THUNDERBIRD rescue locomotives have not previously been necessary on Great Western routes given the operational flexibility of the High Speed Trains that are now starting to be withdrawn.
It has been recognised, however, that failures of the replacement Class 800 series rolling stock – which have distributed power systems rather than power cars – will occur and a method to move disabled trains is necessary. Such ‘Thunderbird’ capacity already exists on the East Coast and West Coast Main Lines, and it is inconsistent that the Great Western should not have a similar resource.
The case was illustrated following the introduction of new Class 802 IETs on West Country services when the failure of a 2×5-car formation between Exeter and Tiverton Parkway on September 14 resulted in a five-hour delay. There was no locomotive available to haul the defective train, and eventually a CrossCountry ‘Voyager’ set was used to evacuate passengers back to Exeter.
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