SOME class 800/801/802 long-distance bi-mode and electric trains operated by Great Western Railway (GWR), London North Eastern Railway (LNER), TransPennine Express (TPE), and Hull Trains were withdrawn from service as a precaution on May 8 following the discovery of cracks in the jack points underneath the coaches of some class 800 trains. 

The problem was identified at GWR’s Stoke Gifford depot, near Bristol, on the morning of May 8. Checks for cracks in the train’s yaw dampers, the area where the suspension system attaches to the vehicle body, resulted in the identification of cracks in the jacking point area on some coaches. 

Regular yaw damper inspections were prompted following the withdrawal of eight class 800s from service on April 28 after hairline cracks were discovered on two trains with suspected issues on another six. These withdrawals had no impact on services.

Hitachi, the manufacturer of the trains, said in a statement that it was working with all partners to resolve the latest issue as quickly and safely as possible. 

“Safety is our number one priority and as a precaution, the decision was taken to halt the entry into service of our inter-city fleets pending inspection,” Hitachi says. “Having been cleared for service, some trains are now operating again across the network. We are working as quickly and safely as possible to investigate the issue across the remainder of the fleets.”

The withdrawals caused widespread disruption with mass cancellations of services provided by all four operators, with each advising passengers not to travel. All trains stabled in depots did not enter service until checks had been completed. Trains that had already left depots returned so that checks could be carried out.

LNER and GWR initially warned of no services being possible on long-distance routes but some were able to operate as trains returned to service throughout the day. Hull Trains issued a statement at 12.21 stating that all of its class 802 sets had resumed operation following the completion of checks by Hitachi, but warned that its trains were likely to be extremely busy and that social distancing might not be possible.

Rail minister, Mr Chris Heaton-Harris, confirmed that the government has asked the industry to conduct a rapid and comprehensive review to resolve the issue.

“We understand the frustration caused and we would like to apologise for the inconvenience caused to passengers and operators,” Hitachi says.

GWR operates 57 class 800 sets, comprising 36 five-car sets, which typically run in multiple, and 21 nine-car trains, which were the first of the trains to enter service in October 2017. The operator also has 22 five-car and 14 nine-car class 802s. LNER operates 13 nine-car and 10 five-car class 800s as well as 30 nine-car class 801s and 12 five-car class 801s. TPE has 19 five-car class 802 while Hull Trains has five five-car 802s.