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Rail boss to be quizzed on chaos

Network Rail boss Mark Carne will face tough questioning from MPs today about the overrunning Christmas rail engineering works that led to chaotic scenes in London.

Mr Carne, the Network Rail chief executive, is appearing before the Commons Transport Committee, with his network operations managing director Robin Gisby also giving evidence.

The overruns meant the closure of King's Cross station in London for the whole of Saturday December 27, with Paddington station closed for a time and nearby Finsbury Park station having to shut for a period due to chronic overcrowding.

An Network Rail report published earlier this week revealed poor planning, equipment failures and communication breakdowns all contributed to the overruns.

Physical work near Paddington was completed on time but safety validation work that should have taken two hours took 10 hours, the report said.

When work near King's Cross overran the trains were switched to start and finish at Finsbury Park, but "not enough was done" to manage passenger flow at Finsbury Park where the crush on the platforms was so great that at one stage arriving passengers were unable to alight from trains.

Publishing the report, Mr Carne said: "A number of things went wrong in these two instances. In addition it is clear that our project back-up plans and the train service plans should have done a much better job in protecting the travelling public from our engineering problems.

"Over Christmas, we undertook the biggest programme of engineering and investment work ever, on train lines across the country. Ninety-nine per cent went to plan but in the case of King's Cross and Paddington we let passengers down.

"I sincerely apologise for the disruption over the festive period and we are determined to learn the lessons so that we can continue to make the improvements the travelling public deserve."

Another inquiry into the overruns has been announced. This will be overseen by rail industry body the Rail Delivery Group. Meanwhile, the Office of Rail Regulation has already launched its own inquiry.

ORR chief executive Richard Price is also appearing before the Transport Committee today.

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