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East Anglia: Heads should roll after the latest rail delays, says angry MP Ben Gummer

PUBLISHED: 17:30 11 August 2014

An Abellio Greater Anglia train

An Abellio Greater Anglia train


Engineering managers at Network Rail should pay for the latest delays with their jobs, Suffolk MP and member of the Great Eastern Rail Taskforce Ben Gummer has said.

Timeline of misery – when Network Rail failed to complete work on time

Over recent years over-running engineering works have become a familiar problem for travellers on the line to London

January 2, 2008: Tracks into Liverpool Street were due to reopen after a 10-day closure for major work over Christmas, but the engineering work seriously over-ran meaning trains could not run normally for several days. There were also problems in the Midlands and Glasgow – the ORR slapped a record £14million fine on Network Rail.

March 28, 2008: Over-running engineering work caused major delays for travellers at Shenfield.

January 4, 2010: Over-running new year work at Stratford caused problems for workers returning to the capital for the first day after the festive break.

March 30, 2012: Over-running overhead line work at Stratford meant trains were unable to reach London – sparking fears of how the network might cope during the Olympic Games.

January 14, 2013: Rush-hour trains between Shenfield and London were delayed after engineering on two of the tracks over-ran.

February 17, 2013: Early morning services were delayed after engineering work in the Shenfield area over-ran.

March 5, 2014: Over-running engineering work at Diss delayed InterCity services to the capital.

May 19, 2014: Engineering works over-running at Colchester delay passengers again – on the first weekend of a seven-week programme of work at the Essex station.

August 11, 2014: Engineering work over-runs at Ipswich station. The work was finished almost two hours late, leading to cancellations and delays. Normal service was not resumed until late morning.

Commuters heading to London for the start of another week’s work were faced with more major rush-hour disruption at Ipswich.

Network Rail weekend engineering work near the station had over-run – the NINTH time in six years that the company had been unable to complete its work on schedule on the Great Eastern Main Line.

Ipswich MP Mr Gummer said: “If this was a normal company people would have been fired by now. This just isn’t acceptable.”

He tried to contact the route director for Network Rail, but he is currently on holiday. And Mr Gummer said the Taskforce that he leads with Norwich North MP Chloe Smith would be seeking a meeting with the chief executive of Network Rail as soon as possible.

The track north of Ipswich station was closed all weekend for new signalling to be installed. The work was extended into the station area itself on Saturday evening.

Throughout the work, Network Rail engineers were in regular contact with Abellio Greater Anglia – and there was no indication of any major problems as late as 5pm on Sunday.

There were minor delays – but the engineers were confident that the time could be made up and that the work would be complete by 4.40am on Monday.

However at a conference call with Abellio Greater Anglia at 8pm on Sunday, Network Rail dropped the bombshell that they would fail to meet the deadline and could over-run by up to four hours.

The rail operator put out warnings on its website by 10pm – but the first many passengers knew of the problem was when they turned up at the station.

In the event the line reopened at 6.30am – but by then many trains were in the wrong place and it was impossible to run a normal service until late morning.

A series of meetings will look in detail at what went wrong – one possibility is that future major closures could see the line handed over at midnight rather than the early hours in bid to build in extra time if necessary.

Network Rail issued a statement about the problems which had a very familiar look to it for passengers who have been delayed by over-running engineering works before.

A spokeswoman for Network Rail said: “We are sorry for the disruption passengers faced this morning after planned improvement work in the Ipswich area over-ran by approximately 90 minutes.

“The late finish was caused by the need to move an additional 600 tonnes of earth compared with our original plan, and led to the cancellation of 18 trains and delays, on average, of five-10 minutes until mid-morning.”

Most rush-hour services between 6.30am and 9am suffered more serious disruption.

She added: “We are acutely aware of the frustration and inconvenience passengers experience when our work causes disruption rather than delivering better journeys.

“We work hard to ensure our plans are robust and that work can be completed within the time we have available, and we successfully carry out improvements across the region almost every night of the year without encountering problems.

“The work carried out this weekend was part of a £2.2bn investment to upgrade old signalling and track to deliver a better, more reliable railway for passengers in East Anglia.

“As we continue to improve the region’s railway, our focus is on working harder to ensure our work is delivered on time, every time. That is what passengers deserve and expect.”

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  • The Tories, including Gummer senior of course, hastily privatised to fill the pockets of their wealthy cronies and party donors while they could. The system still gets bled dry by those people, who siphon off all profits to pay themselves obscene salaries and bonuses instead of using the money to maintain and upgrade the system properly as they should. Of course re-nationalisation is the answer. But as long as the same Tories rely on the same cronies for support, no one in Government will ask the question.

    Report this comment


    Tuesday, August 12, 2014

  • The privatisation of the railways is a failure. The service is appalling and the ticketing is both unfathomable and over-priced. As the franchises come up for renewal let's get them back into public ownership and rebuild a joined up railway that actually works for the country. It has got to the point that any party pledging to renationalise would win votes.

    Report this comment


    Tuesday, August 12, 2014

  • The heads that should roll are those of the stupid politicians who privatised the railways in the first place. ben gummer's father was amongst those I believe. You going to wield the axe ben?

    Report this comment

    James Lakin

    Tuesday, August 12, 2014

  • I don't think anyone disputes that they need to do maintenance. The issue is with the abysmal planning and information given out If this article is correct Network Rail suddenly discovered several hours into the work that they needed to move an additional 600 tomes of earth. Quite why who knows as they claimed to be renewing the signals the cabling for which runs alongside the track Clearly they seem to be allowing inadequate time for this works and have no contingency and no real plan for what to do if works do over run The most sensible thing seems to be to shut the line down earlier at night and to put on some buses for to replace the few trains that will be running

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    Tuesday, August 12, 2014

  • Whilst I deplore this privatised shambles (or should that be Shabellio?), like Amsterdam81 I find Gummers buffoonery makes me sympathise with Network Rail. As with major roads today, there is never a quiet enough period of sufficient time to do heavy maintenance. So occasionally "The Plan" goes wrong and it overruns. People want 24hr facilities today which allows no time for repairs of the reasons a 24hr tube service still eludes us in London. Having said that, as has been said, who really cares in the fragmented profit conscious railway today? Certainly not Shambellio who get full compensation from NR which safeguards Dutch shareholders (who incidentally have been found wanting by their own Government for running a poor domestic rail service! People know problems can happen but how they're dealt with is the test, and this shower are poor and found wanting. Connections are rarely held, information is spasmodic and contradictory and facilities poor (such as clean trains with everything working). Waffling Ben can pontificate all he wants, try telling his Dad who created this mess in the first place!

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    Monday, August 11, 2014

  • People at Network Rail and Abellio need to start being sacked. If they worked for a real company, in a real job, with real repercussions, there is no way at all they would still be there. "She added: “We are acutely aware of the frustration and inconvenience passengers experience when our work causes disruption rather than delivering better journeys." Rubbish. These people have absolutely no idea of the frustration and inconvenience they cause passengers, because they never have to suffer it themselves. Instead, they sit on their big pile of £10 notes laughing their heads off.

    Report this comment


    Monday, August 11, 2014

  • If the amount of corruption and fraud perpetrated by our MPs carried on in the real world, they'd all be sacked as well. No wonder they don't want the electorate to have the right of recall over them.

    Report this comment

    Origami Penguin

    Monday, August 11, 2014

  • Sounds like a lack of proper planning and risk assessment, a failed plan or plan to fail. Not sure what a 600 ton pile of soil looks like but hardly seems like something that should have been overlooked. One assumes Abello don't really care as the cost is met by Network rail and they don't care as their money comes from the tax payer. Nobody cares for the customer and Gummer rubs his hands as he can slope his Teflon shoulders and blame everyone else.

    Report this comment


    Monday, August 11, 2014

  • Has Gummer ever done anything practical himself? Quite a feat that his mindless comments make me sympathise with Network Rail.

    Report this comment


    Monday, August 11, 2014

  • Just expressing an opinion, leave you to make your own assumptions freedomf.

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    Monday, August 11, 2014

  • @Needhamlad When the Railways were owned and run by the state, there was proper maintenance !, now obviously cost is considered because of the 'PROFIT' motive !, maybe your not old enough to remember, but I certainly am !, other Countries run their Railways for their Citizens not for Profit !, the trouble with Britain today is PRIVATISATION !, Essential Services should be owned and run by the state for the People of Britain, all I can say is you must be a TORY !, perhaps even a 'Shareholder' ?

    Report this comment


    Monday, August 11, 2014

  • Even if British Rail was still owned by the state, doubt the situation would be any better.

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    Monday, August 11, 2014

  • Would Ben Gummer like to apply that same advice to his political colleagues when they are also found out for abject failure. The passport delay farce, Expenses scandal, Illegal wars, cutting essential services, selling Royal Mail off at a massive loss to the Tax payer, there wouldn't be any ministers left!

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    Monday, August 11, 2014

  • I'm looking forward to the day this Tory toff has his own head rolled next year at the General Election. Privatising the rail network (British Rail) was the botched job of the very same Party this buffoon represents.

    Report this comment

    Steve Blake

    Monday, August 11, 2014

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

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