Travellers have been left “worried” and “anxious” after dozens of train services were cancelled due to the extreme heat.
Those trying to travel by rail faced chaos at stations on Wednesday morning after temperatures hit 40C on Tuesday, a new UK record, causing damage to overhead wires, tracks and signalling systems.
All lines between Lancaster and Carlisle and lines in the Birmingham New Street area are not expected to reopen until Wednesday afternoon due to severe damage to overhead cables.
Many trains between London Euston and Scotland were cancelled, while no trains were running north of Birmingham to Wolverhampton.
Lee Ball was trying to travel with his wife, Libby, and 10-year-old daughter, Amelie, from their home in Droitwich, Worcestershire, to London Euston as part of a journey to Brussels for an Ed Sheeran concert.
The 46-year-old said their train from Droitwich to Birmingham New Street was cancelled with less than 30 minutes’ notice so they drove to Birmingham International, where they have been left waiting for hours.
He said: “I’ve been up since 4.30am, anxious, trying to get an answer from anywhere we can. I was monitoring trains this morning from Birmingham New Street to London Euston and one was literally cancelled with five minutes’ notice.”
He added that communication from the train companies has been “appalling”.
“It’s massive, massive anxiety,” he said. “Not being able to sleep, 4am this morning, fretting, seeing if there had been any updates.”
Nicole Dixon, 26, has missed her uncle’s funeral in Carlisle after any available trains from Euston were cancelled.
“I’m incredibly annoyed, frustrated and a bit exhausted,” the private PA said.
“I was told that there was an unlikely chance of getting a train out (yesterday) but that (today) they would 100% be running. I explained to (staff) that I needed to be home for a funeral in the morning.
“I’ve felt really annoyed this morning as I was assured I’d be able to make it to the funeral.”
Ms Dixon added that she hopes to make the wake, but will have missed the service.
⚠️ Severe disruption expected on the East Coast Main Line on Wednesday 20 July
🔥 A fire which spread to the railway in Sandy has impacted on our repair and inspection work
📅 Please check before travelling via @nationalrailenq
— London King's Cross (@NetworkRailKGX) July 19, 2022
Laura Horn, a lecturer at Roskilde University in Denmark, was travelling from Copenhagen to a conference in Limerick in western Ireland but was left stuck at London Euston.
She said: “Station hall packed with people staring at the display, so many cancelled connections. Lots of worried and tired faces; I thought it was striking that so many seemed worried rather than annoyed.
“I think people are finally realising that, with the climate emergency we’re in, we’ll see much more of this in the next years. Staff at the station were really helpful and friendly.”
Alex Davies, a charity worker from Crewe, said he was “physically and mentally exhausted” from trying to organise his journey home from Portsmouth via London Euston.
The 28-year-old said: “I’m autistic and need a lot of help from my wife, but she couldn’t get the time off work to travel with me so the whole saga has been extremely difficult for me. I need to know plans in advance, struggle to adapt to changes, struggle with communication etc.”
Mr Davies was meant to travel on Tuesday evening but held off in the hope that the disruption would have subsided by Wednesday.
He added: “Through extra taxis, meals and hotels I’m at around £250 loss and still don’t have a guarantee that I’ll be home today. Still very anxious and tired as, until I can get to Euston, there is not really any support.”
National Rail has told customers to check before setting off on their journeys and to only travel if absolutely necessary.
It said on its website: “A huge amount of work has been completed overnight to fix problems with the track and overhead wires caused by the heat yesterday.
“Network Rail teams are continuing to work tirelessly to make the repairs so we can get services back up and running for passengers but there is still disruption to services throughout the day. So, for anyone travelling today, please take time to check before you travel.”
More than two dozen services departing from London King’s Cross and Euston were cancelled or delayed.
The East Coast Main Line, the main rail artery connecting London and Edinburgh via Peterborough, Doncaster, York, Darlington, Durham and Newcastle, was damaged on Tuesday after a fire spread on to the track near Sandy in Bedfordshire.
The route between London King’s Cross and Peterborough was closed until the early afternoon, with a reduced service running later in the day.
Avanti West Coast said services from London Euston were cancelled due to ongoing repair work following damage caused by fires in the Hatch End area of north-west London on Tuesday.
A spokesman said: “Train services are severely disrupted across our network as a result of damage to the overhead wires at multiple locations due to yesterday’s extreme heat. Network Rail is still at the sites carrying out repairs.
“Customers should make sure they check their journey before leaving for the station, and train tickets for yesterday and today will be valid for travel tomorrow. We’re sorry for the inconvenience this will cause.”
📢 Check before you travel on the West Coast Main Line today – there are no direct trains between London and Scotland.
Journeys will take much longer than usual while we continue repairs caused by the #heatwave:
— Network Rail (@networkrail) July 20, 2022
Network Rail said passenger numbers on Tuesday were around 40% lower than the same day last week.
Overhead electric wires were down in Rugby, Birmingham and Carlisle, leading to a number of trains being trapped and emergency evacuations of passengers.
Network Rail Wales apologised for having to close the Cambrian Line between Dovey Junction and Aberystwyth “due to extreme heat”.