Fury as rail services crippled by heat

DISGRUNTLED rail users voiced their fury last night after hot weather led to a day of misery on East Anglia's main line in and out of London.Thousands of commuters, many looking to make their getaways for the Bank Holiday weekend, faced hours of delays.

DISGRUNTLED rail users voiced their fury last night after hot weather led to a day of misery on East Anglia's main line in and out of London.

Thousands of commuters, many looking to make their getaways for the Bank Holiday weekend, faced hours of delays.

The difficulties started yesterday afternoon when a train travelling to Liverpool Street suffered problems close to Shenfield with the equipment connecting it to overhead cables.

As a result, only a single track on the line was left open for the rest of the afternoon – meaning just one train could pass through in either direction at any time.

The problem was compounded when speed restrictions were introduced along the whole route because rail bosses feared the hot weather would cause other overhead cables to expand creating more problems.

The situation led to long delays in both directions – which included the cancellation of the 4pm and 5pm services from Liverpool Street to Ipswich - as commuters and travellers struggled to complete their journeys ahead of Bank Holiday weekend.

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Last night, there were still delays of up to an hour on the line.

Angry commuter Bill Martin, from Ipswich, told the EADT: "I'm incandescent with anger. You read in the papers about how rail services are supposed to be improving but then something like this happens.

"I was travelling down to London from Ipswich and then we were told to all get off at Chelmsford because of excessive heat which had melted the signal boxes. It's ridiculous. One hot day and the whole thing grinds to a halt."

Richard Smith, from Woodbridge, said that it had taken him three hours to travel from the market town to Hatfield Peverel.

"The train was late coming into Woodbridge and then when we got to Colchester we were told to get off because of overhead cable problems in the Shenfield area," he added.

"We waited around and finally got to Hatfield Peverel but we've been waiting now for an hour and have been told that there are further delays of another 40 minutes.

"Everyone is getting very hot and bad tempered. Some people have missed flights this afternoon and I was due to be in London at 2pm. It's cost me hundreds of pounds and I'm not going very far at all."

A spokesperson for rail operator One explained the delays were caused by overhead line problems that were related to the hot weather.

"I can confirm that the line to London Liverpool Street is experiencing severe disruption and that commuters are looking at delays of over an hour," she added.

"Unfortunately the reasons for the delays are outside our control and are a matter for Network Rail who are responsible for the infrastructure of the line."

Laura Dobson, regional spokesperson for Network Rail, said that the situation was compounded because of the two separate incidents on the route.

She said: "The overhead cables here (Shenfield) are older than others elsewhere and so work slightly differently and are more sensitive when it gets hot and they expand.

"When they expand it means they sag and can touch passing trains, increasing the risk that something can go wrong so we reduce the speed so that any expansion has less of an impact.

"Although engineers have been out to tighten up cables recently it is a question of getting the right balance because it can go from being very cold to very warm at this time of year.

"I would like to apologise for any delays and would also like to assure commuters that we are aware of problems that can be caused by heat and we are doing everything we can to prepare ourselves for the summer."

Derek Langslow, chairman of the East of England Rail Passengers Committee said: "Network Rail had a warning about this last year or the year before and I really thought that it was going to be fixed.

"They should have dealt with it. The question is why haven't they done so and what is their excuse."

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