King’s Cross fiasco puts northern rail projects in doubt

Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Doubts have emerged over the ability of Network Rail to deliver much-needed Northern transport improvements.

A wide-ranging look at how rail services are delivered has said there are questions marks over major projects such as electrification of East to West routes, with Network Rail’s disastrous handling of winter engineering work seeing concerns raised over the group’s ability to deliver regional investment.

Setting out a report examining Network Rail’s investment programme, transport committee chair Louise Ellman said: “The chaos faced by passengers over Christmas at King’s Cross and Paddington, and the continuing disruption at London Bridge, are unacceptable. Network Rail must demonstrate that it can deliver key improvements — such as electrification in the North West and the Great Western Main Line — on time, and while still delivering safe an efficient services for all passengers.”

There was also a demand from the committee for clarity over just when the unpopular Pacer trains used on commuter services across Yorkshire will be replaced.

Ms Ellman said: “Rising numbers of rail passengers have not being matched by investment in new rolling stock, resulting in overcrowding, and passengers unable to board some busy trains.

“The Secretary of State refused to tell us when the outdated and unpopular Pacer trains will be removed from the rail network — in Wales and the South West, as well as the North. We call for a clear commitment to remove Pacers from the rail network by 2020 at the latest.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Transport said: We are investing record amounts in building a world-class railway as part of our long term economic plan and we have ambitious plans to improve rail services in the north. This includes improved east-west journey times through HS3, the replacement of Pacer trains and a £1 billion investment programme in the region’s railways.

“Together they will improve services for passengers and help close the economic gap between north and south. We have made it clear to Network Rail that we expect the company to deliver the government’s investment programme on-time and on-budget.”