Disruption to the passenger timetable continues as the vast majority of GWR’s Class 800 intercity express fleet, and a significant number of LNER and TransPennine Express trains, have been taken off the network to undergo a full and rigorous inspection.
Checks of the Hitachi-manufactured fleet early on Saturday morning first identified cracks on part of the chassis of some trains, so the rest of the fleet was withdrawn from service so that comprehensive checks could be carried out.
Hitachi Rail issued a statement: “Inspection has identified cracks on the lifting points under the carriage of some Class 800 trains overnight. Safety is our number one priority and, as a precaution, the decision was taken to halt the entry into service of our intercity fleets pending inspection.
“We understand the frustration caused and we would like to apologise for the inconvenience caused to passengers and operators.
“Having been cleared for service, some trains are now running again across the network. We are working as quickly and safely as possible to investigate the issue across the remainder of the fleets.”
To combat the expected continued delays, Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris has requested a comprehensive plan from Hitachi to identify the extent of the cracking and whether carriages can still run safely with them. He said: “Today I have directed the rail industry to urgently set out a comprehensive plan to ensure services can safely resume as soon as possible.
“I expect operators to explore all options for replacement services to help people complete their journeys, and have asked Hitachi for a safety inspection plan, as well as longer term repair strategy.
“Our focus is to ensure trains are returned to service as quickly as possible, once they are fully approved as safe. Only then can we start to rebuild a reliable and punctual timetable for passengers.
“I also want to thank passengers for their patience during what could be a significant period of prolonged disruption, likely to continue for some time.”