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Network Rail to hold summit meeting on Norwich to London line engineering work

PUBLISHED: 07:22 27 August 2014 | UPDATED: 07:26 27 August 2014

Railway engineering work. Photo: Bill Smith

Railway engineering work. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2014

Rail bosses are today holding a summit meeting to decide whether to go ahead with more engineering work on the Norwich to London line after a project overran on the bank holiday, causing extensive delays.

Engineering work at Ipswich station was due to be completed by the early hours of yesterday, allowing services to run as normal. However the work overran by more than seven hours, causing major problems for passengers.

It is the 10th time in six years the company has not completed work on schedule on the Great Eastern main line – and the third time this summer.

Yesterday the line was not reopened until 11am but disruption continued. Many services in Suffolk were suspended for the rest of the day, while services between London and Norwich finished early last night.

The delays and cancellations provoked fury from passengers, and prompted Ben Gummer, MP for Ipswich, to call for heads to roll at Network Rail.

Today services have returned to normal, except between Ipswich and Felixstowe, which has seen several train cancellations this morning, with disruption expected to continue on that stretch until 4pm this afternoon.

Now Network Rail area director Andy Boyle has said engineering work planned for next Sunday will be reviewed at a meeting today.

He said: “If we are not totally satisfied that it will be able to be completed on time we will not go ahead at this stage. We will shelve the plans and come back to it when we are satisfied that we can complete it on time.”

The summit will involve senior managers from Network Rail, which is responsible for rail infrastructure, and operators Abellio Greater Anglia. Next Sunday’s work is scheduled to be completed by 3pm and is due to concentrate on the freight yard immediately to the north of the station.

Mr Boyle said this weekend’s problems emerged at about 1am yesterday when engineers came to test how new signals had been linked into the existing network. The line had been due to be handed back to the rail operator at 3.30am, but it was clear this would not be possible.

Transport minister Baroness Kramer said: “Network Rail must make sure that vital engineering work is done to time to avoid this kind of disruption and, when delays are genuinely unavoidable, make sure they properly communicate to the travelling public to explain what has gone wrong and why.”

The sequence of delays has prompted the Office of Rail Regulation, which has the power to fine Network Rail if it is not satisfied with its performance, to investigate.

Earlier this year the company was fined £53m – with the money being put into improving wifi on trains – as a result of delays.

A spokesman said: “We are aware of the issues in the region and we have people looking at the causes.”

An Abellio Greater Anglia spokesman apologised for the delays and said: “We are reviewing Network Rail’s engineering work programme to identify actions to reduce the scope of the works, and we intend to propose revisions to the programme to help remove the risk of overruns.”

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said she would be asking questions of Network Rail and the train operator, and telling them how angry her constituents are about the repeated disruption.

She said: “This is disgraceful and entirely unacceptable. It’s not good enough to have a repeated letdown like this.

“It hurts people who are simply trying to get to work on time or are going about their other daily business.

“It’s no good for the local economy and it’s no good for individuals.

“It will not be adequate for those responsible to make the same old excuses.”

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  • Although it would be a massive inconvenience to many - why can't the line be closed for a month so the works could be completed all at once rather than a few bit here and a few bits there... Norwich to London can be diverted via Cambridge and the same with Ipswich... Get all the work completed at once and get the mainline up and running as it should be! Then, just maybe we could have a line that works as it is supposed to!

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    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • Come off it, loss of a job? Then people rush to complete the work, cut corners so they don't loose their job, an accident happens. Maintenance work has to happen, sometimes it overruns. Better management may be needed but it is imperative the line is properly looked after and maintained by competent people. The sooner Chloe Smith does one, the better.

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    Wednesday, August 27, 2014

  • Apologies are not enough. It is the equivalent of a get of jail free card. There has to serious consequences for those responsible which must include a loss of job. Without this it will happen time and time again in the future. Why is that public sector employees always get off with issuing at best an apology? They are unaccountable and there needs to be change of culture to where the passenger-customer-patient, etc. comes first.

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    Wednesday, August 27, 2014

  • Thought Chloe Smith would stick her oar in, what can she do?, these jobs have to be done, it is unfortunate that the engineering work overran, safety first will always come first, Network do not cause these problems on purpose, the sad thing is that Greater Anglia are also innocent victims in this, as they are ready to run the trains as per there contract with Network Rail, but these things prevent them, Chloe Smith can rant & rave all she likes, but that will not make things any better

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    Derek McDonald

    Wednesday, August 27, 2014

  • The engineering work needs doing, if it is avoided then we end up with the situation we are in now. That said it's been going on for over 10 years, and there is no end in sight. Certainly this needs assessing by people who know what they are talking about, not some schmuck like Chloe Smith.

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    Wednesday, August 27, 2014

  • What a lot of fuss just because a few trains delayed. Don't worry be happy.

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    Wednesday, August 27, 2014

  • Compared to Germany, France, Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia (who have loads more snow and ice than us) our network system is farcical. That siad, some people do not help themselves - one person on the news last night complaining train delays caused them to miss an important conytract re-tender meeting and lose the workr. Im sorry but if I had a meeting that critical I would made sure I was in London the night before and paid the £90 for an overnight room at a nearby Premier Inn and been 100% certain I was ready for that meeting ahead of time.

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    Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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