Rail travellers face miserable return to work as engineering work and floods hit services


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The Independent Online

Late-running engineering work and other problems meant a miserable return to work for rail travellers today.

Passengers were already having to contend with planned engineering work plus the continuing effects of the floods.

Post-Christmas depression was hardly lifted by the news that over-running engineering work meant there were no trains running between Paddington station in London and Heathrow Airport, or between Paddington and Reading in Berkshire.

A very limited bus service was being laid on between the affected stations with First Great Western (FGW) advising passengers not to travel unless their journey was essential.

A late finish to platform work at Balham in south-east London also caused delays to London-bound commuters this morning.

In the Midlands, a freight train derailment at Barrow-upon-Soar meant trains were unable to call at that station and buses replaced trains between Loughborough and Barrow-upon-Soar.

The derailment also led to delays to services between East Midlands Parkway and Leicester/Peterborough.

In Scotland a broken-down train at Neilston meant no trains were unable to run between Neilston and Glasgow Central, while Arriva Trains Wales reported delays between Neath and Swansea due to signalling problems.

London Midland services in the Birmingham area were also delayed today, with the company saying there were limited platforms available at Birmingham New Street after engineering work.

There were also delays to services to trains between Hereford and Worcester due to late-running engineering work.

Planned engineering work that was due to carry on was affecting services on a number of routes, while the effects of the flooding were still being felt in some areas - particularly the West Country.

FGW advised passengers not to travel to and from Devon and Cornwall.

Routes still closed included Liskeard to Looe in Cornwall and Exeter St Davids to Barnstaple in Devon.

The line between Exeter St Davids and Tiverton Parkway was also shut and there was only a very limited service running between Newton Abbot and Exeter St Davids.

More late-running engineering work, this time at Haymarket in Edinburgh, led to delays of up to 40 minutes.

Elsewhere in Scotland, buses replaced trains between Aberdeen and Inverurie after a person was hit by a train.

London Midland passengers' woes increased when a broken-down train at Coventry led to a suspension of services between Coventry and Nuneaton.

"We apologise to passengers for the late-running engineering work," said a Network Rail (NR) spokesman today.

He added that it was hoped that services in and out of Paddington would be back to normal by late morning.

The spokesman said the delay affecting Paddington trains was caused by a power supply problem at Maidenhead in Berkshire.

Before the floods and the late-running engineering work, NR said about half the number of bus replacement services would be needed this year compared with the 2011/12 festive season.

In recent years, NR's festive engineering work, and other bank holiday projects, have generally finished on time.

However, there was severe disruption when work was not completed in time for the big return to work in January 2008.

This led to NR being fined a record £14 million by the Office of Rail Regulation.

The most damaging overrun in the 2007/08 festive season was on the West Coast main line - a route where major work is carrying on during this festive period.

Difficulties for passengers continued throughout the afternoon, with a signalling problem near Milton Keynes Central in Buckinghamshire leading to delays to London Midland and Virgin Trains' services between London and Milton Keynes.

Passengers travelling to London from northern England spoke of trains so full that passengers were unable to join at certain stations.

In early afternoon, the Southeastern train company said that due to the over-running of engineering work in the Medway area of Kent that had been expected to finish at 4am tomorrow, it would be running a similar amended timetable tomorrow as today.

NR said there had been problems with bridge work being carried out at Rochester.

The services in and of Paddington that had been unable to run for the first part of the day did resume shortly after 11am, but with delays.