Thousands of travellers have been facing huge train cancellations and delays this week due to overhead wire problems on the East Coast Main Line. The rail disruption started on Monday evening, when electrical issues were discovered on two lines running through Hitchin, Hertfordshire. This meant trains were cancelled between Stevenage and Letchworth. Officials thought services would return to normal Tuesday morning, but more issues were found.
The overhead wire problems have been affecting four train operators: First Capital Connect, East Coast, Grand Central and First Hull Trains. Rail officials were urging passengers planning to travel for Christmas getaways to stay in London until the mess could be sorted. As train services began to resume, bosses were hopeful the schedule would return to normal by Tuesday evening.
During the disruption, First Capital Connect customers were able to use their tickets on Greater Anglia, London Underground and Uno bus services on reasonable routes. First Hull Trains customers could use their fares on East Coast trains between Doncaster and London, while Grand Central customers could use CrossCountry, Greater Anglia, East Coast, East Midlands Trains and London Underground services.
East Coast passengers who were disrupted were able to use their tickets on reasonable CrossCountry routes, including Virgin Trains, First TransPennine Express and East Midlands Trains services. A spokesman apologised on behalf of the company for the further disruption Tuesday morning. He explained that another train service joining the main line at Hitchin had an incident that led to new overhead power line damage reports.
National Rail was also advising passengers that delays could run over into today after contact wires and 14 droppers on the overhead wires were found broken and damaged, which caused damage to trains. A spokesman said that the problem first came to their attention around 2:30pm on Monday. The overhead wires of two lines through Hitchin were damaged, and until later in the evening, two of the four lines were open.
The National Rail spokesman continued that engineers started working on the issue at 3pm, and crews were replacing the damaged wires between 1am and 6:40am Tuesday morning. After a train went through when they were finished, they discovered there was more damage. They apologise for the delays and are working to repair the problem.
Robin Gisby, the managing director of network operations for Network Rail, said they apologise for the disruption endured by passengers. They have had crews at the scene in Hitchin since the problems were discovered, and they worked through the night to make repairs. Passengers are advised to check with their train company before travelling, as it will take time for rail services to return to schedule.
Around Tuesday afternoon, an East Coast spokesman said that trains were starting to move through Hitchin again. They were operating a half-hourly service from King’s Cross, and they expected other services to resume throughout the day. Meanwhile, the operator made arrangements for passengers on alternate routes. Replacement bus services were in place between Peterborough and Bedford, the spokesman added, while a shuttle was running between Peterborough and Cambridge on a diesel train.