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Rail minister urges safety plan as IET disruption goes on

THE government is urging Hitachi to set out a ‘comprehensive safety inspection plan’, and a ‘longer-term repair strategy’ for the Intercity Express fleets withdrawn on Saturday morning, including its estimate of when the present crisis will be over.

Services on GWR and LNER are set to be disrupted for at least some days yet, while Hitachi continues to check around 1,000 individual IET coaches for hairline cracks which were reported to be affecting the chassis of some of the units.

These have been withdrawn for urgent repairs, but the cause of the problem is still being sought.

Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris is also involving the Office of Rail and Road and calling on the rail industry to provide a ‘rolling stock strategy to provide additional capacity, and a rail replacement schedule’, including sources of alternative rolling stock.

He has also asked if vehicles with the cracks can be run in service safely, and has called for an ‘urgent meeting’ with MPs to keep them fully updated on progress, with representatives from Hitachi and the train operators.

He said: ‘I have directed the rail industry to urgently set out a comprehensive plan to ensure services can safely resume as soon as possible.

‘I expect operators to explore all options for replacement services to help people complete their journeys, and have asked Hitachi for a safety inspection plan, as well as longer term repair strategy.

‘Our focus is to ensure trains are returned to service as quickly as possible, once they are fully approved as safe. Only then can we start to rebuild a reliable and punctual timetable for passengers.’

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