Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin has raised the prospect of ending Christmas engineering works on the railways in response to the ‘unacceptable’ disruption that hit thousands of Londoners over this festive season.
Kings Cross – one of the busiest stations in London - was closed for 24 hours on 27 December due to work which overran on points, crossings and associated track and wiring.
While Paddington station in West London was also closed for hours on the 27 December when work on signalling and associated safety testing overran.
In a statement to Parliament, Mr McLoughlin said he is confidant Network Rail will learn the lessons after undergoing a double review process – an internal one and a parallel investigation from the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) watchdog.
The result of the internal review would be published he assured parliament.
Mr McLoughlin added: ‘One of the questions that needs to be answered is about the timing of its major works programmes. The industry’s conventional wisdom is that it is generally better to carry out major disruptive works over holiday periods, when passenger numbers are lighter than usual.’
He added that while the Department for Transport was briefed on the key elements of the Network Rail engineering programme it was not involved in planning for the operational aspects of the works programme or contingency planning - 'this is as it should be' he said.
The mistakes over the Christmas period resulted in Mark Carne chief executive of Network Rail giving up a bonus worth tens of thousands of pounds in the face of public anger.
Mr McLoughlin also paid tribute to the 11,000 engineers who worked on the rail track over the holiday period, across some 300 projects at around 2,000 worksites the vast majority of which were completed on time.