Track walk ‘set rail repair back 90 minutes’

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PASSENGERS who got off stopped trains heading to Hampshire from London added 90 minutes to delays by walking up the track, according to Network Rail.

Hundreds of people attempting to travel south from London Waterloo were stuck for up to four hours on Thursday evening.

Trains were stopped close to Woking from around 7pm to 11pm.

But some passengers broke out of the trains and attempted to walk back to Woking station while the power to the lines was still on.

Superintendent Andrew Ball, of the British Transport Police, said: ‘Officers spoke to a group of passengers, who had left a train and walked back to Woking along the tracks, about the dangers of going onto the line.

‘We fully understand the concerns and frustrations of passengers.

‘But our priority is the safety of passengers. Even when power may seem to be off, some parts of the tracks can remain electrified.’

Fifty South West Trains were affected by the long delays, which Network Rail said were caused by an attempted cable theft at Farnborough.

The resulting damage caused signal failure between the Hampshire station and Woking.

And an insider at the rail maintenance organisation told The News: ‘It was dangerous for the passengers to do this.

‘But it also set our repair works back. As soon as we saw what was happening, we had to turn the power off. It set our work back an hour and a half.’

Commuters from Portsmouth said they could understand what drove the passengers to try to return to the station.

Copywriter Steve Coe, who commutes to work from his home in Emsworth Road, North End, to London Bridge, said: ‘It’s a dangerous thing the passengers did and I don’t think they should have.

‘But sometimes South West Trains doesn’t let people know what’s happening when there are delays.

‘Maybe the passengers felt they had to get out.’

A South West Trains spokesman said: ‘We’re very sorry for the significant impact last night’s signal problems had on a large number of our passengers.

‘We would like to thank them for their patience during some extremely difficult circumstances. ‘We appreciate many passengers spent several hours on trains.’