Disruption for passengers as half rail firm’s fleet is put out of action

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LONG-SUFFERING Hull Trains passengers face disruption until Thursday after half its fleet was knocked out of action.

Hull MP Emma Hardy branded the trains “not fit for purpose” after firefighters had to be called and passengers evacuated at Grantham after smoke and sparks were seen coming from the undercarriage of one of the trains on Friday.

Of the remaining three, one needs repairs for an unrelated mechanical fault and a second is out of service for regular maintenance, leaving just one available.

No direct services ran to London yesterday and passengers were warned of a reduced service until Thursday. Friday’s fire follows a blaze in May at Welwyn North, which also saw passengers evacuated.

The MP for Hull West and Hessle said it was “not good enough” with new five new hi-tech trains not due to come into service until the end of 2019. And she laid the blame at the door of parent group First Rail which she said should be investing in new trains. She said: “It is not something you want to be associated with, trains catching fire on the way to their destination. I have complete sympathy with everyone on the train. At the end of the day these trains are not fit for service and they need some new ones.”

First Rail’s managing director Steve Montgomery apologised to passengers and said they were giving Hull Trains extra engineering support.

He said they were expecting an “improvement in service throughout the week.” Mr Montgomery said loaning Hull Trains a spare train was not as straightforward as it might appear. “Hull Trains use a type of train (known as a Class 180) that we don’t use on any of our other franchises, and specific types of trains need to be approved to run on a particular route. Also, to carry out their duties safely, our drivers are required to have not only knowledge of the route but be trained in driving a specific type of train, which can take several weeks.”

Meanwhile the problems continue on Northern, with its own figures showing that barely more than half of its services arrived at their destination on time in the four-week period to September 15. On “inter urban” routes in West and North Yorkshire – those between larger centres – only 52 per cent of trains reached their final stop within a minute of the scheduled time. Across the region, 43 per cent were late.

The data is in sharp contrast to the headline figures used by the rail industry, which report services as “on time” if they arrive at their final destination within five or ten minutes of schedule.

Further, a report by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) claims services by Northern and fellow operator TransPennine Express are “still way below acceptable”, following timetable disruption in the summer.