Updated 09.55, 10.08
A PLAN to bring Hitachi Intercity Express trains progressively back into service has been unveiled by Hitachi, the Rail Delivery Group and the operators affected by the discovery of hairline tracks on some units in Classes 800 and 385.
Services are back to normal on Hull Trains, ScotRail and TransPennine Express, but disruption has been continuing on GWR and to a lesser extent on LNER.
But after ‘further rigorous safety checks’ involving the Office of Rail and Road more trains will start to return to service.
The new Service Recovery Plan follows joint work between Hitachi Rail, train operators and the regulator around the safe return to service of some trains. Hitachi Rail engineers and independent experts have completed tests and research to gain a clearer understanding of why the cracking occurred. It mainly affected the lifting points on the chassis of a number of trains, but was also seen on some yaw dampers.
The trains will also be subject to a Forward Repair Plan to maintain safety in future.
One immediate change will be the introduction of ‘thorough inspections’ by specialists before trains leave their depots.
Hitachi Rail Group managing director Andrew Barr said: ‘Today’s agreement sets out our joint plan for the phased reintroduction of our trains into service, which will continue to deliver the highest possible safety standards. Safety remains our number one priority, and we and our partners have worked round the clock to agree an approach that allows the return of trains to service where they have been deemed safe.
‘With our service recovery plan now underway, the operators will begin reintroduction of trains as they are individually approved and deemed safe. We would like to thank our partners for their ongoing support as we work collectively to reintroduce more trains into service.’
Robert Nisbet, who is director of nations and regions at the Rail Delivery Group, said there had been some ‘incredibly hard and detailed work’. He continued: ‘Hitachi’s engineers have worked with train operators and the rail regulator to safely bring some trains back into service. Over the coming days we will be able to get passengers on the affected routes moving again, but for now passengers should continue to check before they travel.’
HM chief inspector of railways Ian Prosser said the ORR would be ‘continuing to provide the rigorous oversight needed to make sure the right checks are being carried out’, while the managing directors of GWR and LNER, Mark Hopwood and David Horne, have both welcomed the news.
Mark Hopwood said: ‘Our customers have shown great patience over the past couple of days, and I am grateful for their understanding as we have worked with Hitachi to allow trains to return safely. This news will allow us to run some additional services today and reintroduce more consistent robust timetables for customers after the weekend.
‘The industry has come together to help support those travelling – with other operators allowing each other’s tickets to be used on their networks; adding in extra shuttle services to help move people; and in sharing rolling stock to provide it to those who need it most.’
Among other developments have been the extension of GWR Thames Valley services from Didcot Parkway to Swindon, the use of alternative trains to provide shuttle services where intercity links have been temporarily lost, the strengthening of some trains on Great Northern, South Western Railway and Transport for Wales, and an option for passengers to use other operators at no additional cost.