End of the line: most trains to and from London Paddington are cancelled
End of the line: most trains to and from London Paddington are cancelled

‘Do not travel’ says GWR on day five of rail chaos

Latest figures show rail use slipping below 40 per cent of pre-pandemic levels

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 12 May 2021 13:37

Passengers hoping to use GWR trains have been advised not to travel for a fifth day, as safety checks on rolling stock continue.

The train operator, which links London Paddington with the West of England and South Wales, has seen almost all its inter-city expresses removed from service while they are inspected for hairline cracks.

Hitachi, which makes and maintains the “Class 800” trains, identified cracks on the aluminium lifting points that used when trains are in the depot. It informed all four UK operators: GWR, LNER, Hull Trains and Trans Pennine Express, which temporarily withdrew them from service.

GWR has been hardest hit. It is telling passengers: “A number of Class 800 series Hitachi trains in use by several train companies, including GWR, have been withdrawn from service for precautionary safety checks.

“Once they have been checked by Hitachi and cleared, we hope to bring them back into service as soon as possible.”

No trains are running from London Paddington to Exeter and Plymouth. Passengers between the capital and Devon can use the slower South Western Railway link from London Waterloo to Exeter.

Between Bristol and London, passengers are told to use a special CrossCountry shuttle from Temple Meads station to Swindon. They can change there for London, though an additional change may be required at Reading.

Travellers from Cardiff and Swansea must change at Newport and Reading.

Worcester and Hereford passengers are advised to travel to and from London via Birmingham.

GWR warns that disruption to journeys is expected “to continue for the next few days”.

LNER, which runs trains between London King’s Cross, Yorkshire, northeast England and Scotland, is running a reduced timetable all week, with around one-quarter of journeys cancelled.

No trains are running north of Edinburgh apart from a single trip each day to Stirling and back.

The state-owned train operator has brought a mothballed “225” class train into service, with others expected.

Trans Pennine Express has cancelled trains north of York, with passengers being carried by LNER and CrossCountry.

The nationwide disruption comes at a time when rail use remains stubbornly low. The latest Department for Transport figures show after a brief recovery to over 40 per cent in late April, passenger numbers are now around 37 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

The Class 800 disruption is likely to reduce rail use still further in the short term. But airlines are reporting higher bookings on links between London and Scotland.

A spokesperson for easyJet said: “We saw strong demand on our flights between London and Scotland over the weekend particularly across Edinburgh and Aberdeen routes, so would expect that the disruption to rail travel played a part in this.”

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