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Wednesday, June 17, 1998 Published at 06:42 GMT 07:42 UK


Safety fears bring chaos to rail route

Derailment: Caused by cracked wheel

Passengers on the East Coast Main Line are facing rail chaos after a decision by the route's main operator to withdraw its entire electric rolling stock because of safety fears

Passengers planning to use Great North Eastern Railways on the route are being warned not to, unless it is absolutely necessary.

Chritopher Garnett: "We must stop the fleet"
The step was taken after engineers discovered a crack in a carriage wheel caused Tuesday's derailment on the line in Bedfordshire.

The incident recalled the German rail disaster earlier this month, which killed 100 people. Authorities believe a broken wheel caused the crash near Eschede and earlier this week ordered the replacement of wheels on all similar 59 high speed trains.

GNER warned its 30,000 daily passengers not to travel with the company on Wednesday unless their journey was absolutely essential.

The company, which has withdrawn its entire fleet of 31 electric high speed trains, operates trains from King's Cross in London, through the Midlands, Yorkshire, the North East and onwards into Scotland.

Christopher Garnett, chief executive of GNER, said: "Safety of our passengers is our number one priority.

[ image: Engineers must check all the InterCity 225s]
Engineers must check all the InterCity 225s
"As a prudent, precautionary measure we have withdrawn all electric trains for immediate checks.

"I apologise to all our customers who will be affected by this disruption and assure them that these checks will be carried out as quickly as possible to ensure we are able to restore a safe and reliable service."

Asked about similarities to the German crash, GNER spokesman David Mallender said: "I think the move we have made by withdrawing the fleet shows that we are taking it extremely seriously."

Engineers must now check almost 2,000 coach wheels on the InterCity 225 electric trains which form the bulk of the 112 daily mainline journeys.

The company's eight diesel trains are still operating at 125 mph but the lack of other engines means that the half-hourly service between London and Edinburgh will only run every 90 minutes.

The engineers called in the train carriages after establishing the cause of the derailment on the King's Cross to Edinburgh service on Tuesday.

None of the 400 passengers were seriously injured in the accident which took place 20 minutes outside London, but one person needed treatment for shock.

GNER plans to bring trains into service through the day as they complete safety checks.

Until then, passengers are urged to contact the company before attempting to travel.

Information on all GNER services is available from National Rail Enquiries on 0345 484950 or GNER direct on 0345 225 225.

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