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London: Connex trains hit by safety fears

Source: Evening Standard - London Publication date: Apr 03, 2000

LONDON commuter trains were today withdrawn from service for safety reasons resulting in even worse overcrowding than usual on the busiest lines in Britain. Connex South Eastern is having to withdraw up to 24 of its Networker sliding door trains after "excessive wear" was discovered in the wheel bearings. If a bearing collapsed in service it could lead to a wheel or axle breaking free.

Suspension units have also found to be wearing out much quicker than expected. The company has substituted old stock and was hoping for only a few cancellations this morning - but 13 peak period trains have been reduced from 10 carriages to eight. A Connex spokesman said cancellations and delays would continue "until further notice", adding: "We are sorry that some trains will have fewer coaches than usual and that some trains will be cancelled."

It will be worse tonight when 15 trains are reduced in length. The trains affected operate Metro services between London, Dartford, the Medway towns, Hayes and Sevenoaks. All other Networkers have also been ordered to reduce their maximum speed from 70mph to 60mph while safety checks are carried out. A spokesman said: "We are sure passengers will understand why we have had to take these trains out of service. It is much better to be safe than sorry."

It will take weeks or even months to renew the bearings. It could take up to six months to investigate why the bearings are wearing out so fast. Sean Robb, Connex head of engineering, said: "The bearings should go 500,000 miles between major overhaul. But we have found severe deterioration in stock which has travelled around 320,000 miles. There has also been significant degradation in the rubber suspension."

-- Carl Jenkins (, April 04, 2000

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