Rail passengers are facing significant disruption after cracks have been found on high-speed trains.
Services on Great Western Railway and London North Eastern Railway services have been suspended.
Urgent inspections are being carried out across the two operators’ fleets, after hairline cracks were discovered in several of its high-speed trains.
Hull Trains is also experiencing “major disruption”. National Rail Enquiries said on Twitter that some trains from these three companies, as well as TransPennine Express (TPE) had been taken out of service for safety checks, adding: “Once trains have been checked, they will be released back into service as soon as possible.”
A GWR spokesperson said its long-distance services and those of Hull Trains, LNER and TPE could be affected by cancellations on Sunday too.
When asked how long the disruption would last, the spokesperson said: “It’s a question of how quickly the trains can be inspected – it’s highly likely that it will certainly persist through to the end of today.
“Once more inspection has been carried out we’ll have a better understanding as to whether that disruption is going to continue into tomorrow.”
Roger Ford, the industry and technology editor at Modern Railways, told the Today programme, however, that significant disruption was to be expected for a while, as the trainmaker Hitachi had more than 4,000 brackets on about 1,000 vehicles to inspect.
“It’s going to take a long time to check them. And repairs will be very difficult,” he said, adding that the entire GWR Intercity LNER fleets would be out of service while the inspections were ongoing.
“There will be disruption for quite a time,” he said.
A spokesperson for GWR said the cracks were found in two of its Hitachi 800 trains during routine maintenance, and that all trains of this model now had to be inspected.
He added that LNER, which operates the east coast mainline, was facing similar problems.
Customers are advised not to travel on Saturday as all high-speed GWR services between London, Bristol, Cardiff and Penzance have been cancelled.
LNER is also advising its customers not to attempt to travel.
A GWR statement said: “Due to some of our Intercity Express Trains being withdrawn from service for precautionary checks, there will be network wide disruption to services today. Please check before you travel.”
LNER said: “We are experiencing significant disruption. Please do not travel today. Your tickets will be valid up to and including Sunday 16 May 2021 (a new reservation must be made).
“If you choose not to travel at all, you can claim a refund from your point of purchase.”
TPE said its Nova 1 trains had been affected by the issue and were being checked.
A TPE spokesman said: “This problem is being investigated by the train manufacturer and once trains have been checked, we hope to be able to release them back into service as soon as possible.
“This will affect a significant number of services on our Newcastle to Liverpool route and we are advising customers not to travel on this route today.”
Hitachi Rail apologised for the disruption. A spokesman said: “We are working with all partners to resolve this issue as quickly and safely as possible.
“We would like to offer our sincerest apologies to passengers for the impact this may be causing for their travel plans.”
In April, a crack of “substantial depth” was found during an inspection on a carriage of one of GWR’s new Intercity trains of the Hitachi 800 model.
According to a Railway Gazette report, further cracks were found in equipment designed to prevent the train from swaying in eight out of 93 trains in the fleet.
Ford said it looked like a case of metal fatigue affecting a bracket device that helps stabilise the train, a problem that was first noticed in April.
“They discovered in April hairline cracks on some trains […] sort of 15mm deep, and they’ve taken them out of service for repair. But it now looks as though there is more concern about this than we thought at the time,” he said.
“It’s not a major safety issue but obviously metal fatigue gets worse, the cracks get deeper and the bracket could fracture, but in my judgment that would be a fair way away.”
Ford added that this was not a problem solely affecting Hitachi trains.
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: “RMT is fully aware of the issues that have led to the cancellation of services on LNER today and that similar problems with cracks appearing in the fleet on Great Western are also emerging.
“Hitachi needs to ensure the highest safety standards and properly investigate and rectify the issues.”