22 February 2013, 12:20
Network Rail find cause of overhead line problems at St Neots that caused big disruption on the East Coast Main Line on Tuesday 19 February 2013.
Thousands of passengers faced disruption after services operated by several train companies including First Capital Connect were brought to standstill by a major failure in the 1km of overhead power lines near St Neots on Tuesday night.
Some passengers spent the night aboard a train, whilst others had to wait for replacement bus services, one of which had a minor crash near Huntingdon.
Commuters faced disruption through Wednesday, Thursday and even for a while on Friday 22 February.
All this came just a week after similar overhead line problems at Radlett in Hertfordshire caused big disruption on the Midland Mainline.
Anger was raised by RMT union leader Bob Crow, claiming a cut in the number of maintenance staff was to blame for a slow recovery of services after the problem happened there - and also less than a week previously at Radlett.
In a statement realised to Heart, Phil Verster, the Network Rail managing director told us: "Our initial investigations into the recent overhead power supply incidents at Radlett and St Neots indicate that both incidents were caused by component failures. We are sorry for this and for the disruption many passengers will have experienced as a result. In both instances we have identified exactly which components failed and we are carrying out further work to establish the reasons so that we can minimise the chance of repeat failures in the future.
Network Rail’s priority is to run a safe, reliable railway and we continuously monitor the track, signalling, overhead power supply and other infrastructure for signs of ageing and degradation so we can fix them before they cause disruption to passengers. We report these findings regularly to the Office of Rail Regulation, which oversees the actions we are taking to make the railway more reliable for the travelling public."
Mr Verster added: “While of little comfort to those whose journeys were delayed or disrupted by these recent incidents, it’s important to note that since April 2011, the number of overhead lines faults causing delays to passengers has fallen by 14%, with the number of serious incidents down by 23%. At both Radlett and St Neots, our programme of maintenance checks had been carried out as planned and all inspections were up to date.
We will continue to do everything we can to improve the way we maintain the railway and deliver the best possible service to train operators and to passengers.”