Cracks crisis as Hitachi withdraws IET fleet en masse

Technical details


Hitachi withdrew the entire Class 800, 801 and 802 fleets operated by Great Western Railway, Hull Trains, LNER and TransPennine Express overnight on 7/8 May after severe cracks were discovered in jacking points.

In a further development, inspections of ScotRail’s Class 385 EMUs also found cracks in the same component, leading to withdrawal of a small number of that fleet too. And to add to operators’ concerns, cracks in yaw damper mountings on some of GWR’s fleet had also been found prior to the discovery of the jacking point issues.

The decision was taken based on the risk of the aluminium component falling off trains at speed and causing injury to bystanders, damage to buildings or derailment. All operators were forced to suspend services using the trains, with very few long-distance services running for GWR and LNER, and TPE forced to amend its timetable. The Hull Trains units resumed operation on 8 May, but at the time of writing a reduced LNER service was in operation with no services north of Edinburgh, while GWR was operating a skeleton service on long-distance routes, supported by extra CrossCountry services between Swindon and Bristol.

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris requested a comprehensive plan from Hitachi to identify the extend of the cracking and whether trains can still run safely with cracks. A comprehensive inspection regime has also been ordered, and this will be overseen by the Office of Rail and Road.

Mr Heaton-Harris said he had asked the rail industry to plan to manage capacity by moving rolling stock and proposing where alternative trains can be sourced: a set of former East Midlands Railway Mk 3 coaches was moved from Crewe to Plymouth Laira on May 10, although at the time of writing it’s planned usage is unclear. LNER, meanwhile, reinstated stored Class 91s and Mk 4 coaches into traffic.

The government also called for a rail replacement schedule including additional bus and coach services to ease disruption.

No cause has yet been identified by Hitachi, nor any fix proved.