Gauging issue scuppers ‘31’ tour to Mid-Norfolk

Charter from London is cancelled at just eight days’ notice after Network Rail says the Class 442 EMU stock is not cleared to use the planned route.

Rail Operations Group’s keenly awaited charter to the Mid-Norfolk Railway’s diesel gala, which was to be operated by a pair of Class 31s hauling an off-lease Class 442 EMU, had to be cancelled at short notice after the train operating company was advised of gauging problems with the unit.

The tour, and a stock movement from King’s Cross to Ely in the evening which had been opened to the public, was due to run on December 30.

However, in a statement dated December 23, the promoter said: “Only in the last 24 hours has Network Rail informed us that the Class 442 units we had planned to operate as passenger vehicles on these railtours have failed gauging at multiple locations along the route.

“This is new and unexpected information to us. At this late stage and in part due to the holiday season, we are unable to source alternate passenger vehicles.”

Tour participants were advised of the situation by phone and e-mail. Many had booked travel to London and accommodation either side of the charter as well as taken time off work.

The cancellation was particularly disappointing for Class 31 followers, who have not had the opportunity to travel behind any members of the class on a railtour since 2011.

MNR gala hit

The Mid-Norfolk Railway also lost a considerable number of attendees, as the winter gala had been planned around the charter, and a large number of those travelling on the tour had pre-booked rover tickets for the event.

It also meant that three visiting locos (Nos. 31233/452 and 47812) were unable to take part in the gala. Refunds were offered to those who could no longer attend.

■ Rail Operations Group’s ‘One Last Task’ and ‘Last Orders’ tours are not the first trains to have suffered last minute gauging issues.

Earlier in 2016, a high profile trip to Tweedbank with steam loco Flying Scotsman ran into problems, and the train only ran after intervention from Mark Carne, Network Rail’s chief executive.

In a letter after the event, he promised a thorough review of the whole tour process would be undertaken, as well as a separate review to ensure that the quality of structure gauging data was improved and maintained.

The events prior to December 30 show that some improvements are still necessary to prevent similar situations occurring in future.

Read more News in February’s issue of Rail Express – out now!

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