Rail chief fury over TfL concrete bridge support collapse
PUBLISHED: 21:52 03 June 2008 | UPDATED: 13:20 05 October 2010
A FURIOUS Network Rail’s chief has written to London’s transport commissioner demanding answers about the disruption to tens of thousands of passengers by last Wednesday’s partial collapse of a bridge that brought the Liverpool Street main line to a halt. Hundreds of commuters were rescued when their train ploughs into a concrete block which fell from an overhead bridge during the evening’s home-going rush-hour. A concrete support fell 40ft from a new overhead bridge put in place just days before, as part of Transport for London’s extension of the East London Line
By Mike Brooke
A FURIOUS Network Rail's chief has written to London's transport commissioner Peter Hendy demanding answers about the disruption to tens of thousands of passengers by last Wednesday's partial collapse of a bridge that brought the Liverpool Street main line to a halt.
Hundreds of commuters were rescued when their train ploughs into a concrete block which fell from an overhead bridge during the evening's home-going rush-hour.
They were left stranded on the tracks and began the mile-long trudge along the tracks as the journey home turned into a nightmare.
Their train ploughed into a concrete support which fell 40ft from a new overhead bridge put in place just days before, as part of Transport for London's extension of the East London Line.
Network Rail's Operations director Robin Gisby said: "Passengers rightly want an explanation, as do I.
"They deserve an apology for the disruption suffered Wednesday night and Thursday.
"I want assurances that such an incident can't and won't happen again."
Trains didn't resume for another 14 hours. Meanwhile, a backlog of 10,000 passengers built up at Stratford interchange during Thursday morning's rush-hour where commuters were 'corralled' on the station concourse and prevented from getting to the platforms
Hundreds of other passengers coming in from Essex and the East Coast having to get off at Stratford were already packed onto the platforms.
Duty station Manager Rohan Lewis said: "We had to corral people on the concourse for their own safety.
"We couldn't let them onto the platform because passengers on incoming Anglia trains needed to get clear first."
By 9.15am, the Central Line, which goes deep-level underground from Stratford and wasn't affected by the bridge collapse, was too full to take any more passengers. Commuters were being advised to take the longer route Jubilee Line or DLR through Docklands instead.
Network Rail later banned work for the time being on the new bridge that will carry the East London Line extension between Whitechapel and Shoreditch above the main Liverpool Street line.
The ban remains until TfL completes an investigation into the causes the accident and what measures are being taken to prevent it happening again.
The 10,000 commuters stranded at Stratford interchange on Thursday morning had to be stopped from getting to the platform.
Liverpool Street commuters have been dogged with bad luck by the East London Line extension.
The network was closed over Christmas and New Year while a disused bridge was demolished, to be replaced by the new bridge.
Services resumed after the holiday two days late because other upgrading work carried out by Network Rail at the same time was behind schedule.
Now the new replacement bridge was causing another setback after Wednesday evening's accident.
Transport for London told the East London Advertiser that adjustments were being made to the bridge because it was found to be 18cm out of line.
But this may have caused a 3ft concrete plinth to be dislodged, which then crashed down onto the main line tracks 40ft below.
The crowded 7.15pm Liverpool Street to Southend-Victoria train had only just pulled out when it ploughed into the concrete.
The driver's quick-thinking, however, prevented a disaster when he slammed on the breaks and managed to bring the packed train to a halt without being derailed. Two other trains were also affected.
Up to 1,000 passengers from the three trains had to be rescued, including one man by stretcher, and led to safety along the tracks after the overhead power cables were switched off. But no-one was hurt.
Senior fire officer John Scott, one of the first rescuers at the scene, told the Advertiser: "We got all the passengers off and led some towards Bethnal Green along the tracks, and others back to Liverpool Street.
"One passenger had just had a hip replacement operation, so we had to carry him on a special stretcher because he couldn't risk walking along the track."
Rescue crews were on the scene within minutes from Whitechapel, Bethnal Green and Shoreditch fire stations, with other crews joining them from East Ham, Walthamstow, Euston and as far as Battersea. There were 60 firefighters involved along with police and railway officials.
The incident also led to a security alert when police spotted what they thought was a hand-grenade 10 yards further along the track.
The area was cordoned off for an hour from 9.30pm while dogs were brought in to search.
But the object turned out to be a discarded child's toy.
The 1,300-tonne bridge had been inched into place above the main line using hydraulic rams as trains to Stansted Airport, Cambridge, Southend and Norwich were passing below.
Nearby residents reported hearing a loud thud. One said: "I could see the bridge was no longer sitting level."
Transport for London and its contractors have been holding a full investigation since Wednesday.
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