Misery for commuters waiting in sub-zero temperatures for train services delayed by snow and ice on Monday morning was made worse by over running maintenance work, NCE has learnt.
On the London to Brighton line, Southern rail services into London Victoria were cancelled at the height of the morning peak and First Capital Connect operated a restricted service with Thameslink trains running over an hour late.
A spokesman for Network Rail said: “We apologise for the disruption caused to passengers because of over running work in the Three Bridges area. Planned work to replace track overran by two hours until 4am on Monday morning despite already being scaled back to take the weather into consideration. As a result, snow and ice treatment trains were unable to fully treat the third rail which caused some delays to services. We are working 24 hours a day to treat ice and snow on the railway and will continue to work with train operators throughout this cold snap so as many services as possible are able to run.”
On arrival in London, onward journeys did not get much better for some commuters. Track replacement work over running at London Underground’s Neasden Depot in West London caused major disruption to Metropolitan Line services, bringing into question the rationale of continuing with programmes of major works at times of sustained snowfall and freezing temperatures.
A spokesman for London Underground said: “This work was continued because we have a massive programme of improvements to carry out. The delays to Metropolitan Line services were caused by work on installing new points over running, not by the cold weather. If we stopped work every time the temperature dropped we would never get the work done.”
Network Rail’s spokesman confirmed that track work is very rarely postponed because it is planned over a year in advance in many cases.
“Postponing work planned so far in advance would mean very bad news for our programme,” he said.
However, Network Rail’s work on the Brighton line was scaled back last weekend to reduce risk of a late reopening of the line, but this was not enough to prevent the tracks being handed back for services two hours late.
Heathrow engineers exonerated
Heathrow’s operations team responsible for looking after its runways and taxiways has emerged from this week’s cold weather exonerated from blame for flight disruptions and cancellations that saw thousands of travellers stranded at the airport.
As snow continued to fall throughout last weekend it became clear that it was individual airlines’ failure to get planes ready to take their allocated take-off slots that caused much of the delay. Problems with tugs used to push planes from their stands and a lack of plane deicing equipment – both the responsibility of airlines – were cited as main causes for planes failing to meet their take-off slots.
Heathrow’s main area of responsibility, the airport’s runways and taxiways were kept operational by the airport’s fleet of snow clearing equipment, but reduced visibility forced longer gaps between take-offs and landings to be imposed. After 400 flights were cancelled on the first day of disruption last Friday, the airport was operating a reduced service by the following Monday with one in 10 flights cancelled.