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East Anglia: Task force out to improve rail reliability

PUBLISHED: 09:36 22 July 2014 | UPDATED: 09:36 22 July 2014

An Abellio Greater Anglia train at Colchester

An Abellio Greater Anglia train at Colchester

Archant

A special team of track and signalling engineers has been brought in to try to solve growing reliability problems at Liverpool Street Station.

Over recent months there have been an increasing number of delays to trains on their way in and out of one of the busiest stations in the country.

Now Network Rail has brought in an expert team of track and signalling engineers to try to come up with a solution to the problem.

They will try to find a remedy to a succession of “glitches” that have led to regular delays of 10-15 minutes for passengers heading in and out of the capital.

Last Friday there were major problems after a flash flood damaged equipment and closed four platforms at the terminus.

A spokeswoman for Network Rail said a team of specialists was now based at Liverpool Street to try to resolve the signalling problems and react quickly when something goes wrong.

Liverpool Street Station, the London terminus for the Norwich main line through the region, has 18 platforms but only six tracks going in and out of the station, which Network Rail officials describe as a “pinch point” for trains.

The track and signalling are up to 30 years old – they were installed during the station’s rebuilding during the 1980s – although the electric wires were updated more recently.

The whole station is due to see major changes over the next five years with Metro changes being transferred to the Crossrail operation in 2017 and from December 2018 they will be diverted away from the existing station to the new tunnel under the capital linking the lines to the east with the Great Western route to Reading and Heathrow airport.

The Liverpool Street-based team is looking at short-term solutions to make services more reliable.

A Network Rail spokeswoman said: “London Liverpool Street is an extremely busy station and as a result any failures, whether it is track or signal, this can cause significant disruption for passenger services.

“We realise passengers have experienced delays to their journeys and recognise the delays are frustrating. We are creating a project team to focus entirely on this issue.”

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said he remained concerned about the number of incidents, although he had been impressed by the recent level of co-operation between Network Rail and Abellio Greater Anglia. He said: “There have been ongoing problems there for a long time, and I won’t really believe things are getting better until I see it.

“On Friday there was nothing they could do about a lightning strike, but there should be more resilience to prevent water getting into signalling cables.

“Having said that I am impressed by the way (Abellio Greater Anglia managing director) Jamie Burles is pushing them to make sure things do improve for his company’s passengers.”

His view was endorsed by Derek Monnery of the Essex Rail Users’ Federation. He said: “Jamie Burles has been very proactive and I don’t think it is a coincidence this team has come in not long after he took over as managing director at Abellio.

“I think things will improve, but it could take a time. There are many changes due to come in over the next few years but I hope the reliability will improve over the next six months.”

An Abellio Greater Anglia spokesman said: “We’re continuing to work in close partnership with Network Rail, focusing on delivering further improvements to train service performance and to meet our customers and stakeholders’ expectations to provide consistent levels of punctuality.”

Last week questions were asked about the decision to award Network Rail bosses huge bonuses just days after the company was fined £53million for poor punctuality.

Bonuses worth thousands of pounds a year are being lined up for top bosses, but Mr Monnery said the funds should instead be spent on upgrading the region’s poor infrastructure, which often caused severe travel disruption.

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