Passengers To Get Glowsticks
Providing stranded train passengers with glowsticks forms part of a plan unveiled by rail chiefs to help cope with any repeat of last winter's travel misery.
Rail operator Southeastern said the glowsticks will be handed out to travellers, along with foil blankets, should a train break down and lose lighting.
But passengers today called instead for more significant investment in operators' IT systems to provide better information on train running times.
Rail officials faced heavy criticism from travellers after last winter's bad weather caused huge disruption on the rail network.
Roger Johnson, chairman of the Sevenoaks Rail Travellers' Association, said providing glowsticks and foil blankets pointed to an ``element of despair'' in the firm's winter contingency plan.
Dr Johnson said: ``I see no evidence that all the underlying problems that bedevilled us last winter won't happen again.
``I believe Southeastern has done a great deal, much of it behind the scenes, to improve performance of its trains in the winter.
``Unfortunately, that will mean nothing if you go on its website at 6.30am when there is three inches of snow outside and be told trains are running on time when in all probability they are not.''
Southeastern and Network Rail bosses met MPs in Westminster to outline plans for the railways in south east London, East Sussex and Kent this winter.
As well as providing glowsticks and 4,000 foil blankets, the plan also includes raising the number of anti-icing trains from six to eight, fitting 20 passenger trains with anti-icing tanks and adding 40,000 metres of conductor rail heating.
In addition, three new 4x4 vehicles will be used to help Southeastern engineers respond more quickly to trains experiencing difficulties.
There will also be an increased supply of grit, with 100 additional grit salt bins, 220 hand-pushed ploughs and 16 motorised snow clearance vehicles.
Charles Horton, managing director of Southeastern, said: ``Heavy snow and ice represents a significant challenge for running trains on the third rail network.
``Whilst there is always likely to be disruption during severe winter weather, we believe that the work we have been doing jointly with Network Rail should enable us to keep more services operating, help us recover more quickly from disruption and support our efforts to improve the quality of information that we provide to passengers.''
Mike Smith, Network Rail's route enhancements manager for Kent, said: ``The railway plays a vital role in the everyday lives of millions of people and businesses across the country and we understand the importance of providing them with a reliable and punctual train service.
``We continue to work hard to deliver over £40 million of improvements in time for next winter which we hope will add much needed resilience to the network and allow passengers to make their journeys over the winter months with minimal disruption.''
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