East Anglia: Summer of misery for rail users predicted

COMMUTERS fear they face a summer of delays and disruptions as the “outdated” rail network struggles to cope with the added demand of Olympic travellers.

Passengers faced delays of up to an hour yesterday after technical problems held up services on the main line at Witham and Marks Tey.

The problems started at 5.35pm and were resolved by 7pm but a backlog of trains meant operations were not running on time again until well past the rush hour.

One commuter, who asked not to be named, said he paid more than �600 a month to travel to London and back but was fed up with “ancient infrastructure”.

He said: “We have to deal with antique rolling stock – it’s unacceptable. I pay �620 a month and things need to change. The service will be an Olympics embarrassment with Games ticket-holders enduring miserable journeys and facing up to missing their events.”

Another fed-up passenger, Chris Towndrow, said the state of the service was “a complete joke”.

He said: “I find it so upsetting that we have to put up with it. Over-heated trains that can’t cope on the first hot day. The staff are superb, they always have been. There’s nothing wrong with that. But what is the effect if you’re 60 minutes late on a 60 minute journey? That’s 100% of the time again.”

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Derek Monnery of the Essex Rail users’ Federation said there was no prospect of any new trains or carriages until the permanent franchise operator takes over in 2014, with no new investment likely to arrive on the tracks until two years later.

He said: “It doesn’t bode well (for the summer). The line has not received the investment it needs. Most fo what it needs should be done in Essex as that’s where the bottle-necks are.”

A Network Rail spokesman apologised for yesterday’s delays, saying the problems were caused first by a signal failure at Witham at 5.35pm and then, shortly after that issue was resolved at 6.10pm, a points failure at Marks Tey at 6.20pm.

The lines were up and running again by 6.50pm but a back log of trains meant things did not return to normal until about 9pm.

The Network Rail Spokesman said: “Everything has been done to get people back on the move as quickly as possible. We apologise for any inconvenience.”

A spokesman for network operator Greater Anglia said problems with air conditioning were in isolated carriages.

He said: “If there has been a fault within individual carriages, we apologise for thatand appreciate that it would be a problem on a very warm day.

“It’s frustrating on a day like today, it adds to people’s frustrations when they are suffering with a delay and we apologise for that.”