Rail chaos after passengers stuck on trains for hours

Image above: Elizabeth Line commuters ushered off the train onto the tracks after being stuck for hours on Thursday; Photograph via X (Tom Edwards BBC)

Rail company GWR scrambling to return services to normal after damage to overhead cables

There is severe disruption on some of London’s railways following damage to overhead electric cables in the Ladbroke Grove area of west London.

The incident has affected services for the Elizabeth line, Great Western Railway, and Heathrow Express trains, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded on trains for several hours in dark and cold conditions on Thursday evening (7 December).

Passengers reported being stuck for over three hours with little or no information provided. Engineers managed to open two lines for electric trains serving Paddington, but major disruptions are expected until 6.00 pm on Friday, with cancellations or delays to trains to and from Paddington. Great Western Railway (GWR) advised against travelling between London and Reading until further notice.

Elizabeth Line trains are running with delays, and a reduced half-hourly service is in place for the Heathrow Express. The incident involving damaged overhead cable. According to the train drivers’ union Aslef the damage occurred when a manager, covering for strike action, was driving the train.

The manager was deployed to drive the train as GWR workers have been on strike in a dispute over pay. In response to criticisms, a GWR spokesperson clarified that only qualified train drivers with route knowledge, including train driving instructors, operate their trains.

The £19bn 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.

Above: Post on X showing some of the hundreds of passengers trapped on an Elizabeth line train in the cold and dark on Thursday (7 December)

“Strikebreaking is dangerous”

The Trade Union Congress seized upon the travel chaos faced by GWR, blaming the train operator for hiring unqualified drivers in order to break strikes.

In a post on X, The Trade Union Congress said:

‘A short story…

‘1.⁠ ⁠Train drivers go on strike to protect pay during cost of living crisis.

‘2.⁠ ⁠GWR train manager drafted in to break picket and drive Elizabeth Line train.

‘3.⁠ ⁠Train manager damages overhead cables, causing serious disruption, report Aslef.

‘4.⁠ ⁠1,000 passengers stranded in the dark for almost 5 hours.

‘Strikebreaking is dangerous.’

TfL issued an apology to commuters on Friday, but made it known they were not to blame:

“We’re sorry that the damage caused to Network Rail’s overhead power lines by another rail operator’s train has caused significant disruption to our Elizabeth line customers as well as all train operators out of London Paddington.

“We worked to get customers off of stranded trains as quickly as possible and to provide any support needed. Network Rail are continuing to urgently to repair the power lines and we’d encourage all customers to check before they travel while they do this.”