Transport for London (TfL) and Network Rail have been urged to stop "passing the buck" over continuing failures on the Gospel Oak to Barking line.
Commuters using the London Overground line have endured repeated delays to the introduction of new Class 710 electric trains, which manufacturer Bombardier has blamed on software problems. The trains were supposed to be introduced in the spring, but were then delayed until the summer, and will now only come into service in November.
Yesterday evening, there were 13 cancellations on the line due to the breakdown of two diesel trains that maintain the line. This comes following a day of disruption on Sunday 22 July, when 20 trains were cancelled. TfL blamed Network Rail works at Kensal Green in north London for the July cancellations.
Caroline Pidgeon, chair of the London Assembly's transport committee, told City A.M that users of the Barking to Gospel Oak line has been "badly let down".
"The continual excuses and passing of the buck between TfL, Network Rail and the train manufacturer are a perfect case study of everything that is wrong with our railway industry.
“After so many years of poor service, followed by a botched upgrade programme that repeatedly fell behind schedule, the very least train users should expect is some proper answers as to when the new rolling trains will finally be in use. The time for any more excuses is long over.”
In July, Pidegon wrote to the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to raise "serious concerns" about the line, when it was struck with mass cancellations on the Sunday.
Khan said the situation was "clearly unacceptable" and that Network Rail had since launched an investigation.
He added: “TfL had expected the new trains to be here well before the May timetable change. Unfortunately this was not the case and I have asked TfL to challenge the manufacturer daily about delivery.”
A Network Rail spokesperson said: “On Sunday 22 July Network Rail undertook track improvements in the Kensal Green area, meaning buses replaced trains between Richmond and Gospel Oak. Unfortunately, due to an error in planning this work, trains were unable to run to Gospel Oak and the rail replacement bus had to be extended to Camden Road. Network Rail sincerely apologise for the disruption caused to passengers, and we have undertaken an internal review to prevent this error from happening again.”
Rory O’Neill, TfL’s general manager of London Overground, said: “We thank customers for their continued patience while we prepare to introduce new trains on the electrified Gospel Oak to Barking line by November. These will replace the old diesel models, double capacity and help to improve London’s air-quality.
“We had hoped to continue to operate the additional peak time services, but due to reliability issues with the existing diesel trains this has not been possible. We do appreciate this means that some timetabled services may be busier than normal but we continue to work closely with the operator, Arriva Rail London, on ways to ensure our customers receive the best service possible ahead of the new trains being introduced.”
The Gospel Oak to Barking line reopened in January this year after it was closed over sustained periods while Network Rail carried out works to electrify the line. However, a series of blunders including incorrect designs and the late delivery of construction materials meant the upgrade was not delivered on time.
The issue irked TfL, which said it was not informed of the problems until very late on.