Fleet of trains is withdrawn as doors freeze

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The region’s biggest rail operator last night admitted it had been forced to withdraw a fleet of electric trains after the cold weather stopped the automatic doors working.

Two of the 30-year-old units broke down at the height of Thursday’s snow chaos, blocking lines between Leeds and Skipton for most of the evening.

The route was already one of the worst affected by the freeze, with more than half of scheduled services cancelled between Leeds, Bradford, Skipton and Ilkley.

Passengers on one train were told that the units had also broken down the previous day, only to be patched up and sent back out. Their operator, Northern Rail, has denied that was the case.

But Northern acknowledged that “extreme temperatures” had frozen the air compressor systems which supply pressure to open and close the doors on the former British Rail carriages.

The company said: “We have never experienced this issue before and as a result have now temporarily withdrawn the fleet of eight units until the weather improves.”

However, a guard on another train, whose journey was curtailed by the blocked lines, told passengers: “It’s always happening. Those trains broke down last night but someone decided it was fine to put them back out today.”

Northern said: “We’ll be asking the train manager for the region to speak to the employee and find out why incorrect information was given out.”

Many travellers had earlier complained online about the quality of information they were given on platforms as services were altered, cancelled and in a few cases reinstated with little or no warning.

Though some were sympathetic to the conditions, most were critical of Northern’s performance.

One said: “Yes, the weather’s bad, but come on – this is farcical. Left work two hours ago.”

Another wrote said: “I’m stuck at Skipton with no trains to Bradford or Leeds for an hour minimum. What am I supposed to do? Freeze?”

A third said: “I understand the weather’s bad but I’ve just been told my train home is too full for me to get on. I pay £1,512 a year for a season ticket and don’t find this kind of service acceptable.”

A further comment on Twitter read: “Two carriages, far too many trapped inside and no driver. How can you have no drivers when so many trains have been cancelled?”

Northern said it had been “working incredibly hard” to keep as many trains as possible running during “the appalling weather conditions where we’ve had to cope with snow blizzards, drifting, freezing temperatures and many other challenges”.