die belebende Bedenkung

A catalogue of problems

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BBC coverage of Network Rail's disruption report

BBC coverage of Network Rail’s disruption report

On 12 January 2015 Network Rail published its internal report into the post-Christmas chaos on the East Coast (Finsbury Park and Kings Cross) and Great Western Main Lines (Paddington). The report, by Dr Francis Paonessa, found a catalogue of problems including poor planning, equipment failures and communication breakdowns.

[‘A review into the causes of passenger disruption affecting King’s Cross and Paddington station services on 27 December 2014’, Dr Francis Paonessa, Managing Director Infrastructure Projects, Network Rail, 12 January 2015]

[…] Like all infrastructure, railways wear out over time and the rail, ballast and sleepers (foundations) have to be renewed. The timing depends on the rate of deterioration, which is a function of the speed, weight and frequency of trains. Also, the rail infrastructure is being enhanced, extended and upgraded to cope with increasing passenger growth.

To do this type of renewal and enhancement work, the railway needs to be shut. There are very few opportunities to shut the railway completely for any extended period of time on urban routes and, therefore, the Christmas period, when passenger numbers are about 50% lower than at other times of the year, has traditionally been considered a suitable time to deliver these types of projects.

The engineering works at Holloway Junction [ECML] and at Old Oak Common [GW] were complex and very extensive. The plans of the project teams to undertake the works had been reviewed using the standard processes that were introduced by Network Rail to improve the delivering of project work following engineering overruns in 2007.

Both projects had also been assessed using an industry standard risk assessment tool and both passed with a greater than 95% likelihood of handing back the railway into service on time. This exceeded the threshold level of confidence generally deemed appropriate for this type of critical operation and is consistent with the regulatory funding available to Network Rail. Given the limitations of service recovery options, it is reasonable to question whether a higher level of delivery confidence might have been appropriate in this case. There were shortfalls in the delivery of the project plans, in the management of the project contingency plans during the work and in the service recovery plans after an overruns were recognised.

The issues causing the engineering activities to overrun at Holloway Junction, affecting King’s Cross Station, and at Old Oak Common, affecting Paddington Station, were of a very different nature. When the issues arose, they were escalated within Network Rail’s and the respective contractors’ management teams. The nature of the issues meant that the Train Operating Companies (TOCs) were given around 14 hours advance warning of the overrun affecting King’s Cross Station, but no warning at Paddington Station.

The internal report is no substitute for an objective external investigation and might be best seen as a way of putting clear water between the chaos and Network Rail’s management. Apparently, Francis Paonessa and Mark Carne were on holiday at the time of the imbroglio, but they should not be able to dodge responsibility for the failures. It’s also worth noting that when he was chairman of Network Rail, HS2 chief David Higgins used to talk up “alliancing” as a way of improving efficiency on the railway. But the post-Christmas chaos on East Coast was brought about by just such an ‘alliance’, between Network Rail and Amey Rail.

Official Network Rail diagram suggesting that 'the railway was disrupted back to Highgate and Alexandra Palace

Official Network Rail diagram suggesting that the railway was disrupted back to Highgate and Alexandra Palace (LOL)

Written by beleben

January 12, 2015 at 5:27 pm

Posted in Politics, Railways

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  1. Reading the report It would appear the Open Access operator Hull Trains made the most sensible contingency plans by scheduling 2 trains to run from St Pancras. The Map that was used actually shows how this MIGHT have been easily delivered as it shows the Tottenham South Junction which provided the facility to run directly in via Kentish Town, leaving the ECML at Harringay. I suspect however that the Hull services went over to the Midland Main Line at Doncaster. (NB both the Ally Pally branch and the GER Palace Gates line closed 1964 which was extended to Bowes Park and lurks as a part of Bounds Green depot are shown on this map and a rather optimistic connection between the Tottenham and South Hampstead railway and the Alexandra Palace Branch also shown. At the point where they cross the T&SH goes UNDER the road in a tunnel and the APB goes OVER it on a bridge a height difference of at least 12 metres)

    Unfortunately the T&SH line now only has a ‘down connection at Kentish Town, and a single track connection at Harringay from the Down ECS?. It could well be a sensible move to restore this link for many reasons, and not that difficult.

    1) A bay platform/through working option at Kentish Town could provide an alternative terminus for the GOBLink services. There would appear to be more space to get a longer terminal platform given the limited space at Gospel Oak, and give a connection to the Northern Line.

    1a) A through train operation, and a change to the connections for HS1/North London Line and delivery of a station at Maiden Lane would slip GOBLink into paths vacated by GN services going out from St Pancras Midland Road via Belle Vue Junction to Copenhagen Tunnel, and keep a North London Connection at Maiden Lane.

    2) This provides an alternative route for the Greater Thameslink services so that trains can be routed away from Copenhagen Tunnel/Belle Vue Junction and deliver the ability to have long and less pressured blockades.

    3) When Kings Cross gets blockade or security alert, the shut down can feature diversion of trains from a point close-in to London to St Pancras, or to transfer at West Hampstead (with a choice of Overground, Greater Thameslink, and Underground)

    3a) Moving the Metropolitan Line stop to West Hampstead would make a really flexible hub which St Pancras main line services can be terminated and onward travel to St Pancras delivered via Thameslink and Met-Line services. This would then enable a total blockade of St Pancras with a similar removal of the pressure and increased costs of working in a very tight window of time.

    4) As a further backstop the Canonbury Tunnel give the option of running through to Liverpool Street for main line trains

    4a) When the Moorgate Branch has a problem the option of running trains to Canonbury may be possible, but equally the 16 trains/hour using the Dalston-Highbury 4-track might offer an option to send 2 trains/hour up to Bowes Park/Gordon Hill and return putting TfL Overground on to another inner suburban route using existing track with metro-type stock, which would be particularly suitable for the stations in from Bowes Park

    The constraint of having a major blockade at Watford at the same time as Kings Cross would not, if some basic moves had been promoted/in place been as serious. A route to Birmingham from Marylebone could have had strengthened services, with the option of bringing some over the 2 available connecting routes via Coventry or Proof-House Junction. Some Euston-Birmingham/Trent Valley services have also run via the GC/GW joint line, and as a clear strategic move the 100mph (and possibly 125mph) main line facility restored right back to Old Oak Common with an enhanced connection to the West Coast Main Line through the mess of tracks between North Pole and Willesden Junctions. The current meandering route at less than 25mph in places, on single line semaphore signalled track adds 46 minutes to the 1 hour journey between Euston and Coventry. Fixing this should be relatively quick but the ultimate detail is to have a grade separated high speed junction, just North of Wembley Central designed to let Euston Trains run via Wembley Stadium and in to Marylebone, with an option of a connection in to St Pancras at West Hampstead allowing Euston to be closed for a long blockade with minimal impact on journey times (but a reduced capacity obviously), but a second South facing connection to allow trains to run at speed out from Euston and via Banbury, with a connecting option back to the main line at Milton Keynes, as soon as the East-West connection is reinstated at Bletchley.

    Finally a robust ability to have a Paddington Blockade with trains diverted to Euston or Kensington Olympia/Waterloo International should give us a set of North London termini which can be shut totally for engineering work, or a security alert, with substantially less impact than the Christmas hiatus. As noted at the start Hull Trains (NOT a state instructed train operating contractor) covered their contingency very well by arranging to run services from St Pancras, perhaps the state instructions to operators and the state authorised investment in reserve resources might consider making this possible in the future – a 100mph line speed from Old Oak Common to Northholt Junction, and doubling Leamington to Coventry might be a start to permit extended blockades on WCML, and a reconnection of the ‘up chord’ via the Tottenham & South Hampstead to get from ECML to St Pancras via Harringay and Kentish Town would provide an option to run some services with a Kings Cross blockade to a next-door terminus on Euston Road.

    Dave H (@BCCletts)

    January 13, 2015 at 8:13 am

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