Transport debacle sparks investigation by regulator

Chaos followed the overrun of works at King's Cross station last monthChaos followed the overrun of works at King's Cross station last month
Chaos followed the overrun of works at King's Cross station last month
RAIL passengers faced some delays yesterday but nothing on the scale of Saturday’s debacle which plunged thousands of travellers’ plans into chaos thanks to over-running engineering works.

There were up to 15 minute delays on trains arriving and leaving from Paddington, one of west London’s busiest stations, because of over-running engineering works, but King’s Cross was operating as usual.

East Coast Trains was running a reduced service between King’s Cross and York and Leeds, but the change, due to the ongoing engineering work in London, had been advertised well ahead as part of an amended timetable.

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The Office of Rail Regulation has promised an investigation into the chaos on Saturday which saw police having to be brought in to control re-routed crowds as trains in and out of Paddington and King’s Cross were cancelled.

Rail passengers heading south from Sheffield on Saturday also faced disruption as trains were cancelled.

One group being bussed to Derby found themselves back in Sheffield when their coach was forced to turn back due to gridlock on the southbound M1.

Passengers branded the situation, caused by work at Holloway overrunning, a “disgrace” while Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin demanded answers from rail bosses.

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Manuel Cortes, general secretary of rail union TSSA, urged rail firms not to “hide behind the usual byzantine rules covering refunds.”

He said: “They will be paid millions for these delays by Network Rail and they must ensure frustrated passengers do not end up with just pennies after the horrendous delays of the past few days.”

Many operators said tickets for journeys on Saturday would be valid for travel yesterday and today.

Earlier managing director of network operations for Network Rail Robin Gisby apologised for the mayhem.

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He said: “I would like to sincerely apologise for the upset and upheaval passengers suffered yesterday as our engineers struggled to complete an essential improvement project that had been months in planning.

“The advertised Sunday timetable for King’s Cross will run today as train operators work to get people home who were unable to travel yesterday.

“We now move our focus to completing the handful of other projects still underway without further impact on passengers.”

His comments came after a day where thousands were hit by delays and cancellations, or crammed into “dangerously overcrowded” carriages.

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Paddington was closed for much of the day as trains were cancelled or delayed, while King’s Cross’s normally busy concourse was almost deserted as trains were scrapped or redirected to Finsbury Park, a far smaller station in north London.

Finsbury Park was quickly overwhelmed by the sheer number of passengers and also temporarily closed, leaving people in the freezing cold for around two hours. They included George Hallam, a semi-retired economics lecturer from Lewisham, who had managed to get his 94-year-old mother-in-law into a taxi.

He said: “Any civil engineering contractor would have realised probably weeks ago that they were going to overrun and they must have realised they would be fined.

“They could have solved that by putting on more resources, more people, more machines - but if the cost of that is more than the fine then they would choose to pay the fine.”