Network Rail: We Got It Massively Wrong At Xmas

Network Rail (NR) is today publishing a report following its inquiry into Christmas engineering work overruns which led to chaotic scenes at three London stations.

King's Cross station had to close all day on Saturday December 27 while nearby Finsbury Park station became so crowded that it too had to shut for a time.

Paddington station should have opened at 7am on December 27 but was shut until 1.14pm after engineering work at nearby Old Oak Common overran.

The overruns put under the spotlight the salary levels and performance-related bonuses of NR top bosses, with Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin describing the problems on December 27 as "totally unacceptable".

Later, NR chief executive Mark Carne announced that he would not be taking his 2014/15 annual bonus which could have been as high as £135,000.

The NR internal inquiry has been led by the company's infrastructure projects managing director Dr Francis Paonessa.

The work near King's Cross was at Holloway in north London and was being carried out by a team from NR and engineering company Amey.

It involved work on track and points renewal and should have been completed in time for the start of operations to and from King's Cross on the morning of December 27. It was not until the following day that King's Cross was able to open.

The work at Old Oak Common in north west London was a signalling contract carried out by contractors Signalling Solutions Ltd.

The physical work on this contract was completed in the early hours of December 27 but paperwork hold-ups meant a delay in being able to open Paddington.

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) is also holding an inquiry into the overruns. ORR chief executive Richard Price will give evidence on the overruns to the House of Commons Transport Committee on Wednesday.

Also appearing before the committee will be Mr Carne and NR's network operations managing director Robin Gisby.

The work affecting King's Cross was carried out at Holloway in north London by NR in partnership with engineering company Amey.

Today's NR report said there was a succession of equipment failures which stalled progress and there was insufficient contingency in the project plan to ensure the work would finish in time for services to run on December 27.

There were delays in putting together a recovery plan with the train companies, the report added.

It went on: "Not enough was done in both the planning and the implementation to ensure appropriately managed passenger flow at Finsbury Park; in particular a failure to implement an agreed platform strategy that would have separated alighting and boarding passengers."

The report also said there were "mutual failings in the communications between NR and Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), who manage Finsbury Park station, around the implementation of the contingency plan".

NR said that, by 10.30am on December 27, Finsbury Park had become so crowded "that passengers on incoming trains were even unable to alight".

The station was shut for about 30 minutes with some passengers having to queue outside for as long as two to three hours, the report said.

The work affecting Paddington was carried out at Old Oak Common in north west London by signalling framework suppliers Signalling Solutions Ltd (SSL).

The report said the 3.30am December 27 completion of the physical work on this project should have allowed for a 7am start of services at Paddington given that the paperwork checks and testing verifications would have been expected to be completed in one to two hours.

But this work was not finished until 1.14pm.

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