Published: 6th July 2015
Ten years ago on July 6 2005, the Olympic Games vote was taken for the 2012 Games which as we all know were awarded to London when the betting was on Paris. A group of lucky people first heard the news as they rode behind the world famous Flying Scotsman between York and Scarborough.
The locomotive had been purchased by the National Railway Museum with much assistance from the Heritage Lottery fund and Railway Magazine readers. Unfortunately the engine was in poor condition as it approached its mandatory boiler overhaul. In fact it was in such bad condition, it was unable to pull the ceremonial train from Doncaster to the York museum and was somewhat ignominiously pushed into the museum by another engine.
Repairs were undertaken and the NRM proudly announced that the public could ‘Ride the Legend’ between York and Scarborough for three days a week in the summer holidays. Services commenced on July 5, the day before the 2012 Olympic vote. On July 6, the result of the vote was announced while the train was on the move; “Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to be able to inform you that while we are riding behind Flying Scotsman, London has just been awarded the 2012 Olympic Games” the Guard said. The scene was set for a good day, Flying Scotsman’s first week of operation under public ownership and on day two, an Olympic award!
The Olympic award promised and brought massive rail investment around London using 140mph ‘Javelins’ to shuttle visitors between Stratford Olympic village and St. Pancras. The Olympic Delivery Authority was created to deliver amongst other things, transport promises made in the bid.
The next day, the third day of ‘Ride The Legend’ on July 7, 2005 quickly became known as 7/7 as a result of the London bombings which occurred just before 9am. There were three explosions on trains at different central London Underground locations followed by another on a crowded London bus near Euston. The death toll was 52 plus the four bombers and there were hundreds injured. London’s main line stations and the Underground were closed and the rest of the rail network was understandably brought pretty much into chaos.
These bombings were the first in Western Europe and the caused the largest loss of life for 60 years due to terrorist action. The Tube bombings were particularly horrific because in a tunnel, the force of the blast was magnified and the effect was to put passengers into a terrifying scenario.
Tunnels filled with smoke but were devoid of light and there was very little room for the emergency services and staff to render assistance even once they had reached the stricken trains under London. The terror was made worse because of the proximity of the tunnel walls to the trains.
The rest of the rail network ‘froze’ and passengers were on the train at York for that day’s ‘Ride The Legend’ service to Scarborough. Except that Flying Scotsman had failed and GWR ‘Hall’ No. 5972 Olton Hall was used on the train. This engine is as famous now as Flying Scotsman as it also goes by the name of Hogwarts Castle!
The Guard’s announcement that day to passengers was that the crew did not know if the train would run, or even where it might operate to such was the chaos and confusion. In the end it ran as planned to Scarborough and back without incident.
The other main rail story at the time was at Gerrards Cross where a new Tesco store was under construction. This involved a building a 300 metre tunnel over the Marylebone main line just south of Gerrards Cross station which had collapsed on June 30 depositing an estimated 10,000 tons of building materials across the tracks blocking the line. The driver of a Marylebone train reported to the signaller while he was in the platform that he could not see through the tunnel. When an inspection was carried out, it was established that 30 metres of tunnel had collapsed covering the rails to a depth of six metres.
Virgin Trains West Coast services were almost completely operated by the troubled Alstom Pendolinos after two years of being made more reliable. To mark the end of the British Rail built trains, one set sported a pair of gold buffers, more than likely a UK rail first! A portent of the golden Olympics perhaps?