Published: 7th January 2015
Network Rail’s media silence over the engineering works’ delays after Christmas was broken by a statement reflecting the mainstream media’s error strewn reporting of some aspects.
Their statement was headed ‘Media correction by Network Rail regarding Robin Gisby’ and this is what it said:
Following the Network Rail Christmas engineering works problems at Finsbury Park, Network Rail has issued a statement concerning Robin Gisby, the current Managing Director. They said that “there has been inaccurate reporting concerning the bonus entitlement of Network Rail's managing director, network operations, Robin Gisby. This press notice seeks to clarify the position absolutely:
It was announced in September that Robin would be leaving Network Rail early in the new year and that his successor would be Phil Hufton, who joined Network Rail on January 5. It is therefore inaccurate to suggest that Robin's departure is in any way connected with any of the events of the last few days.
The timing of Robin's departure on February 28 means that he cannot be entitled to any bonus or incentive payment in 2015 either before or after his departure. On his departure he will therefore not be entitled to and will not receive any retention or incentive payment and no 'golden handcuffs'. All this was agreed in November 2014, long before the problems experienced at Christmas. There has been absolutely no change of position since then.
It is extremely rare for Network Rail (NR) to issue such a statement – in fact almost without precedent. But rail.co.uk reiterates its comments made on two BBC national radio interviews that it should be those who advised NR’s Mr Gisby or Mr Carne, that Finsbury Park was a good alternative station to use are the people at fault and should be made aware of this.
So far as the disruption on trains to and from Paddington on the same day, December 27 is concerned, train operator First Great Western (FGW) have gone public with their unhappiness placing a full page notice in The Times on January 6.
This thanked passengers for their patience while services were suspended for seven hours. This was due to overrunning engineering track-works for which FGW was not given notice that the line would remain closed for seven hours.
They have made very public that the office of Rail Regulation is investigating what happened and that would be passengers could be entitled to compensation as well as a ticket refund. The notice was signed by Mark Hopwood, FGW’s Managing Director.
The first Thameslink train from Bedford to London on Sunday January 4th was declared a failure at St. Albans and around 100 passengers left in sub-zero conditions for half an hour without any information.
The 0540am train was terminated at St. Albans due to an unspecified fault arriving at 0626hrs and passengers told to get off and wait on the platform. The temperature was below freezing and passengers had to wait 29 minutes until another train arrived and in that time station staff did not give any information other than Network Rail was doing engineering work - which had absolutely no effect on the failed train.
These station staff were in their office which has a glass fronted window facing onto the platform and passengers became extremely irate when staff carried on drinking tea and coke in their office while they froze on the platform with no idea of when their journey might continue.
The language deteriorated as passengers became more and more irate and Thameslink staff refused to give any information and that they could not make an announcement as it was too early in the morning.
To Thameslink’s credit, they replied to rail.co.uk’s request for a comment on this within 30 minutes and said:
Roger Perkins for Thameslink said: "I apologise to all those passengers who were caught up in the cancellation. There are constraints on the times that we can use the PA system at St Albans where residents live in close proximity and this clearly applies to early in the morning on a Sunday.
"However, we would expect our staff to do their best to explain the situation to passengers face to face and will be investigating what happened."
Thameslink Railway has a difficult enough job running an intensive train service while their network is being modernized and it is to be welcomed that they are looking at what happened at St. Albans.
Network Rail’s performance is worsening and their Chief Executive Mark Carne has said it will take two years t turn the performance round. The Office of Rail Regulation will be lolling at this as they have funded Network Rail to deliver a contracted level of performance over the next five years which looks ever more difficult to achieve.
BUT, the rail industry is generally booming and being upgraded while services continue to operate – no easy task. For example, it is understood that the Kings Cross engineering chaos was caused by the failure of a heavy lifting crane and where can you get spares over Christmas?