Hundreds of rail passengers were stranded on Thursday after a power cable broke and fell onto their train, leaving them trapped inside.
The 18.30 service from London Paddington to Cardiff stopped minutes into its journey after the overhead cable supplying power to the electric train broke and wrapped itself around a carriage.
There were more than 900 passengers on the train.
By midnight most of the passengers from the 18.30 train had been able to restart their journeys in taxis paid for by GWR. A total of 900 cabs had to be sent for the passengers onboard.
Engineers had managed to remove the cable by 9.30pm, but the train was unable to move because passengers on other trains stuck behind it forced open doors and jumped down onto the tracks.
British Transport Police were trying to locate the passengers who self-evacuated before any trains could move on the London to Bristol main line.
Celebrities including musician James Blunt and TV presenter Rachel Riley were also affected by the disruption.
Blunt posted on X: “Been stuck somewhere outside Paddington for close to 4 hours now. Out of peanuts and wine”, while Riley wrote: “Nearly 4 hours after we got on, we’re getting off the Elizabeth line, woohoo!”
Nearly 4 hours after we got on, we’re getting off the Elizabeth line, woohoo! pic.twitter.com/SiuJjKTSze
— Rachel Riley MBE 💙 (@RachelRileyRR) December 7, 2023
‘It felt like wartime’
A commuter caught in the train debacle compared the “surreal” passenger evacuation to something that “felt like a wartime thing”.
Commuter Mikey Worrall was one of the hundreds of people stranded on dark and cold trains on Thursday night.
Mr Worrall described the experience to the PA news agency, calling it “the most surreal evening” of his life.
He described the train as lurching to a stop and then a long, multiple-hour wait in semi-darkness as the driver drip-fed what little information they had through to passengers.
Eventually, the battery backup running the train’s heating and light services ran out, and passengers were left in darkness for another hour and a half until the evacuation came.
Mr Worrall said: “We saw a couple of workers come past, and they were trying to keep everyone calm. Suddenly, we saw a stream of people coming down the track, and at that point, it was clear that we would be getting off.
“It was really eerie walking down the railway line in amongst this big crowd of people. It felt like a wartime thing.”
Welcome to the Elizabeth Line. Departed Paddington 1837. Stuck on the line just outside since. Power off so no light, no heat, no announcements. People opening the doors onto the line. @TfL pic.twitter.com/kRj1HGSgZX
— Mikey Worrall (@mikeyworrall1) December 7, 2023
Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines, who is among the passengers on the 18.30 service, took charge of updating the frustrated travellers, telling them not to attempt to force their way off the train.
Police boarded the train, where passengers were initially told they would be evacuated onto the tracks one carriage at a time.
Mr Haines then explained that with so many people on board, it would be safer to find a way of getting the train back to Paddington and trying to find another train they could board, subject to finding available crew when train drivers are on strike.
Passengers on the 18.30 heard the broken cable scraping along the roof of the train seconds before it came to a halt.
Dozens of passengers have been standing throughout the ordeal, as the train was packed because of cancellations caused by the strike.
Four trains on the Elizabeth Line were reported to be stuck following the power outage, leaving commuters stranded in overcrowded carriages.
Pictures shared on Twitter showed passengers standing on the crowded trains, which had been stuck there for an hour.
Paolo Aversa, in a tweet, said: “For those stuck on the #TFL #elizabethline or worried for those there. We were told the trains stuck are 4. They’re evacuating the first train and progress in sequence. We’re on the 2nd and 1h after the 1st evacuation started we are not evacuating yet. Good luck everyone.”
Dr Bamo Nour, who was among the stranded commuters, said the line was “almost completely dead.”
He added: “No real or substantial updates, no sense of urgency – I’ve been sitting still for almost an hour!”
Earlier, a Network Rail spokesperson said the overhead cables affected were in the Ladbroke Grove area.
The spokesperson said: “We’ve had to stop all services while our engineers work as fast as they can to fix the issue. Our teams are also working with train operators to assist people on the trains affected.
“We’d urge people onboard to follow all the advice from staff while this incident is ongoing.
“Anyone planning travel tonight should check National Rail Enquiries for the latest on the disruption.”
A TfL spokesperson said: “We’re sorry that the damage caused to Network Rail’s overhead power lines by another rail operator’s train has caused significant disruption to our Elizabeth line customers as well as all train operators out of London Paddington.
“We’re working together with response teams across partners to recover trains and get everyone home as quickly as we can.
“Network Rail are working urgently to repair the power lines and we’d encourage all customers to check before they travel over the next few days while they do this.”