A Service Recovery Plan has been announced to get Hitachi Class 800 and 385 trains back in service thanks to an agreement between Hitachi Rail, train operators and the Government.
The Class 800s were removed from service as a precaution last weekend when some trains showed signs of cracking.
Following safety checks, TransPennine Express, Hull Trains and ScotRail have been able to operate services across their network. Hull Trains was able to resume services the same day, whilst TransPennine Express shortened Newcastle services to terminate at York – which have now been reinstated.
After further testing, involving the ORR’s HM Railway Inspectorate, GWR and LNER can now begin to reintroduce trains to provide a more regular service for passengers.
Trains may be less frequent than usual and train availability could vary so passengers are being asked to check before travelling.
The Service Recovery Plan follows on from work between Hitachi, operators and the regulator around the safe return of some trains.
Since the fault was discovered, tests and research have been completed to have a better understanding of the cracking issue.
Based on work completed Hitachi and operators have put in place criteria to allow trains to re-enter service.
Thorough inspections will be completed by specialists before trains leave the depot and these trains will only re-enter service if they meet the agreed criteria.
Trains will then be subject to a Forward Repair Plan to ensure long term use of the trains.
LNER says that around 75% of services are currently operating on the network. An Intercity 225 set has been brought back on the London Kings Cross to West Yorkshire route, with a second set expected to re-enter service in the coming days.
Andrew Barr, Group CEO of Hitachi Rail, 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, director of nations and regions at the Rail Delivery Group, said: “The safety of passengers has been the absolute focus for each of the organisations involved in making decisions about these trains over recent days. After some incredibly hard and detailed work, 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 at the Office of Rail and Road, Ian Prosser CBE said: “We’ve engaged with Hitachi and the train companies to oversee their development of a safe and suitable plan.
“We’re also continuing to provide the rigorous oversight needed to make sure the right checks are being carried out so that the trains are able to re-enter passenger service safely.”
Mark Hopwood, GWR Managing Director, 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.”
David Horne, LNER Managing Director, said: “I am pleased we have been able to work as an industry to agree a service recovery plan with Hitachi and industry partners that will allow trains to return safely to our route. We are continuing to work together to begin the return of Azuma trains into service from next week. Customers should continue to check before they travel with LNER and I apologise for the disruption caused.”
Rail Minister Chris-Heaton Harris said: “I welcome the news that operators, working closely with Hitachi and the independent safety regulator, the Office of Road and Rail, have confirmed that many trains can return to the network following rigorous safety tests.
“Trains should begin to return to service after further inspections have been carried out, helping to safely restore the reliable and punctual services on GWR and LNER that passengers deserve.
“Safety is our absolute focus, which is why Hitachi will carry out a comprehensive daily testing regime on affected trains.
“The next step on the route back to normal service levels will be for Hitachi to present their long-term repair plan for the fleet. We expect to see this shortly.
“Whilst this long-term fix can partly be incorporated into the regular service pattern for these trains, we do expect disruption to services for some time to come, but hope passengers understand this work is essential to ensure these issues do not occur again.”
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