Recovery plan for the Reading-London Paddington route

Network Rail has announced a recovery plan for the Reading-London Paddington route after months of poor performance.
The route is now set to be overhauled in three phases over 18 months.

“Our performance hasn’t been good enough,” admitted Network Rail’s new route director Marcus Jones. “We have been consistently letting down customers. They cannot guarantee a service every day.”

For the next four weeks, there will be fewer trains late at night, while engineers carry out remedial work to the tracks, signalling and overhead wires. For the last couple of hours each evening, only two of the four tracks will be open.
A six month period of work to stabilise performance, will follow, then a year-long programme to put long-term solutions in place.

Beyond that, the overhead wires will be replaced in west London. They are 30 years old and were installed when the Heathrow Express began.

Services on the Great Western Main Line became so bad that in November the Rail Regulator launched an investigation into whether Network Rail was manging its assets appropriately.

Network Rail’s regional managing director, Michelle Handforth, resigned in December. A new team is now in place led by Marcus Jones.

Since Elizabeth Line services started running from Reading, track use has increased by 17%.┬áThe total weight of trains on the route has increased by 38%. The infrastructure has not coped well – there is a fault very nearly every day.┬áPlus the tracks are now so busy that when things go wrong, delays build up more quickly.

“The picture includes Covid and industrial action during which we lost work time,” Mr Jones said. “We are bringing forward planned track work. We are fitting monitoring equipment to pre-empt future failures.”

Mr Jones said the Elizabeth Line trains were not to blame.

“Mainline trains are longer and heavier,” he said. “But the evidence we have is that it is not the train causing the failures but the phenomenal growth in services,”

Funding will come from within the existing
“People are not getting a consistent service,” said Mr Jones. “We are determined to put that right.”

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