Rail hell hits passengers from London

JOYFUL day trips to London turned to nightmare for hundreds of passengers when a 70-minute train journey to Ipswich took a staggering six hours and 15 minutes.

JOYFUL day trips to London turned to nightmare for hundreds of passengers when a 70-minute train journey to Ipswich took a staggering six hours and 15 minutes.

The sun was coming up after a night when temperatures dipped to single figures as bleary-eyed families – left for hours on platforms – arrived cold and hungry in Ipswich.

Even Anglia Railways couldn't remember a journey as bad.

A spokeswoman called it "totally unacceptable", while passengers – including children left shivering outside – complained they were treated like commodities and not people.

The nightmare began when 400 passengers, including families celebrating the start of the summer holidays, were moved from the delayed 11.30pm Anglia Railway service from Liverpool Street to Norwich, on to a smaller Great Eastern train.

The train, by then with standing room only, ground to a halt at Shenfield, marking the start of a freezing two-hour wait on the platform – even though the train remained in the station.

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Evening Star photograper Lucy Taylor was among the passengers as part of a family day out.

She said: "I'm surprised there wasn't a riot. There were blokes on the train that had had a bit to drink and also young kids.

"It was the lack of information that was the worst thing. We must have heard 16 different excuses."

Miss Taylor was using train vouchers to take her family, including mum Kath, sister Colleen and brother Ken, into the capital for a day out.

But a wonderful trip, including a West End show, ended in abject misery.

Mum Kath said: " Colleen was so cold she ended up sitting in the photo booth at Shenfield."

Another passenger, Becky Fishenden of Woodbridge, was furious about the lack of co-ordination between staff.

"When the train got to Shenfield it stopped.

"The two staff at the station made themselves very scarce most of the time, they didn't seem to know what they were doing." she said.

"I must give credit to the Anglia Railway staff on board the train, they were courteous and helpful in what was a difficult situation.

"They did supply us with free hot drinks, which at 3 o'clock in the morning, we were grateful for. I cannot say the same for the Great Eastern staff at Shenfield.

"What riles me is that they obviously knew all along what the problem was, but no-one told us until we were sat at Chelmsford at around 2.45am."

Miss Taylor said: "We were told that as Shenfield was a Great Eastern station, there would be no onward provision made for Anglia passengers."

Eventually they boarded another Anglia train which then halted at Chelmsford.

A spokeswoman for Anglia Railways said the problems were caused by overhead lines coming down at Witham at 11pm.

She said: "This disrupted both the 21.10 from Norwich which had to be hauled to Shenfield where it arrived at 12.40am.

"It also affected the 23.30 from Liverpool St. The problem at Chelmsford was caused by a fault in the machine which confirmed that, after the problems, that stretch of line was now safe."

She apologised for the delays. She said: "It is unacceptable that passengers were subjected to these levels of delays.

She advised all passengers involved to contact the customer relations department on 01473 693333.

All claims for compensation, including taxi fares and other costs, would be dealt with on merit, she added.

Miss Taylor said: "We all appreciate things can go wrong on railways and we understand that.

"It's just the fact that no one came out and apologised for any of it. We are people paying for a service, not commodities."

No one from Great Eastern was available for comment.

The timetable from hell.

11.30pm: Up to 400 passengers try to board the 11.30 Anglia service to Norwich. They are told they have to move to a Great Eastern service train.

12.00am: All passengers from the delayed 11.30 Anglia Railways service board the 11.30 Great Eastern service to Colchester.

12.15: The Great Eastern train, with the stricken Anglian passengers, departs Liverpool St station.

12.30am: At Shenfield passengers are told the train cannot go any further. Passengers are ordered off the train.

12.40am: The 10pm train from Norwich to Liverpool Street, travelling in the opposite direction, stops at Shenfield.

1am: Taxis arrive to take passengers from 21.10 train from Norwich into London.

1.30am: Passengers ordered to the forecourt where buses would meet them. Passengers travelling further than Colchester would be met by an Anglia Railways train for the remainder of the journey. When passengers arrive on the forecourt they are told no buses have been ordered.

1.40am: Two double deckers arrive railway staff argue over who should have them.

No information for Ipswich and Norwich passengers.

One passenger is told the situation wasn't important enough to disturb the manager.

Another is told provision is being made to put the passengers up in Shenfield overnight.

3.00am: The original 11.30pm Anglia train arrives at Shenfield from Liverpool St. The remaining passengers board the train.

3.45am: Train stops at Chelmsford. Passengers are warned of a half-hour delay to mend overhead cables.

3.50am: Passengers told mending the train is impossible because parts required are on order.

3.55am: Buses are ordered. The remaining passengers are assured taxis will be waiting for them at their final destination.

Refreshments are provided.

4.45am: As the first light of dawn is breaking for the new day, two buses arrive. One bound for Diss and Norwich the other for Ipswich, Colchester, Stowmarket for the onward journey. One taxi ordered for Manningtree.

5.45am: Coaches arrive in Ipswich. The promised taxis are nowhere to be seen. Passengers are not offered compensation but are told to return to Ipswich station in their own time to collect a form.