November 2022, Virtual
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
Recriminations are continuing to fly as thousands of UK commuters struggle through over-running rail engineering upgrades today (2 January).
This morning marked the return to work for millions in the UK following the Christmas and New Year holiday, but many in the Midlands had their travel plans severely disrupted by ongoing Network Rail station work at Rugby.
Specifically, the ”415m ($823m) upgrade has affected passengers travelling between Birmingham International and Northampton and although the engineering was planned to finish earlier today, its complexity has forced the time lag.
Virgin Trains is advising customers not to use its West Coast services today as the replacement coach operation between Birmingham and Northampton is continuing to run.
A Network Rail statement noted that: ”An investigation into the causes of this unacceptable engineering over-run has been launched and we are deeply sorry for the further disruption this news will cause to passengers who use services on this route.”
The company added that the route will remain closed for all of today, but that despite extra manpower being brought in involving what it says are 300 people, ”working in shifts that continue around the clock,” the remodelling of Rugby station is not yet complete.
Virgin has reacted furiously however, saying that its patience has run out and that it will put pressure on Network Rail to give a firm time and date for Rugby to reopen.
”This is a major inconvenience to tens of thousands of our customers returning to work and is not acceptable,” said Virgin Trains managing director Chris Gibb. ”It is the third successive day that this has overrun and this makes us deeply concerned about the delivery of the project.
”Our customers have shown great patience. I”m sure their patience, like ours, has now run out.”
The news comes as industry watchdogs have condemned the introduction of swingeing fare hikes today by many train operating companies, with regulated fares increasing by 4.8%, while unregulated tariffs will rise by 5.4%.
A further update on the disruption is expected from Network Rail later today.