19 Days Remaining

Thursday 15th
posted by Richard Bagley in Britain

EVASIVE Network Rail (NR) boss Mark Carne apologised yesterday for the “picture of chaos” created by over-running festive engineering works — but ducked questions on the subcontractors at the heart of the meltdown.

The publicly owned infrastructure firm’s chief executive admitted that the quality of information for passengers on the day “wasn’t adequate” and “we’re not delivering.”

On this occasion “small events conspired in such a way that they created this unacceptable situation for passengers,” he told the Commons transport select committee.

NR’s own report into the chaos, which saw trains into key terminuses Paddington and King’s Cross knocked out, pinpointed a raft of failings by privateers, including faulty hired equipment, poorly trained operators and problems with testing.

But Mr Carne failed to reply when challenged on the number of private contractors involved in the chaos versus directly employed staff.

When pressed again the NR chief ducked the question, instead praising a public-private venture with Amey that orchestrated the disastrous chain of events at King’s Cross.

“This is a group that has about 250 people in it — about 50 are Network Rail and the balance are Amey,” said Mr Carne, gushing: “I really support this.

“Built into these contracts are the kind of efficiency improvements we’ve got to deliver” — a reference to billions in cuts demanded from NR.

“They earn a prize and then that can be eroded if you don’t deliver the perfomance.”

He added that the only way to lessen the chance of future overruns was to pay more to train operators for “possession” of the track for longer or forking out for extra staff in case of problems.