‘Hundreds’ of Avanti West Coast rail passengers including 50 children endure 11-hour journey from hell after train from London to Edinburgh was cancelled halfway though trip – and left them having to take a taxi the rest of the way home
- 4.40pm train from London Euston to Edinburgh was terminated early at Preston
- Avanti West Coast had to provide taxis for ‘hundreds’ of passengers late at night
- ** Were you on the train last night? Please email: [email protected] **
Rail passengers travelling from London to Edinburgh last night endured an ‘insane’ 11-hour journey after being stranded when their train was cancelled halfway through.
‘Hundreds’ of people on the 4.40pm Avanti West Coast train from London Euston to Edinburgh were ordered off at Preston when it terminated early at about 8pm.
With no onward trains for passengers going to Carlisle and Edinburgh Waverley or Haymarket stations, the train operator had to arrange for taxis for everyone.
A huge queue formed outside the Lancashire station as cabs arrived for groups of three to seven people, some of whom needed to travel 190 miles to Scotland.
Among those stuck was a group of 50 schoolchildren aged 12, with staff sourcing a coach to get them to Glasgow because the youngsters could not travel in cabs.
Stand-up comedian James Nokise was also on the train and described his ‘insane’ journey to Edinburgh which ended at 3.30am after a ‘ridiculous’ taxi ride.
The disruption began after an Avanti driver reported a track defect at Lockerbie in Dumfries and Galloway, which resulted in Network Rail engineers being called to carry out a safety inspection and fix the issue before the line could be reopened.
Mr Nokise was driven to the Scottish capital with three other people in a black cab and shared what happened in a series of posts viewed more than 2.6million times on social media platform X.
Avanti West Coast service from London Euston to Edinburgh
Here is the schedule for last night’s Avanti West Coast service from London Euston to Edinburgh:
- London Euston 16:40 (actual 16:41)
- Coventry 17:36 (actual 17:40)
- Birmingham International 17:46 (actual 17:53)
- Birmingham New Street 18:07 (actual 18:06)
- Sandwell & Dudley 18:17 (actual 18:18)
- Wolverhampton 18:32 (actual 18:35)
- Stafford 18:47 (actual 18:48)
- Crewe 19:08 (actual 19:09)
- Warrington Bank Quay 19:27 (actual 19:30)
- Wigan North Western 19:38 (actual 19:53)
- Preston 19:55 (terminated early)
- Lancaster 20:11 (cancelled)
- Oxenholme Lake District 20:27 (cancelled)
- Carlisle 21:05 (cancelled)
- Haymarket 22:17 (cancelled)
- Edinburgh 22:21 (cancelled)
He wrote: ‘At 4.40pm I jumped on a train from London to Edinburgh. It was comfy, it was quiet. In hindsight, too good to last.’
He explained that at 7.26pm he was among the passengers who received an email stating that the train was cancelled, which was ‘a surprise’ as it was still moving.
An announcement was then made that the service was terminating at Preston but another train to Glasgow was being held to take those onboard to Scotland.
But the Glasgow-bound train was full so left Preston as Mr Nokise and his fellow passengers arrived. They were told to wait for the next train, which ended up being cancelled.
Mr Nokise wrote: ‘It turned out there were no more trains north after that and, excitingly, no forthcoming information. Some people stood staring at the screens.
‘Some people queued to ask the one ticket booth worker the same question everyone else was. No one knew anything.
‘Around 9.20pm news came down: alternative transport had been arranged. Bus? An extra train? Horses? No. Taxis. For hundreds of people. To a city three-and-a-half hours away.’
At 10.30pm he was in the final group of travellers to get in a cab, describing the situation as ‘ridiculous’.
The comic wrote that shortly after midnight ‘our cabbie decided to change lanes without indicating and almost crashed into a minivan overtaking him’.
Mr Nokise expressed sympathy with the cabbie – who stopped to buy two cans of energy drink – as ‘it is late, it’s a dark highway and he’s driving a city black cab not meant for this road’.
He added: ‘Perhaps, just possibly, throwing money at cab drivers and getting them to drive several hours in the middle of the night might not be the best contingency plan for train companies to have.’
Passengers stuck at Preston station had to wait for taxis to take them onto Carlisle and Edinburgh stations last night, with no onward trains for passengers heading to those cities
Stand-up comedian James Nokise got to Edinburgh at 3.30am after a ‘ridiculous’ taxi ride
The A72 is ‘a real motion-sickness nightmare of a road’ which is ‘narrow, dark, full of turns and occasionally just dips,’ he wrote.
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During the taxi journey, Nokise received an email from Avanti informing him he would receive £70 compensation, which was how much his ticket cost.
After being dropped off at Edinburgh Waverley at around 3am, he had to take another taxi to his accommodation.
In his final post on the trip, he wrote at 3.30am: ‘Thanks for being on this journey with me Twitter. A truly insane odyssey. Five hours late, 11 hours after I jumped on the train. I’m going to have a shower and eat something. Let’s never do this again.’
Among those also stuck were a school trip made up of five adults and 50 children aged 12 who had travelled from Greenfaulds High School in Glasgow.
A staff member in the school’s modern studies department wrote on X: ‘Hi Avanti West Coast, we’ve been stuck at Preston since around 630pm with 50 12-year-olds. It’s now 10.08pm.
‘We’ve just been informed that there is no way of getting us home to Glasgow, as we can’t send kids alone on taxis. A staff member has said we are effectively stuck here.’
The employee then added: ‘Thankfully, we have been able to resource, on our own, a coach to take us home. If we had not, we would have 50 young children abandoned on the streets of Preston once the station closes.
‘Apologies from your wonderful staff here are kind but not enough. Very poor.’
On board another affected train was Sam Houten Feeley, who wrote on X: ‘Left London Euston on the 14.30 train to Glasgow Central. Got chucked off at Preston due to track defect.
‘Have now been waiting 90 minutes and no further information or indication how long we will be stuck here. Hundreds of people affected, many, like us, with young kids. Appalling.’
And another X user wrote: ‘My mum is stuck at preston with my dad who suffers from dementia. They are trying to get to Carlisle. Please is there any update?
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‘My father is starting to deteriorate due to the uncertainty. I live two hours from Preston but I will drive there to get them if there is no alternative.’
Avanti has apologised to passengers for the disruption which affected various services and began after a driver reported a track defect at Lockerbie just after 4pm yesterday.
Network Rail engineers were called and the line was closed, before reopened around three hours later after it was fixed – but this had a severe impact on services.
An Avanti West Coast spokesman told MailOnline today: ‘We apologise to our customers who were caught up in last night’s disruption.
‘The closure of the West Coast Main Line for over three hours due to a track defect had a significant impact on our services, with trains and traincrew unable to work our planned timetable resulting in cancellations of services north of Preston.
‘Whilst alternative transport and overnight accommodation was sourced for most of those impacted we fully understand the frustrations of those customers whose journeys were affected, and we are extremely sorry for this.
‘Anyone who was affected by last night’s disruption will be entitled to compensation and are urged to get in contact through our normal channels to process their claim.’
Avanti said people who could not travel between Preston and Scotland yesterday will be able to travel today with their original ticket.
Avanti runs trains on the West Coast Main Line between London Euston and Glasgow Central, with branches to Birmingham, North Wales, Liverpool, Manchester and Edinburgh
It also invited anyone caught up in the disruption to claim compensation via its delay replay scheme.
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It comes after Avanti, which is one of Britain’s least punctual train operators, was handed a long-term contract by the Department for Transport (DfT) on September 19.
Latest Office of Rail and Road figures show Avanti is Britain’s second worst performing operator in the country for punctuality, with only 48 per cent of stops at stations made within one minute of timetables in the four weeks to August 19.
Labour’s shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said passengers would be ‘appalled’ by the move, adding that that the ‘only reliable thing about Britain’s railways under the Tories is the waste of taxpayers’ money, which the Government has put into the pockets of shareholders’.
Mike Amesbury, Labour MP for Weaver Vale in Cheshire, said earlier this month: “It seems that this contract has been rewarded on the basis that it’s a little less c**p than it used to be. Is that really the way to make a decision in government?”
Avanti’s new deal, which starts on October 15, has a maximum length of nine years but can be axed after three years.
Avanti was previously handed two consecutive six-month contracts and ordered to develop a recovery plan aimed at addressing poor performance on vital routes, which was largely attributed to drivers refusing to work paid overtime shifts.
Avanti West Coast was handed a long-term contract renewal earlier this month (file image)
The proportion of its trains being cancelled has been cut to ‘as low as 1.1 per cent over the past year’, the DfT said.
Avanti runs trains on the West Coast Main Line between Euston and Glasgow Central, with branches to Birmingham, North Wales, Liverpool, Manchester and Edinburgh.
It is a joint venture between FirstGroup (70 per cent) and Italian state operator Trenitalia (30 per cent).
Avanti’s contract is under the West Coast Partnership, which also involves the company being the shadow operator for HS2.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is said to be considering scrapping or delaying the Birmingham to Manchester section of the new line amid spiralling costs.
** Were you on the train last night? Please email: [email protected] **
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