The wrong kind of tone?

Wednesday 16th Feb 2011 by theWeather Club

Sitting in front of a government select committee, railway bosses admitted that they made mistakes in their response to the severe weather at the end of last year. Thousands of services were cancelled, and passengers were sometimes stranded on trains for hours. Robin Gisby from Network Rail told MPs on the Transport Committee that basic operating mistakes had been made, but that they had been ‘little things’. Mr Gisby said “We made a number of mistakes in the first week [of the bad weather]. We learnt from this quite rapidly.” He said that Network Rail "got into a pickle" on one day by trying to run a full timetable rather than a temporary one. Rail officials strenuously denied that trains had been deliberately cancelled in order to avoid paying compensation for late running services, insisting that cancellation decisions were taken to give the best, most robust service to passengers.

David Quarmby, Chairman of the RAC Foundation and the man leading the government review of how the bad weather affected the transport network, was also called to give evidence. He agreed that Network Rail had been ‘caught short’ by the weather. But he said the performance of the rail network had been better in the second cold snap, just before Christmas. Mr Quarmby also refuted the suggestion that the UK was worse than other countries in dealing with snow. “As a nation we tend to deprecate ourselves," he said, "and the media play into that.” However it will be interesting to see how talk of ‘little’ mistakes and improved performance goes down with a travelling public whose memories of long waits or no trains are clearly still fresh.