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High pressure

Extreme weather patterns, flooding and frost means the railway is more in need of investment than ever, says Network Rail.

Heavy rain destabilised embankments and damaged track beds. Railway staff were praised for keeping services going and working round the clock to restore track and signalling.

Says Network Rail’s chief executive, David Higgins, ‘We recognise that this has been a difficult period for passengers, with disruption on many lines due to extreme weather. Our staff worked tirelessly, often in difficult circumstances, to get the railway back up and running and we would like to thank passengers and train operators for bearing with us during this time.’

Responding to the Office of Rail Regulation’s quarterly performance monitor, which highlighted the impact of extreme weather on train performance, ‘The damage that extreme weather can do to a Victorian rail network which was neither designed nor built for such challenges is clear.

‘Whole lines were closed by flooding and tracks came close to being washed away by rivers which burst their banks. On the worst affected parts of the network, torrential rain caused up to sixty landslides in a single day. This has been a wake up call for the whole industry which we ignore at our peril.

‘As we set out when we launched our strategic business plan in January, we are playing catch up on decades of under- investment. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the embankments, cuttings, bridges, tunnels and other structures which have struggled to cope with extreme weather alongside the burden of carrying more passengers than they were designed for. Our submission to the regulator for the next five-year funding settlement reflects our plan to tackle this.’

Throughout the extreme weather, the railway continued to carry people safely and efficiently. ‘Despite considerable challenges, the industry still managed to move more than 3m people a day by train during this period, with almost nine-out- of-ten trains arriving on
time.

‘This is testament to the hard work of all our staff and those working for our partners. However, this does not undermine the need for us to do even more, including better investment in our assets, to be able to improve resilience and recovery during extreme weather in the future.’

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