Track failures contribute to train misery

January 10 2018   | Region: London, South East, South West, North East & Cumbria, North West, Yorkshire & the Humber

Track failures contribute to train misery
Recurrent disruption to passengers using services delivered by the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern rail franchise has been caused in part by failures of track and other Network Rail assets, the National Audit Office concludes today.
A new report highlights that the Department for Transport and Network Rail had a poor understanding of the underlying condition of the network at the point when the requirements of the franchise – run by Govia Thameslink – were set.
This has contributed to the poor performance of the franchise, which over the last three years has offered the worst passenger service on the entire national rail network, and to date has failed to deliver value for money.
Between July 2015 and March 2017, 13% of all cancellations and delays to services of over 30 minutes were due to failures of track and other Network Rail assets, such as signalling systems, the NAO’s report highlights.
Since the start of the franchise Network Rail identified that an additional investment of around £900M in maintenance and renewals work would be needed in order to run planned new services on the Thameslink network reliably, according to the report.
Another key cause of delays and cancellations on the franchise has related to shortages of drivers and other train crew due to industrial action over Govia Thameslink’s ‘driver only operation’ plans.
“It would have been difficult to foresee industrial action on this scale,” the report says. However it adds that the DfT did not fully evaluate the possible effects on passengers of different scenarios of industrial action before awarding the contract.
“Some of the problems could have been avoided if the Department had taken more care to consider passengers in its design of the franchise,” commented the head of the National Audit Office Amyas Morse.
Since Govia Thameslink started operating the franchise in July 2015, 7.7% of planned services have either been cancelled or delayed by over 30 minutes, compared to 2.8% on the rest of the network. Performance is improving but passengers continue to experience disruption, the report concludes.
The DfT previously considered terminating the contract but ultimately agreed a settlement where the operator will fund a £13.4M spending programme for missing its targets. Negotiations on a second remedial plan, and interim performance measures, are ongoing.
A DfT spokesman said: “Clearly the disruption passengers have experienced is unacceptable but the NAO recognises that service has improved over the last 12 months. The Government has taken a number of steps to ensure this improvement, including the provision of an additional £300M to improve reliability on the Brighton Mainline. We expect service improvements to continue as the Thameslink programme is completed.”

A spokesman for Network Rail added: “The reliability of the railway in the South East is at historically high levels, however growing passenger numbers and congestion has meant that even small incidents can cause significantly more delay than in other less crowded parts of the network. The completion of the Thameslink Programme alongside a £300M programme to boost the reliability of tracks and signalling will deliver big benefits for passengers and we continue to work closely with train operators to deliver a better, more reliable railway.”
180110_SinkHole_370♦ Work to repair a rare sink hole that appeared beside the Cumbrian Coast railway line in the wake of Storm Eleanor last week has been completed by Network Rail engineers.
The sink hole caused disruption and the partial closure of railway between Whitehaven and Workington following its discovery on Friday. Engineers worked over the weekend to make this section of the line safe and the route was able to be fully reopened on Monday.
(Photos: Network Rail)

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