MP brands Network Rail 'incompetent' over extended bridge closure

The Oxford Times: Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey

NETWORK Rail has been labelled “insensitive and incompetent” by an MP after it admitted its rebuilding project of the first of 29 Oxfordshire bridges is already months off track.

The rail infrastructure company is planning to rebuild or remodel the bridges as part of the work needed for the £1bn electrification of the rail network.

Fulscot Road bridge in South Moreton was supposed to be shut for six months, but “ongoing design issues” and the weather meant that closure has been pushed to 12 months.

South Moreton residents said they are “disgusted” and they understood the closure of the main road out of the village into Didcot was because the rail firm had not foreseen engineering problems.

Now Wantage MP Ed Vaizey has joined the criticism. He said: “I believe Network Rail has proved to be both insensitive and incompetent so far, as sadly has been demonstrated in the very, very poor process and communication about Fulscot Bridge which is to remain closed for months to come even though it should, by now, have reopened.

“They are proceeding as though motorists don’t exist.”

Mr Vaizey said that until he met Network Rail bosses three weeks ago, the firm was not regularly meeting with highways authority Oxfordshire County Council on the project.

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Claire Hollis, 39, who runs The Crown Inn in High Street, said the pub had been “very quiet” during the past six months, but said: “This is even more frustrating.

“If we had known it would be a year in the first place we would have promoted things differently.

“Network Rail don’t even let us know what is going on.”

The village’s woes were compounded when Oxfordshire County Council also closed the two main diversion routes into the village recently to carry out temporary repairs to make the roads usable for Network Rail contractors.

South Moreton Parish Council clerk Roger Templeman said he was “absolutely disgusted” by the village’s treatment.

He said: “Nearly a year of traffic diversions are causing great inconvenience to villagers, loss of business to the village’s pubs, lots of damage to cars and cycles due to the potholes, safety issues for pedestrians competing with diverted traffic on the village roads, and no pedestrian diversion for villagers to the shops.”

Network Rail is modifying railway bridges to make way for new, overhead electric wires, which it says will allow it to run faster, more reliable and more eco-friendly trains.

It will need to rebuild portions of the A4074 near Sandford-on-Thames, the A34 near Didcot, a bridge on Steventon High Street and a bridge on the A338 at Grove which takes 13,000 journeys each day from and to Oxford.

Mr Vaizey said he would meet Transport Minister Stephen Hammond on May 20 to try to get Government funding to build temporary replacement bridges for Steventon and Grove.

Network Rail spokeswoman Anne-Marie Batson said: “Our policy is to minimise the impact on the community for the programme overall and we remain steadfast in meeting this, alongside the task to deliver a major scheme.”

She refused to give details about what the “design issues” were.

Comments (5)

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9:47am Wed 9 Apr 14

jkg says...

I am sure Network Rail is just as frustrated as everyone else; I have sympathy for it. If the unforeseen engineering problems could be foreseen then all would be well, but projects like this have to be executed safely and reliably, the weather over the past six months has had a major impact in the rail infrastructure (Dawlish). If anyone could foresee the future they would be rich.
Furthermore Network Rail has to contract out the works and operate to provide best value from grants by DfT and revenue from TOC.
Instead of leveling criticism Vaizey should facilitate communications and seek improved funding grants to overcome the problems.
I am sure Network Rail is just as frustrated as everyone else; I have sympathy for it. If the unforeseen engineering problems could be foreseen then all would be well, but projects like this have to be executed safely and reliably, the weather over the past six months has had a major impact in the rail infrastructure (Dawlish). If anyone could foresee the future they would be rich. Furthermore Network Rail has to contract out the works and operate to provide best value from grants by DfT and revenue from TOC. Instead of leveling criticism Vaizey should facilitate communications and seek improved funding grants to overcome the problems. jkg
  • Score: 1

5:57pm Wed 9 Apr 14

HPG says...

Minimise impact? So what would be maximise the impact? Id assume pretty much the same as whats happening....and at 1st, the signs said 3 months!
Minimise impact? So what would be maximise the impact? Id assume pretty much the same as whats happening....and at 1st, the signs said 3 months! HPG
  • Score: 3

10:29pm Wed 9 Apr 14

Gunslinger says...

Incompetent, because as the network owner Network Rail should have been fully aware of the engineering features and condition of these structures.

Electrification of the Great Western main Line has been on the cards for decades, when this scheme got the go ahead they should have been ready with a plan to complete the work with minimum disruption, not, apparently, making it up as they go along.
Incompetent, because as the network owner Network Rail should have been fully aware of the engineering features and condition of these structures. Electrification of the Great Western main Line has been on the cards for decades, when this scheme got the go ahead they should have been ready with a plan to complete the work with minimum disruption, not, apparently, making it up as they go along. Gunslinger
  • Score: -3

5:38pm Sun 20 Apr 14

FlyFishing says...

Fancy that, Network Rail spend all that money ensuring that they employ properly qualified and experienced chartered civil engineers (4 years to get your MEng then two years of professional practice), when if they just employed someone like Ed with a BA in History and a career in Politics, Journalism and the law, then everything would have been perfect. Wouldn’t it?
Fancy that, Network Rail spend all that money ensuring that they employ properly qualified and experienced chartered civil engineers (4 years to get your MEng then two years of professional practice), when if they just employed someone like Ed with a BA in History and a career in Politics, Journalism and the law, then everything would have been perfect. Wouldn’t it? FlyFishing
  • Score: 0

8:16am Wed 7 May 14

Justin MIllner says...

Ed Vaizey the man behind the BDUK fiasco brands the contractor incompetent, that is an impressive piece of brass neck.

It might be a good idea if he started to listen to what the PAC and the rural community was telling him and removing himself from an over cosy relationship with the sole and unique contractor for BDUK. It is time for him to look at the value and real deliverables, is he kidding himself or are others around him kidding him.

He is the minister responsible and should be ensuring that he is taking an objective view, he is looking increasingly foolish as the reality of what BDUK and its contractor is delivering.
Ed Vaizey the man behind the BDUK fiasco brands the contractor incompetent, that is an impressive piece of brass neck. It might be a good idea if he started to listen to what the PAC and the rural community was telling him and removing himself from an over cosy relationship with the sole and unique contractor for BDUK. It is time for him to look at the value and real deliverables, is he kidding himself or are others around him kidding him. He is the minister responsible and should be ensuring that he is taking an objective view, he is looking increasingly foolish as the reality of what BDUK and its contractor is delivering. Justin MIllner
  • Score: 1

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