Regulator highlights problems with East Anglian rail work

Network Rail work at Maryland

Rail passengers in East Anglia have faced years of weekend disruption. - Credit: Network Rail

Network Rail has been told it must do more robust planning when preparing engineering work on the main line between London and East Anglia after the government's official watchdog investigated how it carried out the work.

The Office of Rail and Road has carried out a national report on Network Rail's engineering programme looking at value for money and the disruption faced by passengers and other rail users.

And it singled out the number of "Late Changes" made to planned engineering work on the Anglia route which made it difficult for passengers to plan weekend rail trips.

There have been major engineering works on the route over the last decade - some associated with the construction of Crossrail, the Elizabeth Line, which has still not opened. 

Now there is work most weekends replacing track in Essex - forcing passengers to use buses for much of their journeys.

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John Larkinson, Chief Executive, ORR said: “Improved planning, monitoring and delivery of possessions is essential in not only reducing disruption to passengers but also in reducing costs.

“Network Rail has responded positively to the review and we have seen progress on a number of initiatives designed to address possession inefficiencies. It is important now that when these prove successful that they are consistently shared and applied across all of the regions.

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“By the end of 2021, we want to see a clear and time-bound plan with milestones for delivering on our recommendations, and we will closely monitor and track Network Rail’s progress.”

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt has been critical of the number of weekends passengers have been forced on to buses by engineering work and said he hope the ORR would keep a close eye on the Network Rail.

He said: "There have been occasions where there have been weeks of weekend work. They really need to understand the importance of leisure travel as well as the needs of those who have to work at weekends."

George Mackintosh, Network Rail’s head of planning and performance for Anglia, said: “We know how important it is that passengers are given timely and accurate information about our engineering works so that they can plan their journeys accordingly.

"We are committed to working with the ORR to make improvements that will minimise disruption and maximise efficiency when we plan our closures while continuing to deliver investment in the railway.”

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