Railways 'made mistakes' in snow

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The Independent Online

Mistakes were made on the railways in dealing with this winter's first bout of severe weather, a Network Rail (NR) chief told MPs today.

The railways were "not quite ready" when the snow struck towards the end of November 2010, NR's operations and customer services director Robin Gisby told the House of Commons Transport Committee.

MPs were also told that it had been possible to buy tickets for services that did not run during the bad weather.

Mr Gisby said: "We made a number of mistakes in the first week (of the bad weather). We learnt from this quite rapidly."

He added that NR had "got into a pickle" on one of the bad days in early December by trying to run a full timetable rather than a temporary one.

Chris Scoggins, chief executive of National Rail Enquiries said that warnings had gone out to the public that timetables were not being adhered to due to the bad weather but that "it was possible that you could buy tickets for trains that were not going to run".

He went on: "We need to carry on working with NR to ensure that changes to timetables can be passed through to passengers more quickly."

Before hearing from rail industry chiefs, the committee had questioned RAC Foundation chairman David Quarmby, who chaired the Whitehall-appointed winter resilience review.

Mr Quarmby said that events suggested NR had been "caught short" by the early arrival of the bad weather in the period from November 24 to December 9.

He added that the railways could do more to get better information about services to passengers waiting on stations.

Mr Quarmby said that the fragmented nature of the railways following privatisation in the 1990s - with NR responsible for the tracks and rail companies responsible for the trains - made it harder to deal with severe winter weather.