Significant rail disruption is expected today after two major operators announced they have cancelled high-speed trains over fears of cracks in carriages.
Great Western Railway (GWR) and London North Eastern Railway (LNER) suspended some services out of London on Saturday morning, with passengers urged not to travel while urgent inspections are carried out. Routes run by Transpennine Express and Hull Trains have also been affected.
One hundred and eighty two trains are believed to require checking across the four fleets - resulting in potentially thousands of journeys being disrupted.
Lines between London and Scotland, and between London and the West, are affected.
Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “Routine checks of Hitachi trains early this morning identified cracks on part of the chassis of some trains. Safety is always our absolute priority, so these trains have been taken off the network to undergo full and rigorous checks.
“Hitachi are working to complete these strict precautionary checks. Trains will be returned to service as quickly as possible once they are fully approved as safe by the manufacturer.
“Whilst some trains are starting to be reintroduced, disruption is likely for a prolonged period, particularly on GWR.
“I share the frustration of passengers who are experiencing significant disruption, and would ask people whose journeys are affected to check before travelling.
“I’ve asked operators to ensure extra staff are on hand to help people complete their journeys safely, to increase their communications with passengers, and to make information on refunds and compensation clear.
“I’ve also asked all affected operators – GWR, LNER, Hull Trains and TransPennine Express - to explore all options to ensure they help people complete their journeys. That includes maintaining as many services as possible and providing additional rail replacement services.
“We’re also ensuring ticket acceptances are in place on other operators, who are looking at strengthening their services to provide passengers with alternative ways of completing their journey.
“We have also asked the industry to conduct a rapid and comprehensive review to resolve the issue.”
The cancellations come after a handful of GWR high-speed services were withdraw last week due to hairline cracks being discovered during routine maintenance of two Hitachi 800 trains.
GWR said the hairline cracks were "in areas where the suspension system attaches to the vehicle body on two trains".
Roger Ford, industry and technology editor at Modern Railways magazine, said "metal fatigue" has resulted in damage to the bracket on the side of coaches known as the yaw damper bolster.
This part is where the shock absorbers are attached to the carriages. If significantly damaged, this could result in trains swaying from side to side as they travel down the tracks.
He added: "There will be disruption for quite a time because repairs to aluminium in this way are not easy."
The fleet of Hitachi 800 intercity trains entered service in 2017 and was designed to be electric, but due to delays in electrification of the line engines were also be fitted with diesel power.
They are running on GWR's network between London, the Thames Valley, Bristol and South Wales.
GWR and LNER said in a statement: “A number of Class 800 series Hitachi trains from several train companies have been taken out of service today for checks as a precautionary measure.
“This problem is being investigated by Hitachi and once trains have been checked, we hope to be able to release them back into service as soon as possible.
“This could affect a significant number of our services and passengers should check before they travel.”