On the sixth day of widespread train cancellations across Great Britain caused by faults found in rolling stock, the rail minister has warned that passengers face disruption “for some time to come”.
Chris Heaton-Harris was speaking after Hitachi Rail agreed a “service recovery plan” for the 800-series trains that it builds and maintains.
The fleet of expresses, none of them more than four years old, was removed from service as a precaution at the weekend when cracks were found on some trains.
The worst-affected operator, GWR, is continuing to warn on its website: “Customers are advised not to travel.”
The firm runs trains from London Paddington to South Wales and the West of England. Almost all long-distance services are cancelled. Instead, passengers are told to travel to Reading or Swindon and change trains.
The line to Exeter has a limited shuttle operation from Reading; previously passengers were advised to use slower services from London Waterloo instead.
From next week, GWR plans a basic “core service” on all its key routes. An amended timetable will be in use.
GWR’s managing director, Mark Hopwood, said: “Our customers have shown great patience over the past couple of days, and I am grateful for their understanding as we have worked with Hitachi to allow trains to return safely.
“This news will allow us to run some additional services today and reintroduce more consistent robust timetables for customers after the weekend.”
The trains were halted after hairline cracks were found at lifting points. While they did not pose a threat to the trains themselves, there were fears that the faults could lead to debris being strewn on the railway.
Andrew Barr, group CEO of Hitachi Rail, said: “Today’s agreement sets out our joint plan for the phased reintroduction of our trains into service, which will continue to deliver the highest possible safety standards.
”Operators will begin reintroduction of trains as they are individually approved and deemed safe.”
The rail minister said: “This work is essential to ensure these issues do not occur again.”
London North Eastern Railway (LNER) cancelled most services on Saturday and Sunday, and is currently running a 75 per cent service from London King's Cross to Yorkshire, the northeast and Edinburgh.
LNER has reintroduced a 30-year-old InterCity 225 train for routes between London, Leeds and Bradford, and is planning to bring back a second in a few days.
Hull Trains, TransPennine Express and ScotRail have been able to operate services across all of their routes since the weekend.