In a worrying incident this morning, several hundred passengers on the 06:45 commuter train from Salisbury to London have become stranded in Matlock, Derbyshire; some 150 miles from their intended destination. In what Network Rail managers called, a rail traffic control nightmare, the South West Trains service was redirected several times following an electrical fault which delayed the train at Basingstoke.
Mr Roy Parrish, Director of Services for Network Rail said, "The train experienced electrical issues at Basingstoke and was moved temporarily onto another line to keep the main line clear. When the fault was cleared it was unfortunately not possible to move the service back because of other services using the main London line." He went on to explain that once on the Reading line it was easier to divert ahead via Reading but due to confusion there, the service was misdirected to Oxford by which time it had been inadvertently labelled in the Network Control Centre as a train destined for Birmingham New Street. Mr Parrish continued, "immediately the error was spotted, a decision was taken to bypass Birmingham and route the service up the Sheffield line from where is would continue to Doncaster and join the high speed East Coast line back south to London. The train though, broke down en route to Sheffield several miles outside Matlock."
Although it sounds like a comedy of errors, a harassed Mr Parrish explained, "it really is just an unfortunate sequence of events. I want to emphasise that passenger safety has not been compromised and everything that can be done is being done to get these people to their destination."
Passengers on the train however, vented their anger and irritation to news desks by mobile telephone. Mrs Margaret Evans-Pritchard (67), a retired teacher from Shipton Bellinger was an exception and said in a telephone interview, "it's all been rather fun really, a sort of mystery tour and the Peak District is so pretty at this time of year." However, a Mr Francis Dart, (45), an insurance broker from Salisbury, summed up the prevailing dark mood on the train when he said, "it's utterly absurd. What should be a one and a half hour journey has taken all day going in the opposite direction and now we're stuck in the middle of nowhere with only one loo between us. Just sums this country up."
Investigators from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch are said to be not involved given no incident has actually taken place but, they may take an interest to see if lessons can be learned, an unnamed spokesman said.
South West Trains said they were confident of getting all the passengers to their ultimate destinations in time for work tomorrow.