Network Rail chief: Impact of severe weather on train services ‘is a wake-up call to us all’

Network Rail chief: Impact of severe weather on train services ‘is a wake-up call to us all’

Commenting on the Office of Rail Regulation’s quarterly performance monitor, which highlighted the impact of extreme weather on train performance, 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. Our staff worked tirelessly, often in difficult circumstances, to get the railway back up and running and we would like to thank passengers and train operators for bearing with us during this time.”

“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. As we set out when we launched our strategic business plan in January, we are playing catch up on decades of under-investment. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the embankments, cuttings, bridges, tunnels and other structures which have struggled to cope with extreme weather, alongside the burden of carrying more passengers than they were designed for. Our submission to our regulator for the next five-year funding settlement reflects our plan to tackle this.

“Despite considerable challenges, the industry still managed to move more than 3m people a day by train during this period, with almost nine-out-of-ten trains arriving on time. This is testament to the hard work of all our staff and those working for our partners. However, this does not undermine the need for us to do even more, including better investment in our assets, to be able to improve resilience and recovery during extreme weather in the future.”