UK

Rail chiefs tell MPs of 'mistakes' in the heavy snow

Satellite image of snow over the UK
Image caption Satellite image showing snow across the UK, Monday 20th December

Railway bosses have 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".

Firms said they were improving their ability to cope with bad weather.

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.

'Caught short'

The rail bosses denied that trains had been cancelled in order to avoid paying compensation for the services being late. They insisted that decisions were taken to give the best, most robust service to passengers - rather than to avoid fines.

The man leading the government review of how the bad weather affected the transport network in December, Chairman of the RAC Foundation David Quarmby, also gave evidence to the Committee.

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 said he 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."

Last year, Prime Minister David Cameron said the weather disruption was understandable but he was "frustrated" at how long it took to improve the situation.

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