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East Anglia: Urgent talks to avoid future delays after rail chaos caused by over-running engineering works

PUBLISHED: 22:18 19 May 2014 | UPDATED: 09:47 20 May 2014

An Abellio Greater Anglia train at Colchester

An Abellio Greater Anglia train at Colchester

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Rail bosses have been in urgent talks to try to ensure there is no repeat of today’s chaos when engineers failed to reopen the main line to London in time for the morning rush-hour.

Over-running problems on the main line

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.

The main line from the region to London remained closed until about 8am today – and then took several hours to return to normal.

Once it was running normally however, there was further disruption after a train hit a person between Romford and Chadwell Heath – meaning there were no trains between Shenfield and London from lunchtime until about 3pm.

The morning problem was just the latest occasion that over-running engineering work has disrupted commuters.

Over the last six years there have been seven occasions when delays in handing over tracks have caused major disruption to travellers on the main line to London.

A spokeswoman for Network Rail said engineers and travel planners from Network Rail were working with staff from train operator Greater Anglia to try to ensure there was no repeat of today’s problems.

She said: “Owing to over running track renewal work at the weekend, train services were unable to run through Colchester this morning, causing disruption for passengers.

“We continue to advise people to allow extra time for their journeys and check before travelling. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

Train operators Abellio Greater Anglia suspended travel restrictions on the line today, and have allowed passengers with tickets for today to use them tomorrow.

People whose journeys were delayed by more than 30 minutes can claim compensation from the company – who will in turn be talking to Network Rail about the effects of the delays on their services.

An Abellio Greater Anglia spokesman said: “Train services through the Colchester area were disrupted earlier this morning because of overrunning engineering work.

“We would like to thank our customers for their patience during the disruption and apologise for the inconvenience caused. We worked closely with Network Rail to resume services from 08.00.”

Official watchdog the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) has the power to take action against Network Rail for persistent delays in engineering work – in 2008 it fined the government-owned company £14million for delays across the country over the previous Christmas.

Its officials are likely to watch the way Network Rail deals with the Colchester work closely before
deciding whether to become involved.

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