Faster response to cable theft promised by train bosses

Stationary South West trains The cable theft in Farnborough left thousands of passengers stranded

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Train managers have promised a faster response to cable theft after thousands of passengers were left stranded between Waterloo and Woking in June.

Managers from South West Trains and Network Rail were brought before Woking Borough Council's scrutiny committee on Monday.

South West Trains apologised to passengers delayed on 9 June, some of whom chose to walk along the tracks.

And Network Rail said it would like to see a crackdown on scrap metal theft.

The disruption was caused after an attempted theft of cable led to a signalling problem. Some 60 trains were affected and passengers were stuck for hours.

Many passengers escaped by forcing open train doors and walking down lines, resulting in further delays.

'Communication is key'

A heavily pregnant woman, Emma Firth, was among a group who got off one of the trains outside Woking and walked along the tracks.

Jake Kelly, South West Trains' director of customer services, apologised for the company's response to the theft at Farnborough, in Hampshire.

Emma Firth Emma Firth, who is heavily pregnant, was given a piggy back by another passenger

He said: "We should have done better and we've learnt a number of lessons from it and put in place things to make it better next time.

"Certainly communication is key but also a whole range of things like command and control on site, right through to telling passengers what's going on."

And Network Rail's regional managing director, Richard O'Brien, said he would like to see a tougher approach to metal theft, which he claims is on the rise around the country.

"It's very disruptive for the railway - it wasn't built to cope with this sort of theft," he said.

Denzil Coulson, who is chairman of the council's scrutiny committee, criticised the lack of communication to passengers.

"If you had the information given to the passengers they wouldn't have risked their lives that way [by walking along the tracks]," he said.

"They may have made the assumption there was no power so that's why they made the decision."

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