rail to produce plans to address other factors of track deterioration. It is expecting them this week.

It said it would need to be satisfied that they are “suitably targeted and sufficiently resourced” to deliver the right results in a reasonable timeframe.

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