Network Rail to hold summit meeting on Norwich to London line engineering work

Railway engineering work. Photo: Bill Smith

Railway engineering work. Photo: Bill Smith

Rail bosses are today holding a summit meeting to decide whether to go ahead with more engineering work on the Norwich to London line after a project overran on the bank holiday, causing extensive delays.

Engineering work at Ipswich station was due to be completed by the early hours of yesterday, allowing services to run as normal. However the work overran by more than seven hours, causing major problems for passengers.

It is the 10th time in six years the company has not completed work on schedule on the Great Eastern main line – and the third time this summer.

Yesterday the line was not reopened until 11am but disruption continued. Many services in Suffolk were suspended for the rest of the day, while services between London and Norwich finished early last night.

The delays and cancellations provoked fury from passengers, and prompted Ben Gummer, MP for Ipswich, to call for heads to roll at Network Rail.

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Today services have returned to normal, except between Ipswich and Felixstowe, which has seen several train cancellations this morning, with disruption expected to continue on that stretch until 4pm this afternoon.

Now Network Rail area director Andy Boyle has said engineering work planned for next Sunday will be reviewed at a meeting today.

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He said: 'If we are not totally satisfied that it will be able to be completed on time we will not go ahead at this stage. We will shelve the plans and come back to it when we are satisfied that we can complete it on time.'

The summit will involve senior managers from Network Rail, which is responsible for rail infrastructure, and operators Abellio Greater Anglia. Next Sunday's work is scheduled to be completed by 3pm and is due to concentrate on the freight yard immediately to the north of the station.

Mr Boyle said this weekend's problems emerged at about 1am yesterday when engineers came to test how new signals had been linked into the existing network. The line had been due to be handed back to the rail operator at 3.30am, but it was clear this would not be possible.

Transport minister Baroness Kramer said: 'Network Rail must make sure that vital engineering work is done to time to avoid this kind of disruption and, when delays are genuinely unavoidable, make sure they properly communicate to the travelling public to explain what has gone wrong and why.'

The sequence of delays has prompted the Office of Rail Regulation, which has the power to fine Network Rail if it is not satisfied with its performance, to investigate.

Earlier this year the company was fined £53m – with the money being put into improving wifi on trains – as a result of delays.

A spokesman said: 'We are aware of the issues in the region and we have people looking at the causes.'

An Abellio Greater Anglia spokesman apologised for the delays and said: 'We are reviewing Network Rail's engineering work programme to identify actions to reduce the scope of the works, and we intend to propose revisions to the programme to help remove the risk of overruns.'

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said she would be asking questions of Network Rail and the train operator, and telling them how angry her constituents are about the repeated disruption.

She said: 'This is disgraceful and entirely unacceptable. It's not good enough to have a repeated letdown like this.

'It hurts people who are simply trying to get to work on time or are going about their other daily business.

'It's no good for the local economy and it's no good for individuals.

'It will not be adequate for those responsible to make the same old excuses.'

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