Hundreds of thousands of rail passengers across the UK found their post-Christmas travel plans wrecked by a combination of foul weather and incompetence.
The chaotic scenes come just a week ahead of the introduction of an above-inflation fare rise, and follow a period of travel misery on Britain’s roads caused by adverse weather. One of the UK’s busiest stations, London Paddington, was closed throughout the morning rush hour and beyond because of a combination of over-running engineering works at Maidenhead and a signalling problem at Southall.
Further west, no trains are running until Friday between Tiverton and Exeter because of flooding. This is the main link to Devon and Cornwall – where the branch lines to Barnstaple and Looe respectively are closed.
On the West Coast main line, Virgin Trains decided to run a reduced service, which was exacerbated by cancellations by CrossCountry.
Scenes on the first post-bank holiday southbound train from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston made Indian Railways look a model of calm and civility. The train was overcrowded before it departed, and picked up more passengers en route. At Stoke on Trent, departure was delayed until some passengers volunteered to leave and wait for the next train.
London Midland services were also delayed, with the company saying there were limited platforms at Birmingham New Street after engineering work. Later, a signalling problem near Milton Keynes Central led to delays to London Midland and Virgin Trains’ services to London.
In Scotland a broken-down train at Neilston meant no trains were able to run between Neilston and Glasgow Central, while Arriva Trains Wales reported delays between Neath and Swansea due to signalling problems.