Train services get back on track

RAIL services were getting back to normal tonight after another day of misery on the line to London - caused by yet another cable theft.

RAIL services were getting back to normal tonight after another day of misery on the line to London - caused by yet another cable theft.

East Anglian rail passengers heading to the capital faced hours of delays after cables were stolen near Hatfield Peveral station in Essex overnight.

The cables then set fire to signalling and communication equipment which has meant that trains are being hand-signalled in some areas.

Coaches took passengers from Colchester to Billericay - but there were additional problems because of congestion and delays on the A12 at Marks Tey, Kelvedon and Witham.

At 10am this morning the rail company was due to launch its detailed plans to introduce thousands of extra seats on new and refurbished trains, but this was cancelled as it became clear that many of those due to take part would not be able to reach Liverpool Street.

The track repairs were completed shortly after 3pm but officials from rail Company National Express East Anglia warned there could be some distruption into the evening as not all their trains were in the right place.

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“We are getting back to normal, and the later you travel the more normal it should be, but we still have coaches on standby just in case,” he said.

Among those caught up in today's hold up was Transport Minister and Ipswich MP Chris Mole who was on his way to launch the improved services.

Mr Mole said: “It was for Network Rail and British Transport Police to try to ensure that security was good enough to prevent this kind of test, and said there had been similar incidents elsewhere in the country where a targeted approach to the problem had been necessary.

“I know that in Yorkshire there have been thefts like this from more isolated lines, and they were opportunistic. This seems a bit more organised and it could be that people knew exactly what they were doing.”

A spokesperson for British Transport Police said: “We can't comment on who is responsible.

“We had stepped up patrols in this area - but we have 100 miles of track to cover and can't be everywhere at once.

“We are currently liaising with Network Rail engineers in an attempt to fix the problem.

“But clearly this is something that is going to cause substantial delays throughout the day.”

Police and Network Rail officials believe that an organised gang is operating in Essex after the fourth such incident in nine days on a 20-mile stretch of track.

A spokesperson for Network Rail said: “We have had other incidents of cable thefts in the past week.

“It could be organised crime. We will assist British Transport Police with their inquiries.

“Anyone with information should contact them or Crimestoppers as soon as possible.”

Passengers heading towards London expressed their frustration at the theft and the disruption it caused, and some also criticised National Express East Anglia for a lack of information.

However, a bus replacement service was running from Colchester fairly soon after it became clear that no trains would be able to run.

Engineers were unclear how long it would take to repair the track, but passengers were being advised early this morning that there were unlikely to be any trains between Essex and Shenfield until early afternoon at the earliest.

Among those passengers facing problems was Doctor Elizabeth Courtold who was travelling from her Ipswich home to London to where she works as a pathologist.

She said: “I have a patient who is expecting some test results from me this morning, I shan't be able to make that appointment now and it is very annoying for me and will cause distress to the patient.

“It hasn't been clear to us what is happening and when these things happen it causes massive disruption for everyone

Services from Ipswich to London Liverpool Street, Norwich and Clacton are affected.

Passengers were able to travel to Colchester before they were put on buses to Billericay and then on to the capital.

Trains between London and Norwich have now been suspended and a shuttle service is running between Colchester and Norwich.

Trains between Norwich and Colchester have been reduced to an hourly service.

Anyone with information on the cable cutting should contact British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40.