NETWORK Rail and East Coast have apologised to hundreds of passengers who were stuck on a train between London and Edinburgh for nearly 12 hours after it broke down twice.
Some 350 travellers on the 11am East Coast service from King’s Cross were held up less than an hour into their journey when overhead power lines came down north of Peterborough on Monday.
However, a rescue locomotive drafted in to haul the train north then broke down at Dunbar, with passengers eventually reaching Edinburgh at 10:41pm – more than seven hours late.
The fault, which brought down overhead wires across all four tracks over about half a mile, delayed a total of more than 30,000 passengers on the East Coast Main Line.
Nearly 90 East Coast trains were cancelled.
Delays continued yesterday as engineers carried out repairs.
Passengers who tweeted their frustration included Matthew Brown from Edinburgh, who wrote: “9 and a half hours on @eastcoastuk train. And it breaks down. SEND HELP.”
Another, Gemma Watson, wrote: “Is there any food, drink or toilet roll making its way to the 11am train? #frustrated #hungry #sweaty #tired #stick-yourrefund.”
Stefan Ward, from Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, wrote: “11:00 Kings Cross to Edinburgh only just arriving into Edinburgh a whopping 8hrs late. Ouch.”
Another passenger said by the time they reached Dunbar, there were just 12 bottles of water to go round.
Network Rail, which is responsible for tracks, said the overhead wires fault appeared to have been “an inherent design issue that was not detectable”.
The firm said it had been traced to a weakness in joints in the wires.
London and North East route managing director Phil Verster said: “We can only apologise for the incident. Our engineering teams are working to recover services as quickly as possible.”
Train operator East Coast expressed anger at the third such major incident on the line in eight months.
Managing director Karen Boswell said: “This incident has been extremely frustrating for our customers, and I want to say sorry to everyone whose journey was delayed, or who was inconvenienced.
“This is the latest in a series of incidents related to the infrastructure on the line – and currently overhead line failures are the biggest cause of delays.”
An East Coast spokesman said: “The most severely delayed train, the 11am London King’s Cross to Edinburgh service, was passing Tallington at the moment when the overhead power lines failed.
“A rescue locomotive was attached to the train, and as soon as Network Rail cleared the line, the service resumed its journey north.
“Unfortunately the hired-in locomotive also failed at Dunbar, and a replacement had to be brought from Edinburgh to enable the train to complete its journey, some 7 hours and 20 minutes behind schedule.”
East Coast services also suffered severe disruption in August when two miles of wires came down near Retford in Nottinghamshire, and in February when a kilometre of overhead power line collapsed onto tracks at St Neots in Cambridgeshire.
Overhead line problems have been a major factor in East Coast having the worst train punctuality in Britain.
A total of 82.8 per cent of services arrived within ten minutes of schedule in the year to 12 October, compared with the British average of 90.7 per cent.