Trains back on track and answers sought

WHAT a difference a day makes!Just 24 hours after the notices at Ipswich station were telling passengers that all trains were delayed or cancelled, the signs were telling a very different story today.

WHAT a difference a day makes!

Just 24 hours after the notices at Ipswich station were telling passengers that all trains were delayed or cancelled, the signs were telling a very different story today.

But the aftermath of yesterday's chaos continued as rail companies prepared to pay out hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation – and were preparing to press Railtrack for answers to hard questions.

Passengers on any trains delayed by more than 90 minutes in East Anglia are entitled to full compensation for the cost of their ticket from their train operator.

The train companies then claim this money back from whoever is responsible for the problem – in this case Railtrack.

Yesterday's chaos was caused by a fault in a signalling telecommunications wires in the Gidea Park area – but it took engineers several hours to identify exactly where the problem was.

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But train operating companies – especially Anglia Railways and First Great Eastern – were expected to ask Railtrack why back-up systems did not allow some trains through.

After the 6.30am train from Norwich to London, the next Anglia train to make the journey right through to Liverpool Street was the 1pm service – six and a half hours later.

Railtrack itself was today mounting a major inquiry, trying to work out why the system failed.

"We would like to apologise fully to everyone caught up in yesterday's problem," said a spokeswoman for the company.

"This was a telecommunications fault. We hadn't seen anything like this before.

"There will be a major inquiry to find out what went wrong and how we can avoid ever suffering from anything like this again."

She said the signalling telecommunications did have a back-up system, but this failed at the same time as the main cables. The inquiry into the chaos would look into this double failure.

At Ipswich station today, passengers waiting to catch trains to London were relieved to see the "on time" messages.

Many were relieved they had not even attempted to reach the capital yesterday.

"I go to London a couple of times a week, and I'm just relieved yesterday wasn't one of my days to go there," said John Gaydon, from Hintlesham.

"To be honest, the service isn't too bad generally at the moment – but I would not have liked to be caught in yesterday's mess."

His comments were backed up by Grahame Coates of Ipswich, who travels down to London twice a month.

"I was glad to see that there weren't any problems today, things haven't been too bad lately," he said.

"But yesterday must have been dreadful. There's a questionnaire asking people what they want from their railway.

"That should be obvious – trains that are reliable and comfortable, like you get in Germany," he said.

Passengers caught up in yesterday's problems can get compensation by applying to their local ticket office.

Members of Anglia Railways' Commuter Club will get automatic compensation. Season ticket holders will have their ticket extended for an extra day, and people with one-off tickets can claim money back.

"But we accept we cannot compensate people for the inconvenience and annoyance they suffered – and we cannot get compensation from Railtrack for that either," said Anglia Railway's spokesman, Peter Meades.

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