CONSERVATIVE MP Ian Liddell-Grainger is demanding a ‘totally transparent’ explanation from rail operator GWR over cracking problems affecting its fleet of Hitachi Class 800 trains.
He says thousands of travellers have been inconvenienced by their withdrawal from service last weekend – and the company should consider compensation for them and for all season ticket holders.
Six of the high-speed trains – which provide services between Paddington Penzance, and South Wales – were taken out of service in late April after cracks were found in the lifting points used for maintenance.
But last weekend the entire fleet was withdrawn for checking, leading to a mass cancellation of inter-city services. Passengers were advised not to travel and those that did had to complete their journeys on slower trains and with a number of changes.
Rail company LNER, which also operates Class 800s, was hit by similar problems, meaning almost 200 trains have been withdrawn nationally.
After discussions between Hitachi, the operators and the Government’s railway inspectorate some train sets are being allowed back into service after rigorous safety checks, though disruption is likely to continue for many weeks yet.
And, significantly, Hitachi is now drawing up a long-term repair plan for the entire GWR and LNER fleets.
Mr Liddell-Grainger says hundreds of his Bridgwater and West Somerset constituents had been affected by cancelled services.
He said: “This episode has hardly enhanced GWR’s reputation, and I find it incredible that faults are already appearing in trains that have only been in service for four years.
“These trains were hailed as representing an end to the bad old days of faults, breakdowns and delays yet here we are in the bad new days with the entire GWR fleet having to be mended.
“The travelling public needs total transparency from GWR and Hitachi as to why these problems have occurred.
“My information from someone with knowledge of the industry is that a generic fault of this kind has arisen because while these trains may be entirely suitable for running on modern, well-designed railways they cannot cope with the stresses and strains of running over 19th century routes, particularly in south Devon and Cornwall where there are some fairly tortuous curves.
“I am ready to be corrected but it is beginning to look as though the Class 800s are simply not fit for purpose.
“And having put so many thousands of travellers to so much inconvenience GWR now has an obligation to drop the PR smokescreen and explain fully what has gone wrong.”