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‘This journey was crucial’: UK rail chaos cancels work, holidays and family meetings

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Scott Heppell/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Scott Heppell/AFP/Getty Images

Rail passengers are facing significant disruption after cracks were found on high-speed trains, with services on Great Western Railway and London North Eastern Railway services suspended.

People who wrote to the Guardian via a callout shared how they had been affected by the train chaos, from struggling to travel to the funeral of a loved one to cancelling long-awaited birthday picnics with friends.

Agi Lebiedz, 37, a family photographer from Chippenham, lost a day of work due to the cancellations.

She got up at 4.45am on Saturday to catch a train to London for a photoshoot. “As I got to the platform I realised that I was the only passenger waiting. I was told by a GWR staff member that indeed there were no trains going to London. The station had no clue, there was no information. There is no plan B, no other route to London, so I had to cancel.

“This journey was crucial since I was going to photograph a family who have been waiting for a very long time – due to the lockdown we could not have a newborn shoot, as family photographers were not allowed to work.”

The train chaos left Lebiedz out of pocket. “I have lost a day’s work and had £10 deducted from my refund for an ‘admin fee’. I do not think that’s right.”

In Edinburgh, Siân Nicholson is concerned that she may not be able to travel down to Hexham to help care for her parents while her mother receives chemotherapy in hospital. Her train is booked for Sunday, but all of Saturday’s trains on the same routes have been cancelled and she has not been told when they will return.

“I’m hoping, but there’s no guidance coming up,” she said.

Her mother’s chemotherapy begins in three days’ time, and Nicholson is unsure when the trains will resume and aware she is missing out on precious time to support her family.

“My mum’s diagnosis on top of the last year we’ve had has been heartbreaking,” she added. “It’s about the little things I can do when I’m there, like make her a cup of coffee or dry her hair. Caring for her, especially in girly ways that my dad can’t.

“They’ve been through so much together and I want to offer that additional support for both of them. That fact that a cancelled train might stop that feels like a slap round the face.”

Mike, 71, had booked a week away in a holiday cottage in Cornwall, after a number of his foreign holidays were cancelled. He has lived alone throughout the pandemic and said he’s been “stuck in house for what seems like for ever now”.

However, the train disruptions mean he is unable to get there, and concerned about losing the cost of the trip.

Mike, who did not want to give his surname, got as far as Reading from his home in Eastleigh before rail operators announced that the trains were cancelled, and he simply had to turn around and go home. He is now unsure what to do.

“Surely they must have known it didn’t have any carriages,” he said. “That’s annoying more than anything; I could have just turned round at Eastleigh, or not set off at all. Nobody could tell me when the trains were running again.”

Mike, who doesn’t have a car, said he was concerned about losing a huge amount of money if he could not reach the cottage; the holiday cost more than £500 and is non-refundable for travel disruption.

“Disappointing doesn’t really cover it,” he said.

Hitachi, the company behind the trains, said the problem was on its Class 800 models which were commissioned by the government for GWR and the East Coast LNER services. The firm said the issue was still under investigation and apologised for any delays caused.

A spokesperson said: “We understand the frustration caused and we would like to apologise for the inconvenience caused to passengers and operators.”

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