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17.03.15

New congestion measures fail to stop peak-time chaos at London Bridge

Rail journeys were significantly affected once again at London Bridge station yesterday evening, despite new measures being introduced to improve the rush-hour situation. 

Network Rail confirmed that services were affected by signal failures between 4.30pm and 5.30pm but the knock-on effect was felt further into the evening. 

At the time a spokeswoman added that they were advising people to use Victoria instead, saying: “A signal failure outside the station put two of the four lines in to London Bridge out of action between 4.30pm and 5.30pm. We fixed the problem but as with anything like this there is a knock-on effect.” 

However, the latest disruption at London Bridge during Network Rail’s Thameslink renovations comes only a couple of weeks after commuters suffered “dangerous” overcrowding. 

It also comes after Network Rail’s new managing director of operations, Phil Hufton, had written to rail minister Claire Perry to say a raft of new measures were being introduced from yesterday to improve the situation. 

Network Rail confirmed that the letter, seen by the Evening Standard, had been sent to the minister. Within it, Hufton said some Southern trains into the capital would call at fewer stations to ensure they arrive promptly at London Bridge; there would be a single point of control for all London stations, as happened during the 2012 Games; and more rapid response teams of engineers would be ready to be deployed during peak hours to fix signal failures and other problems.

However, the measures seemed to be left wanting as all trains, at one point, were delayed and there were queuing problems for commuters on the escalators at the station.

Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman branded last night’s chaos “appalling”. She added that the secretary of state should call in all responsible and “personally oversee this on a daily basis until it is sorted”. 

Earlier this month, Lord Kennedy of Southwark asked the government what assessment they have made of the problems at London Bridge station and the risk to passenger safety reported by the media. 

Yesterday Baroness Kramer said: “The Office of Rail Regulation…has confirmed that they will carry out a review of the situation and investigate the circumstances that led to the events at London Bridge. 

“[Rail minister Claire Perry] and senior Departmental officials have had multiple meetings with senior industry representatives, most recently on 9 March, to discuss these events and to ensure improvements are put in place. 

“Numerous discussions have also taken place with Southern and Network Rail since the incident; Network Rail, Southern and Southeastern will be conducting a full review into the events so that lessons can be learnt for the future. London Overground and Transport for London are similarly reviewing what happened with regard to the East London Line services.

The Department will work with the industry to ensure that any recommendations for change are implemented quickly.” 

A spokesperson for London TravelWatch told RTM: “It was unfortunate that there were problems last night at London Bridge caused by signal failure but we hope that the series of measures outlined by Phil Hufton in his letter to the Rail Minster, many of which we have been calling for some time, will help to improve the situation for passengers.” 

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com 

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