MP demands answers over rail fiasco

AN MP has called for an urgent Government investigation into the East Anglia trains chaos which saw rail commuters facing some of the worst delays of recent years.

By Richard Smith

AN MP has called for an urgent Government investigation into the East Anglia trains chaos which saw rail commuters facing some of the worst delays of recent years.

Last Wednesday night overhead line problems meant trains between London and Norwich were up to four hours late, and on Friday night a similar failure led to more massive delays - which also impacted on services throughout Saturday.

Now South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo is writing to Network Rail, train operator One, and the Secretary of State for Transport asking for an inquiry.

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Commuters have spoken of their anger at the problems, criticising One for the way it has dealt with them.

On Friday night, commuters heading for Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk were taken by train to Stansted Airport, where they were picked up by buses for the rest of the journey.

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But there were ugly scenes as young and elderly people were knocked to the ground in a scramble to obtain seats on the bus home - with many people furious there were not enough buses laid on.

Police officers were called to restore order in the bus station at Stansted and two ambulances were required to assist with any injuries.

Normal service was not restored until 7.30pm on Saturday - seven hours later than rail staff had expected - and throughout the day passengers had to use a mixture of trains and buses on the route to and from London.

One traveller said: ''As a result of the chaos there was nearly a riot as two if not three to four train loads of people waited hours for any buses to turn up.

''When two did turn up, old people and young children were knocked flying in the scramble, if not bear stampede, for the buses.

''The only staff present on duty was a ticket collector sent up from Liverpool Street and two location station staff who had no megaphone and no help from the police to help marshal the crowd into a series of queues.

''If there was any sort of contingency plan it clearly descended into chaos.''

Some travellers took six hours to get home from Liverpool Street station.

Tim Yeo, MP for South Suffolk, said: ''This is clearly a scandalous breakdown in the procedure which should be followed in the circumstances which arose. I am extremely sympathetic to all those who were grossly inconvenienced and their families as well.

''I am writing to Network Rail, One Railway and to the Secretary of State for Transport to ask for an investigation into why the overhead line keeps disintegrating and what is being done to remove the risk.''

Mr Yeo will also demand an explanation for the ''unnecessary and avoidable distress'' caused for so many passengers when they had to wait for buses.

Nick Jarrold, a spokesman for One Railway, said yesterday: ''We apologise for the delays that customers have suffered. These inconveniences on the Norwich to London line are very rare but we have had two in a week and we will meet with Network Rail and insist that we get an assurance that they are not liable to be repeated.

''Friday night at peak time is one of the busiest times in the week and we do have plans in place for a bus operation. However, we had towards 1,000 people and we are never going to be able to source enough buses that quickly.

''We do get as many buses as we can do at that time but it will never be enough to deal with that amount of people.''

Ben Goldsmith, 26, of Ravenswood Avenue, Ipswich, waited an hour for a coach at Stansted but in the end had to get a taxi.

He said: ''We were told every five or ten minutes there would be a coach available, but in the hour I waited we saw only one going to Colchester and a huge crowd tried to get on it.''

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