Home Estate Planning Network Rail must improve performance after Elizabeth Line and Paddington disruption, says Sadiq Khan

Network Rail must improve performance after Elizabeth Line and Paddington disruption, says Sadiq Khan

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The Mayor of London has called on the UK’s rail infrastructure manager to get its act together following a dip in performance on the Elizabeth Line and disruption on routes from Paddington in recent months.

In an interview, Sadiq Khan said he had been “unhappy with the level of service on the Elizabeth Line in recent weeks” and that issues behind the disruption in Western Paddington were “simply not good enough.”

“It’s really important that Network Rail improves the quality of service. I’m confident though, that with the right team in place… there’ll be a better level of service on the Elizabeth Line. It’s not good enough,” he told City A.M.

Rail services between Paddington and Reading have suffered persistent delays and cancellations in recent months due to issues with electric cables, a broken rail crossing and damaged train lines.

In early December, rail users were left stranded for several hours due to a problem with overhead wires. In November, four damaged rails were discovered within eight days and the sector’s watchdog, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), launched an investigation into the performance of the route.

Khan told City A.M. he had received personal assurances from Network Rail’s managing director that problems were being taken seriously and new staff had been brought in “to address this issue.”

The disruption comes alongside a recent downturn in performance on London’s popular Elizabeth Line. Khan said he was “deeply concerned” by delays on the route, the roaring success of which was lauded by business groups, after it carried 150.7m passengers during its first year of operation.

In September, ORR figures revealed the Elizabeth Line had the most cancellations of any train line in Britain. Khan previously wrote to Network Rail boss Andrew Haines in December to say reliability had “not been good enough.”

In a bid to improve passenger numbers on TfL and boost London’s economy, Khan is separately exploring a trial of off-peak journeys on Friday, which will begin in March and last for three months.

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We’re sorry that train performance hasn’t been at the level passengers expect and deserve.

“We’ve brought in a number of experts to inform our plans to overcome the challenges of operating a metro-style service on the line- most notably the additional strain on our infrastructure- and we are fully-committed to working alongside our industry partners to turn it around.”

The issues come ahead of a key decision by the London Mayor over who will be awarded the contract to run Crossrail, the railway construction project that delivered the Elizabeth Line. Hong Kong-based MTR, which is now controlled by Beijing, has held the £3bn undertaking since 2014 but it is set to expire in May next year.

Firstgroup, Go-Ahead Group, DLR operator Keolis and Transdev are all reportedly lining up bids. The new Mayor following the election will need to weigh up whether it is wise to award the contract to a Chinese-state backed outfit considering a decline in British-Sino relations.

Khan refused to be drawn on the issues. “What’s really important is that there is an open, fair and transparent process in relation to who gets the next phase of running the Elizabeth line,” he told City A.M.

“Whether it’s the current company, MTR, or others, it’s really important I don’t comment on the procurement process because we don’t want to prejudge because it can lead to legal challenges. So it’s going to be an open, fair and transparent process, and we’re waiting to see who applies.”

A TfL spokesperson said: “While the Elizabeth line has been performing well overall with customer satisfaction remaining high, we share the frustrations of the Mayor and acknowledge that recent performance on the Elizabeth line has been below the high standards set when the railway was opened.”

“We sincerely apologise for the disruption that has affected some Elizabeth line services recently and we recognise that delays and cancellations are frustrating for our customers.”

The spokesperson added: “We are working with Network Rail, our operator MTR Elizabeth line and Alstom, which maintains the trains, to minimise the impact that faults have on the Elizabeth line and ensure regular customer information is provided when there are issues.”

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