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Suffolk/Essex: Rail bosses re-thinking engineering plans for the weekend

PUBLISHED: 06:00 27 August 2014 | UPDATED: 09:19 27 August 2014

A Station with no passengers and no trains Needham Station

A Station with no passengers and no trains Needham Station

(c) copyright citizenside.com

Rail bosses are today holding a summit meeting to decide whether to go ahead with more engineering work in Ipswich following the bank holiday disaster.

Engineering work at Ipswich station was due to be completed by the early hours of yesterday morning, allowing commuter trains to run as normal.

However the work over-ran by more than seven hours, causing major problems for passengers. It was the third time this summer engineering work has over-run on the line, and the tenth time since December 2008.

Now Network Rail Area Director Andy Boyle has said that work planned for next Sunday will be reviewed at a meeting today – during which he will decide whether to go ahead with it.

He said: “I am not going to cause carnage on the rail network over this. We will look at all the planned work and how it will be carried out.

“If we are not totally satisfied that it will be able to be completed on time we will not go ahead at this stage. We will shelve the plans and come back to it when we are satisfied that we can complete it on time.”

The summit will involve senior managers from Network Rail, which is responsible for the infrastructure on the railway, and operators Abellio Greater Anglia.

Mr Boyle said his company and all his colleagues were disappointed by the failure to complete the work on time.

He said: “We are very sorry for all the inconvenience we have caused to passengers and to our principal customer, Abellio Greater Anglia.

“We are all feeling rather raw about what happened over the weekend but we have to get down to the meeting to decide on what happens next.”

Next Sunday’s work is scheduled to be completed by 3pm and is due to concentrate on the freight yard immediately to the north of the station – but the managers need to be sure everything can work properly.

Mr Boyle said this weekend’s problems emerged at about 1am yesterday when engineers came to test how new signals had been linked into the existing network.

The line had been due to be handed back to the rail operator at 3.30am, but it was clear this would not be possible.

He said: “We could only allow trains to run again if it was clearly safe and during the early hours it became clear there was much more work to be done.”

An Abellio Greater Anglia spokesman added: “We are sorry for the disruption that has affected train services as a result of engineering work overrunning in the Ipswich area and for the frustration and inconvenience to journeys this has caused to our customers.

“It is extremely important that Network Rail completes engineering works on time. We are reviewing Network Rail’s engineering work programme going forward to identify actions to reduce the scope of the works, and we intend to propose revisions to the programme to help remove the risk of over-runs.”

Transport minister Baroness Kramer said: “Network Rail must make sure that vital engineering work is done to time to avoid this kind of disruption and, when delays are genuinely unavoidable, make sure they properly communicate to the travelling public to explain what has gone wrong and why.”

The sequence of delays has prompted The Office of Rail Regulation, which has the power to fine Network Rail if it is not satisfied with its performance, to investigate recent delays.

Earlier this year the nationalised company was fined £53 million – with the money being put into improving wifi on trains – as a result of delays on the network.

Now a spokesman said: “We are aware of the issues in the region and we have people looking at the causes.”

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