Stranded Paddington commuter describes ‘wartime’ evacuation as ‘surreal’ after hundreds stuck for hours on trains in overhead cables fault

Friday 8 December 2023

A commuter caught in London’s train disruption has compared the “surreal” passenger evacuation to something that “felt like a wartime thing”.

Commuter Mikey Worrall was one of the hundreds of passengers stranded – including celebrities – on cold, dark trains in west London on Thursday evening after a fault with overhead cables forced all services to stop.

Damage to overhead cables hampered routes in and out of one of the city’s busiest stations, causing disruptions to National Rail, Elizabeth Line and Heathrow Express services while the London Paddington to Reading line remained closed.

Some passengers reported on social media being stuck for more than three hours while receiving no information from rail operators and others reported being unable to go to the toilet.

Mr Worrall described the experience to PA, 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.”

Paddington Station was empty Thursday morning as a commuters navigated the second day of the strikes

As to why the line broke down, Mr Worrall said: “Every day, it’s a different excuse.

“It seems to me they opened this whole thing without actually being fit for purpose. If they knew there were infrastructure issues that they needed to work on, why didn’t they work on those before? They opened the line and it doesn’t work.

“It (goes down) multiple times a week, and it’s incredibly frustrating.”

He added: “The mayor of London needs to sort it out.”

Singer James Blunt and TV presenter Rachel Riley were also affected by the rail 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!”

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.”