Jacobite steam train saved after track ban lifted

The Jacobite leaves Glenfinnan on its first trip of the season on the Fort William to Mallaig route. Picture: Stephen Mansfield

The Jacobite leaves Glenfinnan on its first trip of the season on the Fort William to Mallaig route. Picture: Stephen Mansfield

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THE summer season of Jacobite steam train services on the Fort William-Mallaig line will go ahead as planned on Monday after a ban was lifted, operator West Coast Railways (WCR) announced today.

It follows Network Rail revoking its suspension of the firm from the entire British network after another of its steam locomotives ran past a red light onto a main line.

WCR had said on Wednesday it was unlikely the service made famous by the Harry Potter films would run because of the scale of improvements demanded by Network Rail.

The ban was imposed after a WCR train went past a red signal and stopped on the Great Western main line near Swindon in March, one minute after an express train.

Network Rail said it was the worst such case this year, and described WCR as a “threat to the safe operation of the railway”.

The track firm said today it was now satisfied that WCR had “addressed all of the actions” it had demanded ahead of a deadline next Friday.

Freight director Paul McMahon said: “We welcome the commitment WCR has made to improving safety management”, and its creation of new safety roles among senior staff.

He told WCR: “We recognise and welcome that you intend to put in place a phased return of services, to allow you and your most experienced staff to implement your new procedures before use with a wider range of services.”

The improvements will be reviewed in August.

A WCR spokesman said: “The Jacobite will steam out on schedule on Monday, 11 May and all services thereafter remain unchanged.”

A total of 85,000 people are expected to rise on 225 Jacobite services until October.

WCR has run the operation for 20 years.

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