MP calls for action on rail chaos

A Norfolk MP called for government intervention yesterday after fresh problems on the Norwich to London main rail line once again left thousands of frustrated East Anglian passengers facing travel chaos.

A Norfolk MP has called for government intervention after fresh problems on the Norwich to London main rail line once again left thousands of frustrated East Anglian passengers facing travel chaos.

Customers were expecting travel on the route to return to normal after 10 days of disruption due to the closure of London Liverpool Street for maintenance work over the Christmas and New Year break.

But late on Tuesday night Network Rail announced the work had over-run - leaving no time for train operators One to provide advance warning for travellers.

An urgent investigation was launched by the Office of Rail Regulation to find out the cause of the delay - which could lead to a hefty fine for Network Rail.

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But last night Norwich North MP Ian Gibson said he was sick of “unfulfilled promises” and called for the industry to be renationalised.

“They said that services were due to return to normal yesterday but even normal is usually a huge mess,” said Dr Gibson, who set up a select committee style inquiry in Norwich last year to grill Network Rail and One bosses.

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“Network Rail said they would get it finished on time - they set the schedule, but it is yet another unfulfilled promise.

“I would like to see the government intervene and I think they should set up an inquiry with the department for transport involved. I think the time has come when we need to think about renationalisation.”

The West Coast Main Line was also affected by the extended work with Virgin Trains the worst-hit company and services run by the London Midland and ScotRail companies also disrupted.

In Norfolk and Suffolk customers were being urged not to travel to London unless absolutely necessary yesterday morning after One had to cancel some services and those that did run terminated at Stratford.

Limited services into Liverpool Street resumed later in the day and a full service is expected to be in place by this afternoon .

It comes as rail users' group More Train Less Strain started a ticket boycott in protest at fare increases of more than twice the rate of inflation on many lines.

Some passengers have suffered increased ticket prices of up to 11pc, while regulated fares, which include most season tickets, have gone up by an average of 4.8pc.

Passengers trying to travel yesterday were furious at the further disruption and particularly the lack of communication.

Dorothy Berry, 63, from Gospel Oak, London, was travelling to Yarmouth, said: “I rang up on Tuesday night to check the trains and they said everything would be back to normal on Wednesday morning, but when I got here they said there were no trains. I've got to go to Stratford on the underground and get a train form there. I've got a disabled daughter who can't walk properly and none of the staff are helping me get her to the tube.”

Charlotte Rowsell, 21, a student at UEA, said: “I think it's ridiculous, when something is planed to be finished it should be done. I am very concerned about getting back to Norwich, I am supposed to be meeting a friend at lunchtime, hopefully I'll make it.”

Alex Odonoghue , 25, a company director from Norwich, said: “I checked online last night and they said services would be back to normal on time. So when I got here and the station was closed it was quite a shock. There always seem to be some problem

or other with the trains to Norfolk, on my way down to London last week I had to get a bus and even that was half an hour late.”

The work, which involved demolishing a bridge and enhancing the track and overhead lines, should have been finished on January 1.

Robin Gisby, NR director of operations and customer services, said in a prepared statement: “We are extremely sorry for the continued disruption to passengers, which is down to the shortage of some critical resources and which will lead to a thorough and urgent investigation. We are working around the clock to restore services as soon as possible and apologise for the unacceptable delays while this work is completed.”

But the company refused to answer questions about what went wrong from the EDP.

Up until late Tuesday night, One officials were told that the work was on schedule and as a result were unable to provide advanced warning to travellers.

Andrew Chivers, One railway managing director, said: “I am extremely disappointed that Network Rail has not completed the works on time despite the assurances that had been given throughout the closure period. We will be holding urgent meetings with Network Rail and following this matter up with the Office of the Rail Regulator.

“It is deeply regrettable that we were unable to advise passengers in advance of the disruption because of the unacceptably late advice from Network Rail. I should like to offer my sincere apologies to all our customers affected by the over-running engineering works and to assure them that we are doing everything possible to restore scheduled services as quickly as possible.”

Passengers who were delayed by more than 30 minutes can claim compensation under the Customer Charter as long as they have proof of travel.

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