'Who was in charge?' Fury at Elizabeth Line chaos that saw thousands stranded before 'smashing out of carriages'

8 December 2023, 08:41 | Updated: 8 December 2023, 11:24

Commuters were stranded for hours
Commuters were stranded for hours. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Commuters had to smash their way off trains and walk on the tracks as services ground to a halt for hours after an electrical problem hit the Elizabeth Line on Thursday.

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Celebrities Rachel Riley and James Blunt were caught up in the disruption.

Hundreds of passengers were left in the dark and cold for hours as Elizabeth Line, Great Western Railway and Heathrow Express service going to and from the west London station were affected.

And even the boss of Network Rail, which runs the railway network, was stranded. Some commuters were stuck for as long as four hours in plummeting temperatures.

Read more: Rachel Riley and James Blunt among Elizabeth Line passengers stuck for hours after electrical cables damaged

The problem stemmed from damage to the electrical cables above the lines in Ladbroke Grove.

Some passengers had to force their way out of the train doors and get onto the tracks, reportedly "smashing" out.

Network Rail boss Andrew Haines, who was on the 6.30pm service from Paddington to Cardiff, had to take charge on his train to plead with people not to smash their way out.

He urged them to wait for the train to be brought back to Paddington - assuming they could find the crew given the strikes.

"This is not real life. Who thought I would've been walking on tracks on the way home from work?" one passenger said as she recorded her ordeal.

Mikey Worrall, who was stranded on an Elizabeth Line train, said his service lurched to a stop and passengers had to wait in semi-darkness for hours as they were drip fed information from the driver.

The train's battery, which powered the heating and light, eventually ran out, plunging them into 90 minutes of darkness before they were evacuated.

"We saw a couple of workers come past, and they were trying to keep everyone calm. Suddenly, we saw a stream of people coming down the track, and at that point, it was clear that we would be getting off," he said.

"It was really eerie walking down the railway line in amongst this big crowd of people. It felt like a wartime thing."

And he blasted the £19bn Elizabeth Line, saying it goes down "multiple times a week and it's incredibly frustrating".

Another passenger added: "The Elizabeth Line has failed again just when passengers needed it most. At Paddington there were old folk, people with babies with absolutely no way of getting home. 

"It was like the Fall of Saigon, except in that case some lucky people actually managed to get on the helicopter."

Read more: Will your train journey be affected over the Christmas period? December strikes explained

Read more: Commuter chaos as rail strikes bring trains to a halt - with no service on c2c and disruption on Greater Anglia

Celebrities including musician James Blunt and TV presenter Rachel Riley were among those affected by the disruption. Blunt posted on X: "Been stuck somewhere outside Paddington for close to 4 hours now. Out of peanuts and wine. Can someone please contact @Dominos_UK. This is an emergency."

Riley wrote: "Nearly 4 hours after we got on, we're getting off the Elizabeth line, woohoo!"

A Network Rail spokesperson said: "We are so sorry for the difficult journeys passengers endured on our railway last night and we will be investigating how and why it happened.

"The knock-on effects from last night mean operators will not be able to run a full service from Paddington today and passengers should check before they travel.

"Repairs are ongoing and we hope to have the railway fully open by the weekend."