Thames Valley flooding adds to FGW weather woes

Passengers on First Great Western’s network suffered more misery at the hands of Mother Nature on February 11, after flooding caused severe delays on the busy stretch of main line between Reading and London Paddington at Maidenhead.

FGW Managing Director Mark Hopwood warned of the severity of the situation, which could see signalling equipment damaged and out of action for weeks while repairs are carried out.

Network Rail said on February 11 that engineers were working across the region from Oxford to Oxted, pumping water from the railway and monitoring flood sites.

It said its engineers were increasingly finding problems arising from groundwater reaching record highs across the South East.

One of the problems was water coming through the soil at Maidenhead, flooding the railway and dictating that the signalling systems had to be disconnected.

This caused a dramatic reduction in services, with four trains an hour running through the affected area from London Paddington, and 5tph in the peak. This is a quarter of its normal service.

Hopwood told RAIL: “There is nowhere for the water to go at Maidenhead. Three of the four lines have suffered track circuit failures, and trains were having to be talked past signals by signallers.” He added that temporary block working was to be introduced.

Overall, with the railway out of action between Bristol and Taunton because of flooding at Bridgwater, as well as the issues at Dawlish, he called the situation “a tremendous challenge”.
“Maidenhead is the most difficult,” Hopwood told RAIL. “We run so many trains through there without spare capacity. It is really testing the business, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.”

Hopwood admitted that there had been no indication as to when the railway in Somerset would be operational.

Elsewhere on the railway, Network Rail said that landslips continue to cause line closures at Botley (between Fareham and Eastleigh), Oxted, and at several sites between Wadhurst and Battle.

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