South West Trains Says Sorry For Huge Delays

South West Trains have apologised after passengers were stuck on trains back to Hampshire for up to 6 hours on the evening of Thursday June the 9th.

The delays are being blamed on signalling problems caused by vandals - 60 trains from Waterloo were affected - some people have told Heart they didn't get home until 2am.

Others have claimed they were threatened with arrest when they got off trains and tried to escape.

A heavily pregnant woman caught up in the horrendous delays to rail services has spoken of her fear that she might be stranded on a train all night.

Emma Firth, 35, was trying to get home to Farnham in Surrey from London when services ground to a halt after signalling equipment was vandalised.

She boarded a South West Trains service at Clapham Junction at 6.30pm and did not get home until 11.30pm, four hours later than she expected.

Scores of trains ground to a halt during the evening, some without power, stranding thousands of passengers for hours.

Ms Firth, who is eight months pregnant with her first child, said her train was making slow progress and eventually came to a complete stop close to Woking station in Surrey, with the guard announcing that there were signalling problems.

For the next two and three-quarter hours the train remained stationary, with the guard saying he did not have any information about how long the problem would last.

''It was starting to look as though we would be on the train all night. There was no food or drink available and I hadn't eaten for hours,'' she told the Press Association.

''We gathered that the power had been turned off at 9.30pm and that lots of people had been walking along the track, so I thought I may as well give it a go.

''A door had been opened, so someone gave me a piggyback off the train onto the tracks and a few of us started walking. I could see the station about half a mile away and there was a walkway near the tracks.

''We saw a Network Rail employee who was very helpful, shining his torch to help us, and we were then approached by a British Transport Police officer who threatened us with arrest, asking for our details and implying we were trespassing. But what could we do?''

Her husband James had driven to Woking to meet his wife, and she eventually got home at 11.30pm last night.

Ms Firth, a journalist, added:

''The most frustrating thing was the lack of information about how long we were going to be on the train. If there had been some kind of timescale given I would have stayed on the train.

''South West Trains handled it badly. They shouldn't have let so many trains leave Waterloo when there was obviously a problem.''

A South West Trains spokesperson said:

"We are very sorry for the significant impact the signal problems had on a large number of our passengers.

"We would like to thank them for their patience during some extremely difficult circumstances.

"We appreciate that many passengers spent several hours on trains while Network Rail engineers worked hard to rectify the major signalling faults.

"Network Rail has confirmed that the signalling problems were caused by an attempted cable theft.

"We are extremely angry and frustrated that mindless and irresponsible vandalism meant that many of our passengers
had a terrible journey.

"Our station, on train and customer service teams did their very best to keep passengers updated at the main locations across our network and to help get customers home through the night.

"At London Waterloo, our biggest station, we provided refreshments to passengers, arranged and paid for alternative transport, and also organised hotel accommodation for a number of customers.

"We organised buses at other key locations, including Woking and Basingstoke, to assist passengers in getting home.

"Some managers and staff also worked on until after 3am at some stations to help provide the best assistance they could in the circumstances.

"We did, however, have only very limited refreshments available on many of the trains which were stationary for several hours.

"The need to switch off the power supply to the track when some passengers left two trains also meant lighting and air conditioning systems were affected.

"We are very sorry that many passengers experienced very hot and cramped conditions as a result.

"Our operations team worked through the night to get as many trains as possible back into position to allow us to run as good a service as possible in the morning.

"We appreciate the hard work of our teams in responding to what was a very challenging situation, however we are very aware that the plans of many of our passengers were hugely disrupted.

"In particular, we fully understand the frustration of passengers whose trains were unable to move for a lengthy period.

"We will be working with Network Rail to review how we responded to this incident.

We are committed to learning any lessons, including taking any steps required to improve the flow of information to passengers."