Network Rail engineers worked through the night of Thursday 16 January 2020 to reopen the West Coast main line that had been closed earlier in the day when the overhead wires came down at Hest Bank near Lancaster.
No trains were able to run in either direction between Preston and Carlisle, although replacement buses are in use between the two to keep passengers moving.
Rail Insider’s electrification specialist said that the problem was made worse by the design of the overhead system in that area. The contact wires are hung from headspans – cables that span the railway from side to side – and the whole system is balanced by the tension in the contact wires themselves. Break one, and the system goes out of balance, so is impossible to reopen one track while the other is still being worked on – the whole balanced system needs to be reset before trains can run.
The work was completed by 07:00 on Friday 17 January and the 25kV electrical supply was restored and tested. However, with trains and crews displaced for start of service, it was some time before services could return to normal.
Phil James, route director for Network Rail’s North West route, said: “We’re sorry to passengers affected by the problems with the overhead power lines at Hest Bank.
“Everything was done to get things back up and running as fast as we could, with dozens of staff out fixing the damage and repairing the railway throughout the night.”
Investigations into what caused the overhead lines to be brought down are ongoing.