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Rail passengers left stranded by overhead power cable chaos for fourth time in a week

Emergency crews work to restore service on the East Coast main line between Peterborough and Grantham
Emergency crews work to restore service on the East Coast main line between Peterborough and Grantham - Twitter/@RiggeMortiss

Rail passengers have been left stranded by overhead power cable chaos for the fourth time in a week.

Hundreds of people using the East Coast Mainline on Sunday were unable to travel directly between London and northern England or Scotland after electricity lines collapsed.

The outage knocked out all four rail lines on a 35-mile section between Grantham, Lincolnshire and Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, with passengers told to leave trains and get buses or taxis.

Videos showed hundreds of passengers left aimlessly stranded amid “pandemonium” at Grantham station as scores of cancellations and delays affected five major train operators: London North Eastern Railway (LNER), Lumo, East Midlands Railway, Grand Central and Hull Trains.

It was the fourth time in a week that power cables came down on England’s railway network after incidents at Manchester Piccadilly, Paddington station and Retford in Nottinghamshire.

The East Coast Mainline disruption was blamed on Storm Elin, which brought 45mph winds and heavy rain to the north-west of England on the weekend. It was followed by Storm Fergus which moved in from the Atlantic Ocean on Sunday.

Grantham station
A passenger tweeted of chaos at Grantham station - Twitter@brianging

LNER was among multiple rail operators to tell people “do not travel” on Sunday but its managing director David Horne warned that on Monday “there may be some limited service disruption due to trains and crews being out of position”.

One passenger, journalist Brian Ging, wrote on X, formerly Twitter: “For those of us with no choice, your arrangements have been disgraceful. No information at Grantham, chaos on the southbound platform. There are 2 buses , two! For hundreds of people.”

Pandemonium

Prof Nick Bailey, from the University of Westminster, wrote: “It would be good if someone could explain why so many overhead lines are being damaged on @‌LNER and @‌GWR in the last few days, is it weather or a design/installation fault or something else? All causing massive aggravation.”

A third passenger tweeted that there was “pandemonium at Grantham station where LNER has dumped everyone travelling south” with “no crowd control” and three-hour queues for buses to Peterborough to resume travelling to London by rail.

It comes after an overhead power line exploded at Manchester Piccadilly station during Storm Elin on Saturday, which was believed to have been caused by a falling tree, causing multiple train cancellations.

On Thursday, the singer James Blunt was among thousands of people trapped on cold, dark trains for hours after overhead wires came crashing down when a train struck an obstruction outside London Paddington station.

And last week LNER apologised for “severe disruption” when overhead power cables came down between Retford and Newark on the East Coast Mainline due to “excessive wear of one component”.

Football joke misses target

As LNER was bombarded with angry messages on social media, one staff member appeared to make light of the fact that many Newcastle United fans were blocked from travelling to Tottenham for a Premier League match that the northern side lost 4-1.

Mr Horne apologised after LNER’s Twitter account said in response to a customer: “To be fair, being a Tottenham fan – we’re saving you from seeing another loss...”

Helen Kelly, a director at OK! magazine, said she was “stranded at Grantham thanks to LNER” but pointed out that “they’ve known about these problems since last night yet there’s still 1000s waiting to get home and only one coach to help”. LNER responded that she should “check before you travel and follow the travel advice”.

A spokesman said there was “severe damage to the overhead lines” and “our teams have worked hard to keep customers who did travel on the move with onward transport where possible. We appreciate customers’ journeys have been affected and thank them for their understanding.”

In 2022, Network Rail, which is responsible for railway infrastructure, launched a “resilience taskforce” to help protect overhead lines from “extreme weather”.

Network Rail confirmed there had been “a significant amount of cancellations” on Sunday.

A spokesman said: “We’re really sorry for the ongoing disruption to train services on the East Coast Main Line today. Repairs to damaged overhead power lines near Grantham is well under way, and we hope to restore services tomorrow [Monday].

“There has been an unusual coincidence of power-line problems in various parts of the country over the past week or so. We do not believe they are related but extreme weather has certainly played its part.”

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