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Railway resilience ‘deteriorating’ in bad weather – ORR

Network Rail must do more to improve the resilience of Britain’s railways in bad weather, the ORR has stated.

The latest Monitor – the quarterly analysis of Network Rail performance – found that while performance is strong in Scotland, with effective planning and coordination between Network Rail and the TOCs, performance is deteriorating on key parts of the network in England and Wales.

Heavy snow or rain can significantly affect performance, and more must be done to improve this, the ORR’s report warns.

The report also highlighted areas of poor management, including basic operational planning mistakes causing delays and over-runs of engineering works during the festive period.


Richard Price, ORR chief executive, said: “Passengers need to be able to rely on the railways to get them from ‘A to B’ throughout the whole year. ORR is concerned that the company is losing touch with key performance targets as passengers again suffered poor performance during challenging weather conditions.

“We are absolutely determined to see the resilience of Britain’s railways improve, especially in bad weather.

“ORR will be reviewing whether the company can currently work and plan better, and the Governments’ proposed significant investment of £37.5bn from 2014-19 will enable Network Rail to deliver a railway that can stand up to conditions like heavy rain and snow in the future.”

Network Rail chief executive David Higgins said: “We recognise that this has been a difficult period for passengers, with disruption on many lines due to extreme weather.

“The damage that extreme weather can do to a Victorian rail network which was neither designed nor built for such challenges is clear. Whole lines were closed by flooding and tracks came close to being washed away by rivers which burst their banks. On the worst affected parts of the network, torrential rain caused up to sixty landslides in a single day.

“This has been a wake up call for the whole industry, which we ignore at our peril.”

He added that the company pledged to do more in the future, including better investment in their assets.

Alan Price, ORR director of railway performance, told RTM: Weather resilience certainly is a worry. Yes, we did have big weather issues over Christmas, and a lot of people worked very hard in some ridiculous conditions to get the railway running – and we do applaud that. Yes the weather is beyond [Network Rail's] control, but in terms of them doing everything they can, I want to make sure they don’t score the own goals that bring their performance back down again. There were some poor examples of that over Christmas: where they booked possessions and tried to run electric trains with no overhead line turned on, for example. Their systems should be robust enough to make sure those things don’t happen, and impact on the passengers as they did.

Our full interview with Price appears in our April-May 2013 edition. Make sure to get your copy by visiting:

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]

(Top photo: Library image. Middle: Flooding in the north east. Below: Recent landslips caused by bad weather.)


St Bees 1


John   23/02/2013 at 18:25

The real cruncher is the lack of any plausible back up system or plan. It's not just the TOC's and Network Rail. The Polling Stock Leasing Co's must shoulder some responsibility. There has to be some reserve stock of Loco Hauled Stock and the Locos to haul them with crews to man them at strategic parts of the network. This can partly be paid for by taking the bonusses off those who get them but don't actually earn them - as in most senior mangement on and around the Railways!

Robert Burch   25/02/2013 at 11:00

Living on the main London - Brighton line, I often visit the city on business and have been delayed because a train has broken down, cables have been removed or weather has caused a problem. The new rolling stock does not have a locomotive interface unlike all the old slam door units. These could be assisted by an electro diesel or diesel loco to get them out of the way. The new stock MUST have this facility added and the locomotives converted or built for this facility to stop all the inconvenience to passengers. If a train breaks down, then it should immediately be the responsibility of the track authority to have it moved as quickly as possible to minimise disruption. Have 'thunderbird' loco placed at strategic places for this purpose and save all the time wondering how to move something in the way.

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