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Your train's here at last... but you can't get on
PASSENGERS who had been waiting an hour at Charlbury station for their late-running train thought rescue was at hand when it finally drew up at the platform.
But as they tried to open the doors, the guard told them he could not release the locks, because the service was supposed to run non-stop to Oxford to make up lost time.
Amid angry scenes on Friday last week, the guard eventually contacted managers in Swindon and was given permission to let the passengers on board before they left 70 minutes late, at 9.40am, almost two hours after the last train into Oxford had departed.
The delayed train was supposed to get a clear run to Oxford but a westbound service was instead allowed on to the single-track section from Oxford, forcing a 10-minute stop at Charlbury.
Train operator First Great Western and Network Rail have apologised to Cotswold Line passengers for the problems, which resulted from a freight train breaking down in South Wales early in the morning.
This held up an empty FGW train that was on its way to Hereford to form the 6.43am Cathedrals Express to London via Oxford. By the time it got back on the move, it was on course to clash at Worcester with the next service along the Cotswold Line towards Oxford.
Managers looked at sending the express non-stop to London via Cheltenham and Swindon but discovered that a crew member had not gone on a refresher course needed to allow him to take trains on this route, so it had to stick to the Cotswold Line.
The Charlbury commuters were luckier than those at other stations on the line between Worcester and Oxford, including Kingham and Hanborough.
They were left without a train into Oxford and London for even longer, because the next Worcester to London train, which should have followed straight behind the express, was also held up when a westbound service was sent on to the single track section between Evesham and Worcester first.
A train that started its journey from Moreton-in-Marsh, in Gloucestershire, eventually called at the other west Oxfordshire stations 95 minutes after the express was due.
An FGW spokesman said: “We would like to apologise to all our passengers who were affected.”
Asked why no alternative road transport was arranged, he said: “The time taken to procure buses and then run them would have resulted in longer journey times than if the customers had waited for the delayed train.”
A Network Rail spokesman said: “We and the train operator make such decisions very reluctantly, recognising that it will inconvenience a number of passengers.
When significant delays occur, we have to look to do the best thing we can to cause the least amount of delays while we recover the service. This is, of course, no succour to those waiting to board the 6.43am train.”