Significant rail disruption is expected after two major operators announced they have cancelled high-speed trains over fears of cracks in carriages. Great Western Railway (GWR) and London North Eastern Railway (LNER) suspended some services out of London on Saturday morning 8th May, with passengers urged not to travel while urgent inspections are carried out.
More than 1,000 trains are believed to need checking across the two fleets - resulting in potentially thousands of journeys being disrupted. Lines between London and Scotland, and between London and the West, are affected.
The cancellations come after a handful of GWR high-speed services were withdrawn due to hairline cracks being discovered during routine maintenance of two Hitachi 800 trains.
GWR said the hairline cracks were "in areas where the suspension system attaches to the vehicle body on two trains".
Roger Ford, industry and technology editor at Modern Railways magazine, said "metal fatigue" has resulted in damage to the bracket on the side of coaches known as the yaw damper bolster. This part is where the shock absorbers are attached to the carriages. If significantly damaged, this could result in trains swaying from side to side as they travel down the tracks. There will be disruption for quite a time because repairs to aluminium in this way are not easy."
The fleet of Hitachi 800 intercity trains entered service in 2017 and was designed to be electric, but due to delays in electrification of the line engines were also be fitted with diesel power. They are running on GWR's network between London, the Thames Valley, Bristol and South Wales.
GWR and LNER said in a joint statement: “A number of Class 800 series Hitachi trains from several train companies have been taken out of service today for checks as a precautionary measure. This problem is being investigated by Hitachi and once trains have been checked, we hope to be able to release them back into service as soon as possible. This could affect a significant number of our services and passengers should check before they travel.”
Readers are referred to the detailed story of the Class 800 trains on pp4-9 of the Spring Issue of Great Western Star (you can subscribe on this website - Ed)