A train driver who caused overhead wire damage that resulted in the Elizabeth line chaos last night was a manager drafted in due to a strike, a union claimed today as disruption was set to continue until at least 7pm tonight – 24 hours after the incident.
Great Western Railway (GWR) paid the operations investigations manager £500 for a short driving shift to keep services running, according to train drivers’ union Aslef.
The severe disruption came yesterday on a day that drivers for GWR were on strike, resulting in a reduced service operating between 7am and 7pm on limited routes.
Aslef also released a photograph to MailOnline showing the overhead power cables that came down onto the GWR train in West London with passengers still on board.
But GWR insisted the driver was ‘fully qualified with competence up to date’ and that there was ‘absolutely no evidence’ the overhead cable fault was due to a train.
The knock-on effect of the incident was that thousands of passengers including James Blunt and Rachel Riley were stuck on packed rush hour trains without power.
seven trains were stranded, operated by GWR, the Elizabeth line and Heathrow Express. Elizabeth line trains have no toilets, adding to the discomfort on board.
Delays and cancellations on the Elizabeth line, GWR and Heathrow Express – where drivers were also on strike yesterday – continued through into this afternoon.
National Rail said major disruption was expected until at least 7pm tonight, meaning the evening rush hour as people head home for the weekend will also be impacted.
Aslef released a photo to MailOnline today showing the overhead power cables that came down onto the Great Western Railway train in West London with passengers still on board
Passengers walk along the tracks after being let off the Elizabeth line train yesterday evening
People climb down onto the tracks near Paddington after being stranded on a train last night
An Aslef spokesman told MailOnline: ‘The problem is that many of these managers haven’t driven a train for a long time and their competence is not what it should be.
‘We saw the result yesterday. Significant damage to the railway infrastructure, passengers put at risk, and serious disruption to the rail network.
‘But, I suppose, as an operations investigations manager, he is uniquely qualified to investigate his own actions and what went wrong.’
GWR was contacted for comment by MailOnline today, and a spokesman said: ‘The driver was fully qualified driver with competence up to date.
‘The only people who can drive trains are competent drivers with route knowledge and competence maintained.
‘As yet, there is absolutely no evidence the OHLE (overhead electric equipment) fault was due to a train.’
GWR told passengers that one of its trains ‘struck an obstruction on the line causing damage to the overhead electric wires’.
The Great Western main line was already being investigated by the Office of Rail and Road over poor reliability.
The Aslef strikes continued today with members at Northern Rail and TransPennine Express walking out, causing the cancellation of all services.
Disruption is also expected tomorrow morning as rolling stock might be out of place.
Union members have staged strikes against different train operators since last Saturday and launched a ban on overtime, which ends on Saturday.
Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said his members remain solidly behind the campaign for an increase to a pay offer made earlier this year worth 8 per cent over two years.
The Rail Delivery Group and the Government have urged the union to ballot its members on the pay offer.
But Aslef says its members have voted in huge numbers to continue taking strike action when they are reballoted every six months under employment law.
The dispute started in June last year but shows no sign of being resolved despite the disruption passengers have faced during waves of industrial action.
Passengers start making the long walk back in the cold to Paddington yesterday evening
The power failure meant the lights went off inside trains while the heating also could not work
It comes after a hellish night for commuters on Sadiq Khan ‘s creaking £19billion Elizabeth line trapped in the dark who compared it to London in the Blitz.
A spokesperson for Mr Khan told MailOnline today: ‘This was clearly a very distressing experience for everyone involved. TfL are speaking to Network Rail and Great Western Rail to investigate what happened and are working hard to resume normal service on the Elizabeth line as soon as possible.’
There were even claims of sexual touching, with a police officer telling a passenger: ‘Unfortunately we’ve had a few incidents. We’ve had one arrest of sexual touching and things like that. So things have taken longer than possibly what they should have done because someone decided that they wanted to touch someone up.’
Mikey Worrall posted footage of passengers in the dark and said they were opening up the doors to get onto the line, adding: ‘The Mayor of London needs to sort it out.’
He said the rush hour service lurched to a stop before a multiple-hour wait in semi-darkness as the driver drip-fed what little information they had to passengers.
Eventually, the battery backup running the heating and lighting ran out, and those on board were left in darkness for another hour and a half until the evacuation came.
Describing his ‘surreal evening’, Mr Worrall added: ‘Every day, it’s a different excuse. It seems to me they opened this whole thing without actually being fit for purpose.
‘If they knew there were infrastructure issues that they needed to work on, why didn’t they work on those before? They opened the line and it doesn’t work. It (goes down) multiple times a week, and it’s incredibly frustrating.’
And there were more problems this morning amid huge questions for Mr Khan about the Elizabeth line’s reliability after MailOnline revealed it had the sharpest increase in cancellations of any UK rail route in the latest quarter compared to last year.
Great Western Railway and Heathrow Express, which operate trains on the same routes through West London, were also running reduced services this morning.
On the Elizabeth line today, services were suspended between Heathrow Terminal 2&3 and Terminal 5 stations, while severe delays remained between Paddington and Heathrow Terminal 2,3&4 and Reading, and between Abbey Wood and Whitechapel.
National Rail said disruption on all routes was expected until at least 6pm today due to the continuing effort to fix the overhead wires issues in the Ladbroke Grove area.
Earlier, it had said disruption would last until 12pm – and that time was then pushed back this morning until 3pm.
Countdown’s Rachel Riley was one of those stuck on board the train from 6pm last night
Passengers on board one train on the Elizabeth line were stuck for hours yesterday evening
Transport for London (TfL) said tickets were being accepted on Underground trains, buses and other mainline rail routes including Thameslink and Southeastern.
But the Central line was also hit by delays this morning due to a ‘shortage of trains’, while there was no service on the Bakerloo line between Stonebridge Park and Harrow & Wealdstone while a track fault was fixed in the North Wembley area.
GWR issued an alert to passengers saying ‘do not travel’ between Paddington and Reading until further notice, saying services between Oxford or Didcot Parkway and Paddington will end or start back from Reading. GWR passengers in Devon between Plymouth and Totnes were also told ‘not to travel’ after flooding blocked that line.
Countdown’s Rachel Riley was one of those stuck on board the train from 6pm last night, and posted a selfie of her and other passengers smiling on board, captioned: ‘Nearly four hours after we got on, we’re getting off the Elizabeth line, woohoo!’.
Seemingly also among those trapped was singer James Blunt, who said: ‘Been stuck somewhere outside Paddington for close to 4 hours now. Out of peanuts and wine.’
The Elizabeth line – which opened in May 2022 – uses mainline rail infrastructure west of Paddington. Services have been repeatedly hit by faults in recent weeks – with four damaged rails discovered in eight days last month on the Great Western line.
Videos showed passengers sitting in a blacked out carriage of the 6.37pm Paddington service
Queues at London Paddington station for taxis last night following the Elizabeth line chaos
No trains ran between Paddington and Heathrow after the incident began last night, with Great Western Railway and Heathrow Express services also affected by delays as passengers were stranded while strikes by train drivers’ union Aslef continued.
Those on trains were made to wait for more than three hours until police started evacuating carriages, with some passengers resorting to forcing the doors open and ‘self evacuating’ before emergency services had arrived.
Footage obtained by MailOnline shows passengers carrying heavy suitcases along the tracks in the pitch black dark after they disembarked the train and headed back towards Paddington.
Passenger Mr Worrall said: ‘We saw a couple of workers come past, and they were trying to keep everyone calm. Suddenly, we saw a stream of people coming down the track, and at that point, it was clear that we would be getting off.
‘It was really eerie walking down the railway line in amongst this big crowd of people. It felt like a wartime thing.’
Amid traumatic scenes, elderly people, children and even the chief executive of Network Rail were among those stuck on carriages where temperatures plummeted when the heating stopped working due to the power failure.
A mother carrying a newborn said a woman fainted on her train while another passenger claimed people were forced to use the tracks and even seats as toilets.
Two people were treated for minor injuries and discharged at the scene.
The chaos meant some passengers missed their flights from Heathrow they had booked to see family for Christmas.
British Airways confirmed to MailOnline today that it had ‘rebooked a small number of customers affected by the disruption to the Elizabeth line last night’, free of charge.
Officials assist passengers to get down from a train stuck on the Elizabeth line last night
A passenger walks with luggage inside a Heathrow Express train stuck on the route last night
Passengers wait inside a train stuck on the Elizabeth line amid the chaotic scenes last night
Passengers walk after being evacuated from trains stuck on the Elizabeth line last night
Passengers sat in the dark on an Elizabeth line train outside Paddington station last night
Meanwhile workers were unable to get to their late shifts as people took to social media to vent their fury at a perceived lack of communication from TfL.
After breaking free from trains, people were left to wait in huge queues for taxis in order to get home, with the rail strikes leaving many with no other transport options.
The campaign group London TravelWatch has now called for an investigation after the ‘extremely dangerous’ incident as it condemned the ‘apparent lack of communication and slow response time’.
A spokesman told MailOnline today: ‘Passengers stranded on trains endured nightmare journeys on Thursday evening.
‘You can imagine how unpleasant it must have been for people stuck for more than three hours – as power was cut the trains became cold and dark.
‘The apparent lack of communication and slow response time to get passengers off to a place of safety is just as concerning.
‘We have heard reports that some passengers even tried to open the doors themselves to self-evacuate.
‘This is extremely dangerous which is why clear information, and a swift coordinated response is a must in emergency situations like this.
‘We expect TfL Elizabeth line, Network Rail and other authorities involved to investigate this incident thoroughly.
‘Lessons need to be learned so if this sort of thing does ever happen again, both the communication and response is vastly improved.’
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said on X last night: ‘Aware of a serious incident involving overhead wires outside Paddington, with a number of trains stationary on the tracks.’
TfL apologised for the disruption, but it was not resolved by the morning – with passengers urged to check before they travel.
Engineers worked through the night to get two of the four lines serving Paddington open for electric trains.
Morning commuters today were warned their journeys may be delayed by up to 90 minutes.
A Network Rail spokesman said: ‘We are so sorry for the difficult journeys passengers endured on our railway last night and we will be investigating how and why it happened.
‘The knock-on effects from last night mean operators will not be able to run a full service from Paddington today and passengers should check before they travel.
‘Repairs are ongoing and we hope to have the railway fully open by the weekend.’
And a TfL spokesman told MailOnline: ‘We’re sorry that the damage caused to Network Rail’s overhead power lines by another rail operator’s train has caused significant disruption to our Elizabeth line customers as well as all train operators out of London Paddington.
‘We worked to get customers off of stranded trains as quickly as possible and to provide any support needed.
‘Network Rail are continuing to urgently to repair the power lines and we’d encourage all customers to check before they travel while they do this.’
Paramedics and a hazardous response team from the London Ambulance Service were sent to the Paddington area last night.
A distressed mother said her daughter suffers with debilitating anxiety and had been on board her train for three hours. She vented her frustration at TfL for failing to update her.
‘She [my daughter] suffers with debilitating anxiety and has poor comprehension, not to mention bladder issues meaning she needs the loo and is freezing cold,’ she told MailOnline.
‘She won’t ask for help. No information is being given. TfL keep cutting me off at the point of answering and all I want is information that I can simplify for her.’
One passenger boarded a train at Acton Main Line at 6.41pm which stopped within five minutes and was still waiting to be rescued more than two hours later.
Another passenger dramatically described it as ‘like the Fall of Saigon’ and the Elizabeth line ‘has failed again just when passengers needed it most’.
Dr Bamo Nouri was one of those stuck and said the line had ‘almost completely blacked out’.
Dr Nouri wrote on X: ‘Elizabeth line has almost completely blacked out with a fully loaded set of carriages and many standing. No real or substantial updates, no sense of urgency – been sat for almost an hour!’
Another frustrated commuter said: ‘The Elizabeth Line has failed again just when passengers needed it most. At Paddington there were old folk, people with babies with absolutely no way of getting home.
‘It was like the Fall of Saigon, except in that case some lucky people actually managed to get on the helicopter.’
One eyewitness claimed on X a train ahead had hit some overhead lines, while another said a train driver had to shout at passengers trying to get off the train.
A video showed passengers sitting in a blacked out carriage of the 6.37pm Paddington service with their faces being lit up by the glow from their mobile phones.
Danny Cowan, a voiceover artist who has appeared on Channel 4 and Netflix, was making his way to his agent’s Christmas party when the train came to sudden halt more than an hour ago.
He wrote on X the heating had gone off and he was so cold he could barely think.
He said: ‘Hey any fear you might get this FREEZING COLD (no heating) Elizabeth Line train moving that’s been stuck outside Acton for over an hour now?
‘The driver has already had to shout at passengers who are trying to get off. Some information would be nice.’
Emma Bentley said she was stuck between Paddington and Acton, adding: ‘The carriages have now lost power, and it seems we may be walking home…’
Another stranded passenger was having his patience tested and wrote: ‘We have no power, so can’t move! I need a pee – mind over matter!’
A London Ambulance Service spokesman told MailOnline: ‘We were called at 7.38pm yesterday to reports of a large number of passengers delayed on trains between Paddington and Ladbroke Grove, west London.
‘We sent a number of resources to the scene including an ambulance crew, a paramedic in a fast response car, an incident response officer and members of our Hazardous Area Response Team.
‘We treated two patients for minor injuries and discharged them at the scene.’
Some passengers pointed out that they had also been hit with a overcharge fare of £8.80 from TfL because they had exceeded its ‘maximum journey time’ while stuck on the train.
One posted a picture of the overpayment on X, saying: ‘TfL can you refund me for my AWFUL journey yesterday? #TfL #ElizabethLine.’
Another X user added: Imagine the Elizabeth Line holding you hostage for over 3 hours… for TfL to still take £13 out of your account at 3am.’
Passengers are normally able to claim a refund for a mistaken overpayment charge by using their online TfL account or calling the customer services hotline.
But others vowed to never use Elizabeth line services again – and further people insisted they would never sit down after passengers were said to have urinated on seats.
Passengers left in the dark on board a train last night as one huddles over their suitcase
An overhead power failure to to damage wires has left people stranded on packed carriages on the Elizabeth Line tonight
One said: ‘So going forward, for those of you who frequently use the Elizabeth line, how do you know you’re not sitting in a wee wee seat?’
Another replied: ‘I am never sitting again or going near the front or back corners Imma just hover in doorways and p**s everyone off from being in the way but at least I’m know I’m cleanest.’
A further X user said: ‘All of a sudden after reading what happened last night, I no longer wish to use the Elizabeth Line the next time I’m in London. Even if it does get me from Liverpool Street to Paddington a lot quicker.’
It comes after MailOnline reported yesterday that the Elizabeth line had suffered the biggest drop in reliability of all UK rail operators – cementing its place as one of Britain’s worst train services.
The Crossrail network in London had a cancellation score of 5.2 per cent for July to September, according to new data from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) regulator.
Some 91,122 Elizabeth line trains were planned to operate through the capital over this period, meaning 4,740 would have failed to run either completely or in part.
This score fell 3.3 percentage points on the same period last year – by far the biggest drop, ahead of Northern slipping 1.5 points and Great Western Railway 0.8 points.
The Elizabeth line’s score was the fourth worst of any operator – behind Northern at 5.6 per cent, Grand Central at 6.7 per cent and CrossCounty at 7.5 per cent.
However, the ORR did point out that the data should be considered in the context of an increase in services on the Elizabeth line compared to the same time last year.
The score represents the number of trains that are cancelled as a percentage of services planned, including trains missing stations or not reaching their destination.
MailOnline also revealed in October how major reliability issues were continuing to plague the Elizabeth line which opened only 19 months ago.
Passengers have been complaining for months about the regularly poor service, with some stuck on trains in tunnels and others stranded on packed station platforms.
Following this website’s investigation, Mayor Sadiq Khan apologised for the problems and admitted the service was ‘not good enough’.
Earlier yesterday, there were also separate problems – with no service between Heathrow terminals and Hayes and Harlington this morning while Network Rail fixed a track fault in the area of the airport.
One commuter tweeted TfL yesterday morning to say: ‘Elizabeth line all eastbound delayed then cancelled, frozen to death waiting on platform.’
Office of Rail and Road data on the cancellations score by operator from July to September 2023 and the percentage point (pp) change compared with the same period last year
Another said: ‘Another week another delay on the Elizabeth line, thanks TfL.’ He added: ‘When will you sort this out properly? People’s lives are not a joke. Do you know we have to get to work?’
A third tweeted that ‘travelling feels like a constant slap in the face’, adding: ‘Station staff say they often also don’t have any idea about delays so can’t answer questions.’
As the ORR released the data yesterday, it also said the statistics on a national level show ‘Britain’s railway is still not delivering consistently punctual and reliable journeys’.
It said that the overall level of cancellations remains high, at 3.5 per cent of passenger services in the latest quarter – although this was a marginal fall of 0.6 percentage points compared with the same time last year.
Meanwhile 69.2 per cent of passenger trains were on time, up 1.5 percentage points on the same quarter last year.
The ORR said that Network Rail was showing overall improvement between June and October this year, but ‘there is much more still to do to ensure consistent delivery of train services for passengers and freight across the country’.
The regulator urged Network Rail to ‘continue to focus on performance of the infrastructure’, but added: ‘Network Rail cannot deliver better journeys alone; train operators also have a role to play.
‘For example, more than half of cancelled trains are train operator related. The regulator particularly wants to see Network Rail leading the whole industry in improving the processes that underpin punctuality and reliability, including making widespread use of innovative projects that the company and industry partners have developed with public funding to improve timetabling.’
The ORR added that it has ‘concerns about performance in the Wales and Western region’ and has recently begun an investigation into this.
Commuters pack Bond Street station’s platform during Elizabeth line disruption on October 9
Rail passengers wait for updates at Canary Wharf Elizabeth line station on October 12
Feras Alshaker, director of planning and performance at the ORR, said yesterday: ‘As the independent regulator, the data we are publishing today bears out the reality that passengers in some areas are still experiencing trains not consistently arriving on time, and high levels of cancellations.
‘However, we are beginning to see signs of improvement in Network Rail’s contribution. While these improvements are promising, they aren’t consistent, and as our analysis shows, the company can do much more to ensure that Britain’s railway provides a reliable and punctual service for all its users.
‘We recognise that ensuring trains run as planned and to time requires cross-industry collaboration. Network Rail can play an essential part in bringing the rail industry together to build on recent performance improvements and we will work with government to strengthen these relationships.’
Concerns over the Elizabeth line have intensified in recent months with MailOnline revealing disruption was reported every day between Monday and Friday on one week in October.
These included three broken down trains at Paddington, a track fault in the central section, a signal failure at Tottenham Court Road and a track inspection in the west.
Amid mounting calls for an investigation, Mr Khan revealed TfL commissioner Andrew Lord had ‘taken personal charge’ of improving the service.
The Mayor also admitted that the line was ‘not perfect’, adding: ‘The commissioner himself apologised for the service commuters received and I echo that apology.’
It comes after opposition politicians told Mr Khan to ‘dig down into the source of this disruption’ and be ‘pushing’ TfL to urgently deliver infrastructure improvements.
Passengers on the Elizabeth line face disruption at Hayes and Harlington station on October 1
Huge queues at Woolwich station amid Elizabeth line disruption in London on September 11
The line was meant to provide a fast route between Heathrow and Reading in the west and Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east through 26 miles of new tunnels.
But disruption is now an almost daily occurrence, with excuses for delays ranging from track faults to broken trains and signalling issues to overhead cable problems.
Mr Khan told MyLondon in October: ‘We raised this at the last TfL board meeting last week and the commissioner himself has taken personal charge of this.
‘The good news is this is a train line that’s the most popular train line in the country. More than 3.5 million journeys a week. But it’s not perfect.’
He added that bosses were speaking to Network Rail about improvements to issues west of Paddington and east of Liverpool Street because ‘those lines aren’t TfL lines – they’re Network Rail lines.’
Asked if the service will be improved, Mr Khan added: ‘No complacency, but Londoners, and those across the country who use the Elizabeth line, are receiving the best service in the country when it comes to the quality of service.
‘But it’s not good enough – and that’s one of the reasons why I’m really pleased the TfL commissioner himself is looking into this… seeing what more that can be done to regularise the service.’
Elizabeth line director Howard Smith told MailOnline in October that bosses ‘sincerely apologise for the disruption’ and understood that delays had been ‘frustrating’ for customers.
He added that TfL had been ‘urgently reviewing recent incidents’ and was working with Network Rail and Alstom, which maintains the trains, to improve the service.
Passengers are packed onto an Elizabeth line train through London at 8pm on September 25
Passengers wait outside the ticket gates at Woolwich Elizabeth line station on October 16
Mr Khan’s apology came after mounting fury about the state of the line, both from passengers and politicians.
Labour MP Rupa Huq said she still used the London Underground to commute from Ealing instead of the Elizabeth line because she has ‘all too often been disappointed’ by delays on the new line.
Ms Huq, who represents Ealing Central and Acton in West London, told MailOnline in October: ‘When it works it’s great, but I have to say I’ve stuck to good old London Underground for my daily commute as I’ve all too often been disappointed by Elizabeth line delays which constituents continually email me about.
‘Most annoying is the fact that trains tend to skip Acton Main Line which seems to be a forgotten station despite its refit, and the other day my staffer was late to work in Ealing Broadway as all trains were terminating at Paddington.
‘I’m not sure if this is teething troubles as when I’ve raised it with them, TfL have said to bear with them, improvements are on the way – but they can’t come soon enough.’
Transport watchdog London TravelWatch has called for a meeting with senior TfL operations staff to discuss what can be done to improve services.
A spokesman said: ‘Passengers quite rightly expect a punctual and reliable service but there have been some really challenging incidents recently.
‘We’re seeking assurances from TfL that there are robust plans in place to address the issues at hand – including faulty train doors, signalling and disruptive emergency engineering work.’
In October some passengers claimed they were stuck for 40 minutes underground due to broken train doors , while others ended up being more than an hour late into the office due to emergency engineering works that had to be carried out due to the track problem.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan embraces Transport for London Commissioner Andy Byford as they travel on the first eastbound train on the Elizabeth Line from Paddington on May 24, 2022
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan poses for a selfie on the first Elizabeth line train on May 24, 2022
That compounded the misery at the end of a week littered with delays – leaving some commuters calling for a major investigation into what is going wrong.
Before it even launched in May last year, the Crossrail project suffered numerous issues including construction difficulties and complications installing signalling systems which delayed the opening multiple times.
This was much to the frustration of many homeowners buying properties along the route during the construction period in the hope of having an easier commute.
In 2007, the line was given an opening date of December 2017, and set a budget of £14.8billion in 2010.
But the estimated final cost was £18.9billion, including £5.1billion from the Government – making it more than £4billion over budget.
In 2010, the opening was pushed back by a year to take place in December 2018 – but just four months before this date, in August 2018, it was announced that the line would in fact not open on time.
Four years later the Elizabeth line did eventually open in May 2022 – but only in three sections, with services on the new part from Paddington to Abbey Wood.
Existing services from Reading and Heathrow to Paddington, and from Shenfield to Liverpool Street, were also rebranded from ‘TfL Rail’ to the ‘Elizabeth line’ at this point.
The grand opening was long awaited, and its first service from Paddington saw international rail enthusiasts travelling to the capital and queueing for more than six hours to get on board – with Mr Khan pictured hugging TfL officials in delight.
However the first day was also blighted by a fire alarm being activated which saw Paddington evacuated. The disruption was clearly a sign of things to come.
The line initially opened in three sections – from Reading/Heathrow to Paddington, Liverpool Street to Shenfield and the new Paddington to Abbey Wood part.
Then in November last year, the second stage began which saw through trains start running from Reading and Heathrow to Abbey Wood; and Shenfield to Paddington.
The final stage from May this year saw services start running from Shenfield to Heathrow, as well as the existing Reading and Heathrow to Abbey Wood offering.
But MailOnline revealed in March that there would no direct trains from Shenfield to Reading, despite TfL previously heralding the line as a ‘new east-west railway’ – with trains from Shenfield instead forking off after Hayes and Harlington to terminate at Heathrow.
It also emerged that at Acton Main Line and Hanwell, there would be almost no direct services to Shenfield or Reading – with these West London stations only served by trains between Abbey Wood and Heathrow every 15 minutes, as they previously were before the change.
Days before the timetable change on May 21 this year, there was major disruption on May 16 that saw rush-hour passengers trapped on a service for 75 minutes.
The delay was so long that one passenger allegedly had to urinate on the carriage floor because there are no toilets on board the trains.
Since May 21, the line has been affected by further reliability issues and ongoing rail strikes.
Network Rail has apologised for the poor service, particularly out of Paddington, amid mounting fury.
Major issues occurred on July 25 when the western section of the route was hit by a major Network Rail signalling system outage.
People queue for the Elizabeth line at Paddington station before the first train on May 24, 2022
The first passengers for the Elizabeth line at Paddington go down an escalator on May 24, 2022
This severely impacted services for two days and meant trains were not able to easily get to and from the Old Oak Common depot, located in Acton near the proposed HS2 station.
Another major problem occurred on August 16 when a maintenance train leaked hydraulic fluid within the central tunnel section of the line.
This fluid had to be cleaned from more than 1.2 miles (2km) of track before TfL could safely run again services.
The line was part suspended from Abbey Wood to Whitechapel for most of that day, which severely limited the number of trains that could run.
In September, the ORR revealed Elizabeth line cancellations had hit 9.1 per cent in the four weeks to August 19 – the worst figure for any UK rail service over that period.
Going back to May 2022 when it started running, the Elizabeth line performed relatively well in its opening months, with a cancellation rate of 2.5 per cent or below for the first five months.
But it then had a poor four weeks up to December 10 last year when the rate hit 3.9 per cent – and for the four weeks ending March 31 this year, the rate hit 4.3 per cent.
The regular disruption has incensed commuters, with many taking to social media to voice their frustration at how the line seems to be disrupted almost every day.
In October, TfL warned that ‘significant challenges’ will continue on the line’s 41-station network until new rail infrastructure is installed – with work on new overhead power lines not expected to start until next year at the earliest.
Prince William and Kate travelled on the Elizabeth line from Acton Main Line on May 4
Network Rail has spoken to industry experts and component manufacturers to work out what is going wrong as it tries to improve signalling equipment and operations.
They are particularly concerned about issues in the western section of the line – part of which was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and constructed in the 1830s.
Officials are hoping to modernise overhead power cables between Paddington and Heathrow Airport, with work set to take place between 2024 and 2029.
However, this still requires final funding approval from the ORR.
And, if it goes ahead, it will likely result in major closures due to the engineering works required to upgrade the system.
But the line has been a big success for TfL in terms of usage, with it having carried more than 200 million passengers since launching in May 2022.
The busiest day on the Elizabeth line since opening was earlier this week – Wednesday, December 6 – with more than 769,000 journeys.
More than 150million passenger journeys were made in its first year, with 56 per cent of these at the peak times of 7am to 10am and 4pm to 7pm on weekdays.
TfL claimed in July that the Elizabeth line was responsible for 140,000 ‘new’ journeys in London each day, and said more than a third of those who have switched from the Underground preferring it over the Central line.
Bosses also insist that the Elizabeth line regularly has one of the highest customer satisfaction scores of all the TfL modes of transport.
The line runs from Heathrow and Reading in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east
And the organisation points out that the Elizabeth line was second best for punctuality nationally out of 24 UK rail operators in the latest period with 82.8 per cent of trains listed as ‘on time’ by ORR metrics.
But in October, the Evening Standard reported on a TfL customer service and operational performance panel meeting at which it was discussed how ‘significant challenges’ are expected on the line until new rail infrastructure is installed.
Elizabeth line director Mr Smith said at the time that renewing this ‘won’t be a quick fix’ and that work will continue ‘next year and the year beyond’.
Sophie Bancroft, operations director of Network Rail’s western routes, added: ‘It’s not a quick fix [but] it’s not going to be terrible for years.’
Rail commuters across Britain have also endured months of misery thanks to regular train strikes – while those in London faced a 5.9 per cent average rise in transport fares in March.
Tube and bus fares are also expected to rise by around 4 per cent next year.
A TfL report in October pointed out that the ‘reliability of the trains has been below target’, although it said this has improved in recent weeks following software upgrades, despite still being below target.
In addition, the report claimed the biggest ongoing issues are likely to be in the western section between Paddington and Reading and Heathrow.
It said: ‘The most significant challenges are likely to remain with Network Rail’s Western infrastructure, despite all the work undertaken by Network Rail colleagues as the underlying infrastructure is not in a satisfactory state and a programme of renewals is planned.’
But the report also said demand was surging, with some stations that existed before being connected to the Elizabeth line now seeing double the number of passengers compared to pre-pandemic levels after connectivity improved.
It cited entries and exits at West Ealing in West London which have increased from 22,000 in 2019 to 45,000 in October.
While the Elizabeth line a TfL-branded service, the network is technically operated by a company called MTR Elizabeth line (MTREL), which is a 100 per cent subsidiary of a company based in Hong Kong called MTR (Mass Transit Railway) Corporation.
Despite the line’s issues, the firm won rail operator of the year at the UK National Transport Awards in London on October 5.
A TfL spokesman told MailOnline yesterday: ‘The Elizabeth line has been one of the most popular and punctual railways in the country since opening.
‘There are around 4.3 million passenger journeys now taking place each week and there have been more than 270 million journeys since it was opened, but we sincerely apologise for the disruption that has affected some Elizabeth line services in recent months and we recognise that delays and cancellations are frustrating for our customers.
‘From July to August 2023, the Elizabeth line had the second best punctuality in the country, and although cancellations are higher than we would like and higher than the same period in 2022, we increased services in both November 2022 and May 2023, providing extra, more direct services for our customers.
‘We are working with Network Rail and Alstom, which maintains the trains, to minimise the impact that faults have on the Elizabeth line.
‘Recent signalling and infrastructure issues on Network Rail track in the west has had a significant impact on reliability, as have other issues such as trespassers on the line.
‘We will continue to do all we can to drive down delays so we can provide our customers a safe and reliable railway.’
** Were YOU stuck on an Elizabeth line train? Do you work for TfL and Network Rail and know what’s going wrong? Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org **