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Report ordered into Christmas rail chaos

An inquest has begun into the sequence of events that left major London stations closed for significantly longer than anticipated by engineering works over the Christmas holidays.

Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne ordered infrastructure projects director Francis Paonessa to write a report on the debacle by the end of this week.

Works scheduled for Christmas Day and Boxing Day overran, leaving King’s Cross and Paddington stations temporarily closed on Saturday 27 December.

Carne said: “The events over the Christmas period highlighted the unacceptable impact on the travelling public when plans go wrong.

“I therefore propose that [in addition to the Paonessa report] there should be a broader, industry-wide review, into the timing of our major works programmes and the passenger contingency arrangements for such works.”

Passenger groups were angry about the disruption.

David Sidebottom, passenger director at independent watchdog Passenger Focus, said:”Overrunning works that disrupt already-limited festive travel are frustrating.

“Our research is clear: passengers want to be kept on the train wherever possible, they want to know before buying a ticket if part of the journey will be by bus, and they want plenty of staff on hand to signpost where to go and what to do.

“We will be looking to see that operators and Network Rail are doing all in their power to alert passengers, to help them make alternative arrangements and to make it easy for them to claim refunds or compensation.”

Readers' comments (2)

  • The reasons for the overrun will be interesting but the real problem appears to be a failure to have a contingency plan to deal with it. Given that there were going to be large numbers of passengers affected, it might have seemed politic to have arrangements on tap to inform them of the situation, rearrange some sort of timetable and transport the passengers to stations which were available.

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  • I find the excuse 'overrunning works' rather arrogant. Those with experience of running works will readily point out that the cause is more likely to have been 'under-planning'; however such an admission requires a good deal more humility than our corporates can muster.
    How many works programmes have readers seen which contain a substantial doses of unbridled optimism?
    It seems to be human nature to take little account of what has happened previously and confidently predict a future with no hitches, problems, mechanical breakdowns, etc.
    Could it be that such inadequate allocation of resources stems in part from rigid budgets set by purse string controllers with little experience of the work in hand?
    John Scholey FICE

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