Hundreds of passengers booked on Christmas trips aboard the steam train made famous by Harry Potter have had them cancelled because of the summer heatwave.
Extra maintenance on the Jacobite’s vintage carriages caused by the hot weather cannot be completed in time for the festive specials.
Steel tyres on their wheels that normally need to be changed twice during the April to October season will have to be done up to five times this year because of the unusually dry weather.
It means the annual December runs on the Fort William-Mallaig line, which carried 3,600 people last year, will not go ahead.
A total of 970 passengers had already booked for this year’s trips.
The Jacobite, developed from a steam service launched by British Rail in 1984, is the closest thing to the fictional Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter books.
The train has been a magnet for fans of the boy wizard, and crowds have watched it cross the Glenfinnan viaduct, which features in the films.
Silvia A, from Alloa, wrote on Tripadvisor about her trip last December: “We were lucky to have a beautiful winter’s day with amazing scenery and long views. My daughter, a huge fan of Harry Potter, was absolutely delighted with the train. She felt like a little witch on the ride to Hogwarts.”
A spokesman for operator West Coast Railways (WCR) said: “The hot weather forced the decision. We usually turn tyres twice in a season. This year, it will be four, possibly five times, due to the heat and compression. A tyre turn requires every coach to return to Carnforth [WCR’s Lancashire base], then be shipped back for operation.
“It’s likely the last change will be very close to the end of the season, not allowing us enough time to return for the winter programme. We apologise to passengers who have booked .They will receive a refund in full.”
Friends of the West Highland Lines chairman Doug Carmichael said: “The Christmas services were a popular attraction, not least helping Mallaig business have an extended season.
“The thrill for many of seeing and hearing a steam locomotive tackling the snow-covered gradients of Britain’s best-loved scenic train journey will be sorely missed this year.”
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart said: “This is very disappointing. The trains are very popular with tourists and local families looking for an entertaining day out.”