Network Rail boss apologises for over running engineering work but says he can’t guarantee it won’t happen again

There were delays on the trains yesterday because of over running engineering works

There were delays on the trains yesterday because of over running engineering works - Credit: Lucy taylor

A rail boss has said his company’s contingency plan for engineering work which overran – causing another day of chaos on the region’s rail network – wasn’t sufficient.

Network Rail area manager Steve Cassidy was speaking yesterday after work taking place overnight on Sunday did not finish in time for the start of train services on Monday morning.

It was the latest in a catalogue of similar incidents on the main line from Suffolk and Essex into London, and led to delays of up to an hour for commuters.

And it comes as a campaign continues for major investment to upgrade the line, enabling faster and more frequent services.

Although Mr Cassidy said the company “rarely had the same issue twice” he could not guarantee it wouldn’t happen again.

All trains travelling through the Seven Kings area of London, just east of Stratford, were affected by the problem which meant only two out of the four available lines were open.

There were 60 minute delays for both metro and main line services at the height of the delays, with some trains cancelled and the disruption lasting beyond midday.

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Explaining why the work wasn’t finished in time Mr Cassidy said: “It was a track renewal job in the Seven Kings area which means renewing the ballast, the sleepers and the rail.

“The team encountered some unforeseen problems and the work took longer than expected.”

He said the work had “got past the point of no return” before the scale of the additional problems were known.

“There are certain points where you can stop work but usually that is early on,” Mr Cassidy said: “Once we have removed everything there is very little you can do. We cut back on some activities but you still need to put things back again.”

Although Mr Cassidy said it could take a week to find out exactly what happened and why the over run occurred he said: “We do learn lessons from every incident. We do improve things to prevent it happening again.”

He added it was “very difficult” to say what could have been done to prevent the problems on Monday morning but in the past they have “increased the amount of surveys” carried out before work starts.

“In this situation clearly we apologise to everyone that has been affected by the incident,” Mr Cassidy said.

Asked whether director bonuses would be affected by what happened he said: “This has affected the performance indicators for the company, it has cost Network Rail money. Indirectly it will affect bonuses.”

Richard Schofield, Network Rail route managing director, said: “As part of the ongoing programme to upgrade the railway line between London and Norwich, we were installing new track at Seven Kings.

“After removing the old track and digging up the track foundations, the condition of the track foundations was not as expected, meaning we needed more time to complete the work.

“Please accept our apologies for this morning’s problems. We are acutely aware of the frustration and inconvenience felt by passengers when things go wrong, and are taking action to improve performance standards and service consistency.”

Network Rail also confirmed the project Sunday night’s work was part of has been halted while the incident is investigated.

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