Bank Holiday work on railways

COMMUTER groups in East Anglia issued a blunt “get it right” warning to rail chiefs last night as they prepared for another Bank Holiday weekend of engineering works.

COMMUTER groups in East Anglia issued a blunt “get it right” warning to rail chiefs last night as they prepared for another Bank Holiday weekend of engineering works.

Network Rail has faced a barrage of criticism - and a £14m fine - after two failures to finish such work on time left commuters facing chaos on their return to work after Bank Holidays.

Now rail users have warned they “will not stomach” any repeats of the incidents from earlier this year.

But Network Rail said last night it was confident the work would be finished on time.

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For the third consecutive Bank Holiday Network Rail is closing part of the London mainline for improvements and maintenance.

David Bigg, chairman of the Witham and Braintree Passengers Association, said he hoped it would be a case of third time lucky.

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“The message is simple: For goodness sake, get it right. We will not stomach it going wrong again.

“I really hope that I will not have to talk about this again on Tuesday morning because I want it to work - but I'm just not sure.”

Thousands of passengers from Suffolk and north Essex will face disruption today, tomorrow and Monday - similar to when the tracks into the capital were closed at Christmas and Easter.

On those occasions engineers failed to complete the work on time meaning that commuters endured lengthy delays when they returned to work on Tuesday.

As a result Network Rail was fined £14m by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), a penalty that bosses will be keen to avoid this time round.

Passenger groups remain less than convinced and have warned the company that any more disruption will not be tolerated.

Neil Skinner, chairman of the Manningtree Rail Users Association, said: “In the past Network Rail has not told the train operator of any problems until the very last minute.

“They have assured them all the way through the weekend that everything is on target but a few hours before they were due to finish they have then turned around and said it's all gone wrong.

“I'd like them to be more upfront if things don't necessarily go to plan and give us more warning.

“I hope things go right but I don't have a lot of faith - it shouldn't have happened at Christmas or Easter but it did.

“Any other delays will be unacceptable. I've actually taken next week off work because I don't believe the trains will be running properly.”

The ORR has also warned that any further delays to engineering works would be “unacceptable.”

A spokesman said: “We have sought assurances from Network Rail and they have told us the project will run properly.

“In the past there have been delays and we made it very clear that this was not acceptable. We took action and gave an indication that we would fine them £14m - so they know the penalties if they can't complete the work on time.”

Network Rail is shutting the mainline to carry out £1.5m of maintenance and improvements at Clapham Junction - part of a £75m investment across the country aimed at delivering a more reliable and better performing service.

Meanwhile Liverpool Street station will also be closed because Transport for London is installing an 800-tonne bridge as part of the work to extend the East London line.

A spokesman for Network Rail said: “Following the events of Christmas and Easter, we have consulted with both commuters and the groups that represent them.

“We have taken onboard their comments and our planning has become more robust than ever.

“We will be actively working towards completing these important upgrades to schedule, which will provide major benefits for the Anglia region.”

A spokesman for Transport for London said Liverpool Street station would re-open on Tuesday no matter what.

“The bridge could be installed without closing the station but to make things safer for our engineers we have shut down all power lines,” he said. “If we are behind - which will only happen if there is a major catastrophe - we will switch the power back on, re-open the station and continue.”

A spokeswoman for train operator National Express East Anglia said they would be in touch with Network Rail throughout the weekend to minimise disruption for their customers.

For amended timetable information visit or call National Rail Enquiries on 08457 484950.

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