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Train disruption continues after ‘wartime’ evacuation

Friday morning commuters were warned their journeys may be delayed by up to 90 minutes.

Neil Lancefield
Friday 08 December 2023 13:24 GMT
Passengers were left looking for alternative transport in the London streets (Mikey Worrall/PA)
Passengers were left looking for alternative transport in the London streets (Mikey Worrall/PA)

Services to and from one of the UK’s busiest railway stations remain disrupted after hundreds of passengers were stranded on dark, cold trains for several hours.

Damage to overhead electric cables in the Ladbroke Grove area of west London at around 6.30pm on Thursday severely affected Elizabeth line, Great Western Railway and Heathrow Express trains to and from Paddington station.

Some passengers reported being stuck for more than three hours while receiving no information from operators.

Engineers worked through the night to get two of the four lines serving Paddington open for electric trains.

Friday morning commuters were warned their journeys may be delayed by up to 90 minutes.

A Network Rail spokesman said: “We are so sorry for the difficult journeys passengers endured on our railway last night and we will be investigating how and why it happened.

“The knock-on effects from last night mean operators will not be able to run a full service from Paddington today and passengers should check before they travel.

“Repairs are ongoing and we hope to have the railway fully open by the weekend.”

Mikey Worrall, who was one of those stranded on an Elizabeth line train on Thursday night, told the PA news agency it was “the most surreal evening” of his life.

He described the train as lurching to a stop and then a long, multiple-hour wait in semi-darkness as the driver drip-fed what little information they had through to passengers.

Eventually, the battery backup running the train’s heating and light services ran out, and passengers were left in darkness for another hour and a half until they were evacuated.

Mr Worrall said: “We saw a couple of workers come past, and they were trying to keep everyone calm. Suddenly, we saw a stream of people coming down the track, and at that point, it was clear that we would be getting off.

“It was really eerie walking down the railway line in amongst this big crowd of people. It felt like a wartime thing.”

As to why the line broke down, Mr Worrall said: “Every day, it’s a different excuse.

“It seems to me they opened this whole thing without actually being fit for purpose. If they knew there were infrastructure issues that they needed to work on, why didn’t they work on those before? They opened the line and it doesn’t work.

“It (goes down) multiple times a week, and it’s incredibly frustrating.”

He added: “The mayor of London needs to sort it out.”

Singer James Blunt and TV presenter Rachel Riley were also affected by the disruption.

Blunt posted on X: “Been stuck somewhere outside Paddington for close to 4 hours now. Out of peanuts and wine”, while Riley wrote: “Nearly 4 hours after we got on, we’re getting off the Elizabeth line, woohoo!”

The £19 billion Elizabeth line – which opened in May 2022 – uses mainline rail infrastructure west of Paddington.

Paddington services have been repeatedly affected by rail system faults in recent weeks.

Incidents on the Great Western line include four damaged rails discovered in eight days last month.

Aslef said a manager was driving the train involved in the incident after being drafted in to cover for a strike.

Members of the union at GWR walked out on Thursday as part of a long-running dispute over pay.

The union said other train operators had chosen “quite sensibly” not to run any services during strikes.

A GWR spokesperson said: “The only people who can drive our trains are competent train drivers with route knowledge.

“That would include train driving instructors.”

GWR said the driver was fully qualified with “competence up to date”, adding that as yet there is no evidence the overhead electric equipment fault was due to a train.

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