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More than 1,000 track faults a year on London to Norwich rail route

PUBLISHED: 15:34 25 August 2015 | UPDATED: 15:34 25 August 2015

A broken down train has caused the delays

A broken down train has caused the delays

Archant

More than 1,000 track defects on one of the region’s busiest rail routes were identified last year – the equivalent of three faults per day.

Network Rail recorded 1,160 incidents in the 12 months to the end of July on the route between Norwich and London Liverpool Street, with nearly 3,500 recorded in the last three years.

In January 2013 alone, nearly 300 incidents were recorded, which equates to an average of 12 per day.

The information, released under Freedom of Information laws, did not include signal faults, train issues and overhead cable defects.

The route is a key travel means for commuters to and from London, and passes through busy stations including Ipswich, Colchester and Chelmsford.

However, Network Rail has insisted that not all of the faults resulted in service delays, and many were the result of pre-emptive fault finding to fix defects before they became a problem.

A Network Rail spokesman said: “Thanks to cutting edge technology, today we are very well equipped to find smaller and smaller rail defects, meaning we can spot issues and treat them before they cause disruption to passengers.

The spokesman added that most of the faults were found during track inspections by Network Rail staff, and used ultrasonic testing equipment which could ‘see’ inside the rails to find small problems, as well as using trains and visual inspections. Among some of the most common problems were depressions on the surface of the line, cracks and welded lines that had not been aligned correctly.

However, Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, who has been a strong advocate of improved rail lines in the region, believes the figures highlight the extent of the work that needs to be undertaken.

“I think the figures reveal how much more work needs to be done on the track, and the travellers all know of the delays because of aging rolling stock and the quality of the assets north of Shenfield.

“The investment next year is going to make a significant difference – it’s going to take a few years but we are going to see a transformation in the railways.”

Witham MP Priti Patel added: “It is extremely disappointing to see the significant number of track faults that have occurred on the line over the past three years, especially over the last twelve months.

“Network Rail must address their failings and get on top of these problems through their maintenance schedule.

“I have raised my concerns directly with them. Network Rail have a duty to deliver a railway that is reliable and one which puts commuters first.”

From October next year, more than 80km of new track on the line is set to be put in place. Network Rail have also invested in a high output ballast cleaner, which since January has been renewing crushed rock on which the sleepers and track are laid, in an effort to help prevent problems.

The Network Rail spokesman added: “We are investing around £170million this year on the line between London and Norwich and a major project started in January to reduce track problems on this line including rail defects.

“By the end of 2017, our aim is to also have installed more than 80km of new track between London and Norwich.”

Abellio Greater Anglia, which operates the service on the route, confirmed it was working with Network Rail to improve the line, and its rolling stock.

Rail Minister Claire Perry added: “Passengers expect a reliable service free from unnecessary disruption, and Network Rail must ensure that this is provided.

“Improving performance on the rail network is one of our top priorities, which is why we are investing record amounts in making journeys better across the country.”

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