GNER told to get it right or risk being forced off the rails

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Mojo

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From: http://news.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?tid=168&id=2082222005
TRANSPORT Secretary Alistair Darling has warned the operator of the flagship Edinburgh-London rail line to shape up or face being stripped of its franchise.

Mr Darling, who is also Scottish Secretary, was responding to criticism from Edinburgh North and Leith MP Mark Lazarowicz after thousands of passengers were left stranded in unbearable heat for hours during the summer because of problems with overhead wires.

Passengers trapped in carriages were forced to break windows as dozens fainted in the heat. Police, fire crews and paramedics were drafted in to treat the more than 700 passengers on six trains.

Mr Darling made clear that the company realised mistakes had been made on the day in July and that steps had been put in hand to prevent a repeat. But he said the company faced losing the lucrative line if it did not improve punctuality and reliability.

In one of the worst examples, six trains were stranded between Huntingdon and Peterborough on the East Coast Main Line, which carries hundreds of passengers from Edinburgh to London every day, in temperatures as high as 115F after a power failure in July.

Up to 300 passengers were trapped for two hours in the London King's Cross-bound train.

GNER later had to pay out millions of pounds in compensation.

Mr Lazarowicz raised the issue during transport questions in the House of Commons.

Mr Lazarowicz told Mr Darling: "Thousands of passengers along the east coast main line were left stranded for hours as a result once again of problems with the overhead wires.

"Will you ensure that the upgrading of the overhead line system is made a top priority in the new east coast main line?

In his reply, Edinburgh South West MP Mr Darling said the new inter city east coast franchise agreement requires the operator to deliver improvement in both punctuality and reliability.

"GNER realises that on the day a number of mistakes were made. It has made clear that it will learn from those mistakes.

"The problem with the overhead power lines will take longer to resolve.

"The basic problem is that the then Conservative government, in order to cut costs, placed the overhead gantries further apart than they should have been. The railway line was badly designed because financial constraints were imposed.

"That is what happens when one tries to cut corners with public expenditure - the public suffer."

A GNER spokesman said it had conducted a proper review and made sure enough water was on board, and looked at air conditioner procedures.

He said: "We conducted a full review over the incident and have put in place a raft of measures on our trains. Our customers also received a multi-million compensation package as a result."

The conversation that lead to this in the commons today is below (NOT FROM THE SCOTSMAN ARTICLE)

8. Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): What steps he is taking to improve the reliability of train services on the east coast main line. [16817]

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Alistair Darling): The new inter-city east coast franchise agreement requires the operator to deliver improvements in both punctuality and reliability. If it fails to do so, the franchise will end sooner than we would otherwise expect.

Mark Lazarowicz: On one of the hottest days of this summer, thousands of passengers along the east coast main line were left stranded for hours as a result once again of problems with the overhead wires. To compound their problem, they were treated abysmally by the train operator, which failed to respond to the problem. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the upgrading of the overhead line system is made a top priority in the new east coast main line franchise? Will he tell GNER in the meantime to make an adequate response when things do go wrong?

Mr. Darling: GNER realises that on the day a number of mistakes were made. It has made it clear that it will learn from those mistakes and measures have already been put in hand to ensure that trains are not left stranded for long periods, as happened in July.

The problem with the overhead power lines will take longer to resolve. The basic problem, as I am sure the House will know, is that the then Conservative Government, in order to cut costs, placed the overhead gantries further apart than they should have been—[Laughter.] The hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) may laugh, but that is precisely what happened. The railway line was badly designed because financial constraints were imposed by the then Conservative Government. That is what happens when one tries to cut corners with public expenditure—the public suffer as a result. However, Network Rail and GNER are working together to sort the problem out, which will take some time. Everyone concerned with the railways is aware that the line is extremely busy, that many people use it, and that lessons need to be learned from what happened last July.

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yorkie

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Unfortunately Mr Darling is very late with this. At first I thought "this is old news", I was shocked to hear it is from today.

But, let's be blunt, Mr Darling doesn't have a clue.

Mr Lazarowicz speaking to Mr Darling said:
Thousands of passengers along the east coast main line were left stranded for hours as a result once again of problems with the overhead wires.

"Will you ensure that the upgrading of the overhead line system is made a top priority in the new east coast main line

A reasonable question, so surely Mr Darling should say that NR have been authorised to spend money improving it? Sadly no...
In his reply, Edinburgh South West MP Mr Darling said the new inter city east coast franchise agreement requires the operator to deliver improvement in both punctuality and reliability.
What?! How can a train OPERATOR deliver improvements to INFRASTRUCTURE?

How on earth did Mr Darling ever become transport secretary? I cannot believe I am reading this!


The article is misleading..
Up to 300 passengers were trapped for two hours in the London King's Cross-bound train.
Yes but that's a half-truth, the money GNER paid will be re-couped from NR.

Alistair Darling said:
"GNER realises that on the day a number of mistakes were made. It has made clear that it will learn from those mistakes.

"The problem with the overhead power lines will take longer to resolve.

"The basic problem is that the then Conservative government, in order to cut costs, placed the overhead gantries further apart than they should have been. The railway line was badly designed because financial constraints were imposed.

"That is what happens when one tries to cut corners with public expenditure - the public suffer."
Yes it was the tories to blame for the cheap job of OHLE on the ECML, but Labour have been in power for 8 years and still want time? How long do they need exactly?

A GNER spokesman said:
it had conducted a proper review and made sure enough water was on board, and looked at air conditioner procedures.

He said: "We conducted a full review over the incident and have put in place a raft of measures on our trains. Our customers also received a multi-million compensation package as a result."
I don't know if they're asking GNER to repeat the same things, or if they got an old quote, but we already know this, it's old news now.
 

Mojo

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I can't remember when it happenned, but the reason it came up today is because commons hasn't met since the incident happenned.
 

yorkie

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Royalscot said:
2. Network Rail inherited the OHL from BR. It's well known in Railway circles that the masts on the OHL are placed further apart than any comparable electrification in the world in order to save money as the treasury would not have grated the schemes approval. You don't hear of TGV, Swiss or German lines coming down every five minutes.
That's the one thing about this whole affair Alistair Darling does understand, and constantly reminds us the Tories insisted on it. He's right, but he fails to mention that new Labour have done nothing to rectify this, and the fixes to sort it out are patchy (ie. only being done in the worst affected areas).
 

richa2002

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One unfortunate incident but it's because of the SRA and related government policy that people couldn't get out of the train! Virgin are the pits compared to GNER anyway, never heard Darling complaining about them.
 
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