The problematic end of the Elizabeth line west of Paddington station is to get a renewed focus from Network Rail to try and fix the problems once and for all.

The railway west of Paddington is controlled by Network Rail and has been subject to a litany of problems since the Elizabeth line opened. The problems then cascade down the railway, so even people in the east of London can be affected by a problem on the other side of the city.

That has led, unsurprisingly, to a lot of complaints about how a brand new railway can be so unreliable. While it’s rarely TfL’s fault, as the ultimate owner of the Elizabeth line, they are expected to take responsibility and pressure the suppliers to fix the problem.

To fix the problem, Network Rail has confirmed that they will be allocating nearly £140 million of dedicated funds from existing budgets, with the majority being set aside from Network Rail’s existing budgets from 2024 to 2029, and adding an extra £36 million from other budgets. No additional taxpayer funding has been requested to carry out the repairs.

Network Rail carried out a lot of work prior to the Elizabeth line opening, but mainly on adding the new railway infrastructure and upgrading the stations. In hindsight, it’s showing up in real-life experience that the western mainline needed a lot more work to improve reliability on the railway before it started carrying the high-intensity metro-style service that the Elizabeth line aims for.

A recent lecture about the Elizabeth line and the problems it has struggled with included a look at the condition of the railway west of Paddington, and a photo of one overgrown section was admitted should have been an early warning that things might be a problem.

Andy Lord, London’s Transport Commissioner, said: “Network Rail’s plan to improve infrastructure in the Thames Valley is good news and we look forward to supporting these plans to further enhance reliability on Elizabeth line services between Paddington to Reading and Heathrow. While the Elizabeth line has been performing well overall with customer satisfaction remaining high, we understand our customers’ frustration with some service issues they have recently experienced to the west of the line, and we appreciate Network Rail’s urgency in putting a plan in place to help resolve these.”

“Our recent meeting demonstrated how committed all partners are to continue to work collaboratively to build on the recent improvements to the railway’s overall reliability.”

Apart from the engineering problems themselves, some of which will happen no matter how much is spent, there have also been widespread complaints about a lack of information when things go wrong and delays in fixing them or evacuating passengers from stuck trains.

Work will begin immediately to reduce disruption to the network, with work to stabilise the issues taking place over the next six months. The following 12 months will see longer-term improvements to the network to tackle the key causes of disruption, which will be followed by work towards sustaining and renewing the network.

All told, it’s expected that there should be some quick wins to reduce problems in the short term and then work to prevent problems from building up again in the future.

However, to carry out engineering works requires the line to be closed at times. TfL’s 6-month look ahead at engineering closures had already indicated that the line will have a reduced service at 9:30pm from early March, but more closures can be expected as the maintenance plans are finalised.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said “The Elizabeth line has been transformational, seeing well over 4.5m journeys every week, but it’s clear that the recent performance on the Elizabeth line has been below the high standards set when the railway was opened.

“I have been absolutely clear with Network Rail, MTR and TfL that the issues we have seen over the last six months are not acceptable. I am pleased that they have brought forward a comprehensive plan to resolve the problems on the line, and I will continue to hold them to account.”


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  1. Bob McIntyre says:

    Anyone who travelled regularly into Paddington over the last two decades could have told you this was going to happen…

    And which budgets will Network Rail take the money from?

    Of course it will be rural railways in places like mid-Wales where the weeds can grow higher, the trees can fall over more often, and the line close more regularly when it rains due to instability in the embankment caused by long term lack of maintenance.

    Yet another example of money going to prop up London at the expense of others.

    [As for lack of information it’s not just TfL; TfW just didn’t bother to tell passengers on our local line that we’d have a bus replacement service all week this week.]

    • NG says:

      So much whataboutery in the comments sections these days. How about if we only use the bit of Network Rail’s budget that’s raised by taxing and ticketing Londoners and those who work here?

    • Jess says:

      I guess the 4 people that live in rural mid-wales will have to use a car.

  2. Leon Solent says:

    Some claim that the private train operators made £310 million in taxpayer-funded profits between March 2020 and September 2022. If that’s true, wouldn’t in be nice to actually invest that money in the railways.

    • ianVisits says:

      Over the same time period, Network Rail would have spent around £13 billion on the network, plus the revenue of circa £22 billion from ticket sales — so the £310 million, which a lot of cash, is actually a miniscule profit margin.

    • Leon Solent says:

      Yep, I’m definitely not the expert here, this whole sphere is very complicated, way beyond my brains or time to look into. However the article mentions £140 million from existing budgets, and I’m gently suggesting that perhaps profits should be re-invested in the railways.

    • Paul says:

      Of course it would be great if extra millions were spent on the railway, however little significance they may have overall.

      But comments like this always make the assumption that these profits would still exist if the organisation wasn’t being run on a commercial basis. Or that a non-commercial organisation would spend that money in genuinely value-adding ways rather than wasting it somewhere.

      Of course all organisations waste money, but in my experience commercially motivated organisations are less prone to waste than non-commercially motivated organisations. I understand many people will challenge that view, and that’s fine, but let’s all just be honest about the assumptions we’re making.

  3. Reaper says:

    Why not just cut out the middle men and give it straight to the drivers who can then stay at home every day.

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