Calls for standards review after travel chaos caused by Hitachi train cracks

Hitachi Class 800 train.
182 Hitachi trains were withdrawn from service due to cracks

The rail regulator has called for industry standards to be reviewed after 'fatigue and corrosion' led to high-speed Hitachi trains being withdrawn from service last year.

Great Western Railway was one operator affected by the damage which lead to a week of delays and cancellations for travellers across the South West.

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) said the damage was partly due to the trains being corroded by salt in the air.

Recommendations issued by the regulator include the rail industry collaborating to evaluate whether standards for train design, manufacture and maintenance take into account pressures created by train movement on Britain’s railways.

It urged Hitachi to conduct a formal review of its welding processes, and for train designers to consider what steps should be taken to ensure protection of structures when 7000 series aluminium components are used, as they were in building Class 800 trains.

The report also called on the industry to develop a process for responding to similar “crisis events” in the future.

Hitachi Rail and its industry partners are about to start the major programme of repair work

Hitachi and its partners are preparing to launch a major programme of work to repair 1,247 Class 800 trains, and 487 of its Class 385 and 395 trains.

This is expected to take place over the next six years to minimise the number of trains taken out of service at any one time.

Ian Prosser, ORR's chief inspector of railways, said Hitachi Rail and other operators had put in place "robust plans to make sure the right safety issues are being managed".

"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."

ORR will continue its oversight Credit: Office of Rail and Road

Hitachi Rail has proposed a plan to replace and modify affected parts to be completed over six years in order to minimise the number of trains out of service at one time.

In a statement, the company said: "All Hitachi trains meet relevant standards and that we took the appropriate action to prioritise safety and maintain train availability.

"The proposed engineering solutions outlined in the report are currently being reviewed by all partners.

"We are working together to finalise the plan for their implementation, while always prioritising safety and train availability to support consistent passenger services."