Freightliner Class 90 on hire to Virgin derails blocking Britain’s busiest arterial rail route at Bletchley, 47 miles north of London.
The damage was extensive. The locomotive will obviously need great technical attention considering it came firmly off the running rails, and the pantograph will most definitely need to “go in the bin”. There was obvious infrastructure damage, with the overhead wires down, sleepers fractured or broken, and rails buckled and torn up.
The line speed along this section of railway is 110 miles per hour, for locomotives and electric multiple units (such as the “Pendolino”). The eagle eyed amongst you may notice a small yellow board with “20” written on it. This means that there is, somewhere beyond Bletchley, a temporary speed restriction of 20 miles per hour. Undoubtedly, the locomotive would have been ready for this having crossed from the slow to fast lines under the Bletchley Flyover, and would have received an audible warning in the cab to bring it sharply to the drivers attention.
The locomotive remained upright and fortunately the driver, who would have been working for Virgin Trains, escaped with seemingly minor injuries. The engine, nicknamed “Skoda 46”, was en route to Wembley to work the Friday only loco-hauled diagram to Crewe. 0A90, the working it was operating when derailed, left Crewe at 00:30, 33 minutes ahead of schedule. By the time it passed Bletchley, at 02:26, it was running 84 minutes early. The Rail Accident Investigation Board will do examine the data download from the locomotive’s ‘blackbox’ to see if anything abnormal caused the derailment. The engine was routed via the Trent Valley route, and also ran via Weedon, instead of via Northampton and the incident is likely to have occurred at 02:27 give or take a few minutes.
The effects of this incident were plain to see with London Midland and Virgin Trains thrown into disarray. The Southern services were cancelled north of Watford Junction. Virgin Trains diverted some services from Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow via Birmingham, before taking them to Milton Keynes. The reason for the diversion was to allow passengers to change for Chiltern Railways services.
At Milton Keynes, buses took people to Luton Airport in order for them to use First Capital Connect services on the Midland Main Line. Customers in the North West were advised to go to Leeds or Sheffield via TransPennine Express to use East Midlands or East Coast services to London. Those in Scotland were advised to go via East Coast to London, and those in Carlisle advised to use the Tyne Valley to Newcastle for the East Coast.
By around 09:00, London Midland had managed to run services north of Milton Keynes, and between Tring and Watford Junction (for London Overground). Virgin Trains were able to operate shuttle services to Tring (for buses to Milton Keynes). The slow lines were anticipated to open at 12:30, after overhead wiring was replaced, but the fast lines (which the locomotive currently straddles) are not expected to open until Monday morning.
Limited service resumption to London was later put back to 1400hrs and then 1500hrs. Recovery was not possible until the RAIB investigating team left the site at 0850hrs. Because the overhead power was turned off, the train service was as follows:
• No trains will run between Milton Keynes Central and Tring
• Two trains an hour will run between Tring and London Euston
• Two trains an hour will run between Manchester Piccadilly and Milton Keynes Central
• One train an hour will run between Wolverhampton and Rugby
• One train an hour will run between Glasgow Central / Preston and Milton Keynes Central, calling additionally at Crewe
• One train an hour will run between Liverpool Lime Street and Milton Keynes Central
• Trains to and from Holyhead / Chester will run between Holyhead / Chester and Crewe.
• Buses are running between Rugby / Milton Keynes Central and Luton Airport Parkway for trains between Luton Airport Parkway and London St Pancras International
From approximately 15:00, and for the remainder of the day:
• Two trains per hour will run between London Euston and Manchester Piccadilly
• Two trains per hour will run between London Euston and Birmingham / Wolverhampton
• One train per hour will run between London Euston and Liverpool Lime Street
• One train per hour will run between London Euston and Preston / Glasgow
• Trains to and from Holyhead / Chester will run between Holyhead / Chester and Crewe only. Passengers are to change trains at Crewe
Until approximately 15:00
Trains are starting from and terminating at Northampton.
• Buses are running between Northampton and Wellingborough for trains between Wellingborough and London St Pancras International
• Buses are running between Milton Keynes & Bedford for trains between Bedford and London St Pancras International
• A shuttle train service is running from Watford Junction to Tring, departing Watford Junction at 23 minutes and 53 minutes past each hour
• A shuttle train service is running from Watford Junction to Tring, departing Tring at 04 minutes and 34 minutes past each hour
• A shuttle train service is running from Northampton to Milton Keynes Central, departing Northampton at 25 minutes and 55 minutes past each hour
• A shuttle train service is running from Northampton to Milton Keynes Central, departing Milton Keynes Central at 15 minutes and 45 minutes past each hour
There is no service between Bletchley, Leighton Buzzard, Cheddington and Tring, therefore customers are advised not to travel between these stations.
From approximately 15:00, and for the remainder of the day:
• Trains between London Euston and Crewe will run between Northampton and Crewe only.
• All other trains will run normally
Trains will start / terminate at Watford Junction, so will not run between Milton Keynes Central and Watford Junction.
This will occur all day and passengers should use London Midland services between Milton Keynes Central and Watford Junction.
Friday’s 23:50 London Euston to Glasgow Central and 21:15 London Euston to Fort William / Inverness services are cancelled.
Passengers with reservations for these Sleeper service are advised to contact ScotRail Customer Relations on 0845 601 5929 for further advice.
Passengers may use:
• East Midlands Trains between Manchester Piccadilly / Derby / Leicester / Luton Airport Parkway and London St Pancras International
• Chiltern Railways between Birmingham and London Marylebone
• Northern Rail between Stockport and Sheffield
• CrossCountry between Stafford and Reading, Tamworth and Derby, Nuneaton and Leicester
• First Great Western between Reading and London Paddington
• East Coast on reasonable routes
• First Capital Connect on reasonable routes
• London Overground on reasonable routes
• Grand Central between Doncaster / York and London Kings Cross
• London Underground on reasonable routes
• First TransPennine Express services on reasonable routes
Virgin Trains passengers who decide not to travel today may use their ticket for travel tomorrow, Saturday 4 February 2012.
Robin Gisby, Network Rail managing director, network operations, said: “Unfortunately there is quite substantial damage to the tracks and overhead lines following this morning’s incident. Our engineers have been on site since the small hours to assist investigators and are now carrying out repairs to the tracks and overhead lines which have been damaged.
“We hope to have two of the four lines open by the early afternoon, though it is likely that severe disruption will continue for the remainder of the day as we work to repair the more significant damage."
Virgin Trains and Network Rail are working with RAIB as they continue their investigation.