Thousands of passengers stranded for over 24 hours as heatwave brings massive rail chaos

20 July 2022, 15:56 | Updated: 20 July 2022, 16:03

  • Chaos at London's King's Cross and Euston
  • Many trains between Euston and Scotland cancelled today
  • Route between King's Cross and Peterborough was closed until the early afternoon
  • In total, more than two dozen services departing from the stations were cancelled or delayed
  • Network Rail warns situation could get worse as heavy rain could cause flooding
Rail passengers have faced chaos due to the heatwave
Rail passengers have faced chaos due to the heatwave. Picture: Credit Twitter/LBC

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Thousands of rail passengers have been stranded for 24 hours with dozens of train services cancelled due to the extreme heat and fears heavy rain could cause further chaos.

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Temperatures hit 40C on Tuesday, a new UK record, causing damage to overhead wires, tracks, and signalling systems.

At one point on Tuesday there were no trains running at all in and out of London King's Cross or Euston.

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In total, more than two dozen services departing from the stations were cancelled or delayed.

Network Rail has warned, with with thunderstorms forecast across swathes of England, heavy downpours on dry ground could cause flooding and overwhelm track drainage.

Huge crowds await trains at St Pancras
Huge crowds await trains at St Pancras. Picture: Twitter/@LeadingEwe

Many trains between London Euston and Scotland were cancelled today. Avanti West Coast said services from Euston were cancelled due to ongoing repair work following damage caused by fires in the Hatch End area of north-west London on Tuesday.

A spokesman said: "Train services are severely disrupted across our network as a result of damage to the overhead wires at multiple locations due to yesterday's extreme heat. Network Rail is still at the sites carrying out repairs.

"Customers should make sure they check their journey before leaving for the station, and train tickets for yesterday and today will be valid for travel tomorrow. We're sorry for the inconvenience this will cause."

Meanwhile, the route between London King's Cross and Peterborough was closed until the early afternoon, with a reduced service running later in the day.

The East Coast Main Line, the main rail artery connecting London and Edinburgh via Peterborough, Doncaster, York, Darlington, Durham and Newcastle, was damaged on Tuesday after a fire spread on to the track near Sandy in Bedfordshire.

Lee Ball was trying to travel with his wife and daughter to London Euston as part of a journey to Brussels for an Ed Sheeran concert.

The 46-year-old said they had been waiting for hours in Birmingham.

He said: "I've been up since 4.30am, anxious, trying to get an answer from anywhere we can. I was monitoring trains this morning from Birmingham New Street to London Euston and one was literally cancelled with five minutes' notice."

He added that communication from the train companies has been "appalling".

"It's massive, massive anxiety," he said. "Not being able to sleep, 4am this morning, fretting, seeing if there had been any updates."

Nicole Dixon, 26, has missed her uncle's funeral in Carlisle after trains from Euston were cancelled.

"I'm incredibly annoyed, frustrated and a bit exhausted," she said.

"I was told that there was an unlikely chance of getting a train out (yesterday) but that (today) they would 100% be running.... I've felt really annoyed this morning as I was assured I'd be able to make it to the funeral."

Laura Horn, a lecturer at Roskilde University in Denmark, was travelling from Copenhagen to a conference in Limerick in western Ireland but was left stuck at Euston.

"Station hall packed with people staring at the display, so many cancelled connections. Lots of worried and tired faces," she said.

Alex Davies, a charity worker from Crewe, said he was "physically and mentally exhausted" from trying to organise his journey home from Portsmouth via London Euston.

The 28-year-old said: "I'm autistic and need a lot of help from my wife, but she couldn't get the time off work to travel with me so the whole saga has been extremely difficult for me."

All lines between Lancaster and Carlisle and lines in the Birmingham New Street area are not expected to reopen until Wednesday afternoon due to severe damage to overhead cables. No trains were running north of Birmingham to Wolverhampton.

National Rail has told customers to check before setting off on their journeys and to only travel if absolutely necessary.

It said on its website: "A huge amount of work has been completed overnight to fix problems with the track and overhead wires caused by the heat yesterday.

"Network Rail teams are continuing to work tirelessly to make the repairs so we can get services back up and running for passengers but there is still disruption to services throughout the day. So, for anyone travelling today, please take time to check before you travel."

Network Rail said passenger numbers on Tuesday were around 40% lower than the same day last week.