RAIL manufacturer Hitachi will have to repairs hundreds of its trains over the next six years after an investigation into a cracking issue that led to mass rail cancellations last year.
Hitachi Class 800 trains used by GWR in the South West were withdrawn from service last May as a “precautionary measure” after safety checks found cracks in part of the chassis.
This led to a week of delays and cancellations for travellers on services between London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads, Penzance and Cheltenham Spa.
Now an investigation by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has pointed to several factors that could have caused the issue, with the regulator making a number of recommendations that aim to rectify the problem that caused severe disruption to passengers.
In the report, it was noted that cracking resulted from ‘trains experiencing greater loads from train movement than allowed for in the original design’, which could have been due to ‘wheel wear and track design’.
Cracks were also found to be caused by the use of a particular type of aluminium which was susceptible to corrosion by salt in the air.
However the investigators also said it was not ‘known for certain’ why the cracking happened.
Consequently Hitachi, along with the wider rail industry, have been asked to further investigate fatigue levels on rail rolling stock, while Hitachi has committed to a repair programme for 1,247 Class 800 series vehicles, plus nearly 500 other trains, to be completed over a period of six years.
ORR’s HM Chief Inspector of Railways Ian Prosser said: “With our oversight, Hitachi Rail and operators have put in place robust plans to make sure the right safety issues are being managed following the initial discovery of cracks on the trains, which have allowed trains to re-enter service.
“Safety remains the number one priority. Our review provides a clearer picture of the issue and we will continue our oversight to ensure work moves forward to agree the permanent solution and our recommendations are acted on.
“It is important that the whole industry works together to learn lessons from what has happened and our recommendations will help with that.”