The chaos on the West Coast Mainline during the past three working days has cost business a “shocking” £38?million, it has been estimated.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said completion of the line’s multi-billion-pound upgrade should have been a smooth ride into the New Year, adding that the disruption had cost business nearly £13?million a day this week.
The comments came after rail passengers endured yet another morning of rush-hour misery with overhead cable problems halting all but a few trains into London Euston.
Neither the Virgin Trains nor London Midland rail companies were able to operate in or out of London’s Euston station after the cable failure near Wembley in north-west London.
The only trains able to use Euston were those run by the London Overground company.
Virgin had to cancel a number of services and also had to take passengers from Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire to London by bus.
London Midland was not able to run any trains between London and Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire, while ScotRail had to divert sleeper services. Trains run by the Southern rail company were also affected.
Commuters battling to get to work against the extreme cold had delays of around 90 minutes because of the Euston problems.
The chaos was particularly harsh for Virgin passengers on the West Coast Main Line, who have been hit by a series of incidents over the last few days.
The line was closed after a light plane crashed near the tracks near Stafford on Friday in an accident which claimed three lives.
Then overhead cable problems at Watford in Hertfordshire led to delays and cancellations on Sunday and Monday this week.
Just as the Watford incident was fixed, West Coast passengers had to put up with more delays on Tuesday following two overhead wire problems – one north of Rugby in the West Midlands, the other at Bletchley in Buckinghamshire.
To add to the difficulties – on a line where a £9?billion upgrade has just been completed – there was a broken rail between Coventry and Birmingham.
The NR spokesman added: “We have had an extraordinary list of unfortunate incidents. They are not related.”
This is the second new year running that rail passengers have had to endure long hold-ups.
Last year three major engineering projects – including one on the West Coast line at Rugby – overran, resulting in travel chaos. NR was later fined a record £14?million by the Office of Rail Regulation.
BCC director general David Frost said: “Businesses have lost a staggering £38?million in just three days because Network Rail have again failed to adequately deliver.
“Network Rail must ensure that there is a rapid and effective improvement in the reliability of the network.”