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De-icing trains were 'being serviced'


Vital de-icing trains weren’t used when the big freeze crippled Kent's railways - because they were being SERVICED, it emerged today.

North Thanet MP Roger Gale has revealed train bosses from Southeastern admitted the blunder in a meeting held yesterday to thrash out what happened.

He said: "It appears that two vital de-icing trains were, incredibly, undergoing a service at the time that they were desperately needed.

Herne Bay MP Roger Gale"Questions as to why there was no window of opportunity to service these engines between March and October produced no explanation!"

Mr Gale added: "It transpires that the National Data Systems are unable to respond to urgent amendments.

"So when Southeastern took a 2am decision to cancel trains the system was unable to respond and continued to transmit wholly outdated and incorrect information.

"The overall effect of this was that notice of cancellations was not made available in time to be of value to the travelling public and that when trains were actually running that information was not made public either.

"I have made it clear to Southeastern that I will, personally, oppose any renewal of their franchise.

"Whether that view will find support in the House of Commons or within the Department for Transport I know not but one thing is certain: we cannot continue in this climate of ‘more for less’ payment’."

Angry commuters deluged KentOnline last week with complaints about Southeastern’s service, which ground to a halt in icy conditions.

Sir John Stanley, Tonbridge and Malling MP, said: "It is hard to believe why Network rail considered November to be the right time to take de-icing trains away for their annual maintenance.

"Why not the summer?"

Yesterday Southeastern issued another apology for what happened.

Following the meeting with MPs, managing director Charles Horton said: "We are sorry that many of our passengers had severely disrupted services last week due to the snow and icy conditions on the track.

"Ice on the conductor rail makes it impossible for trains to draw electricity causing major disruption.

"Network Rail worked hard to clear the snow and keep the rails free of ice but despite their efforts large parts of the network were closed due to the very heavy snowfall.

"Our high speed services (which use overhead power cables on HS1) continued to operate throughout the bad weather, and this enabled people from some parts of Kent to make journeys to and from London.

"We accept that there were shortcomings in information provision and this made the disruption even more frustrating for passengers.

"Although some of the improvements introduced following last year's snow did work well, we know that there is much more to do to ensure that passengers get timely and accurate information at all times.

"We've already identified some short-term measures to improve this but will be working with industry partners on whom we rely for much of the information to achieve more significant improvements."

Mr Horton added: "It was a constructive meeting and useful to hear MPs' views on behalf of their constituents."

Wednesday, December 08 2010

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