Apologetic railway boss 'must deliver a better service'

Rail chiefs have been challenged to deliver on their promises after the boss of Network Rail apologised to passengers for the ongoing delays and disruption on the county's railway system.

Friday, 21st December 2018, 9:22 am
Updated Friday, 21st December 2018, 10:28 am
Network Rail has seen some progress on the electrificatiuon process. The delayed work in the Chorley to Bolton area, hampered by poor subsoil which made putting in foundations for the over head wire gantries difficult, is complete. A Virgin pendolino trains has been testing the wires with the hope that electric trains may start running before May next year, thus improving services with new trains

Sir Peter Hendy, in a Christmas period letter published in The Gazette yesterday, said the organisation responsible for the tracks and infrastructure had played a part in the chaos which has caused misery for passengers over the past year and shows little signs of improving with closures planned at weekends.

In his letter Sir Peter said: “I also realise passengers get frustrated when their journeys over weekends and bank holidays are affected by engineering works and line closures.

“We do all we can to minimise disruption caused by our planned work. We carry out these huge schemes over Christmas and New Year as the railway is 50 per cent quieter than usual during the festive period.

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“Nonetheless it will be business as usual on the vast majority of the rail network over the holidays, but some routes will be heavily affected, and we ask customers on those routes to plan their journeys in advance.”

He said the rail system dated from Victorian times and was not designed to carry 4.7 million passengers a day nut 25,000 Network Rail staff would be working at Christmas.

Blackpool North MP Paul Maynard said: “Both Network Rail and Northern have apologised for the disruption. They now need to follow up their words with actions and show they can provide a reliable service, seven days a week, which matches the expectations of the travelling public.

“What passengers have had to put up with over the last 18 months is clearly not good enough.

“The completion of the Manchester to Preston electrification should represent a significant milestone in the project to upgrade the North West’s railways.

“The repeated delays to this project have been a major contributing factor in the cancellations and short-formed trains passengers have all too often experienced. Serious questions must be asked over the problems with this project and with the Blackpool to Preston upgrade which, seemingly, is still not complete.

“It should provide much-needed additional capacity and I hope passengers will see the benefits before the May timetable change.

“Both Network Rail and Northern now have a great deal of hard work ahead of them to win back the confidence of the travelling public.

“Arriva has made some bold promises, including the restoration of direct links to Yorkshire and the introduction of brand new trains on the majority of routes from Blackpool North. It is time for them to deliver.”

Stephen Brooks, rail champion for disabled travellers, said: “Over the 12 months since electrification Blackpool’s rail service in particular has been nothing less than disastrous, and the latest set of closures to resolve drainage problems are a real smack in the face, as this was a problem visible for a long period over the work to upgrade the line.

“I said earlier this month that we seem to have a five-day-a-week rail service as the ongoing dispute between Northern and the RMT shows no signs of stopping, leading to little rail travel at weekends which affects visitors and businesses greatly, and with further engineering work causing longer replacement services.

“The impact of unreliable rail travel has a greater effect on disabled and older people, and the communication across the industry is currently useless in terms of cancellation and delay notification.”