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Harry Potter steam train service suspended

A steam train made famous by Harry Potter has been suspended pending a safety ruling.

The Jacobite train service through the Highlands has been suspended with immediate effect as it awaits a verdict on allowing it to continue operating in its current state.

Its operator has warned the suspension could cost up to £50m in lost value.

The Jacobite train featured in the 2002 film Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets and is sometimes known as the Hogwarts Express in a nod to JK Rowling‘s franchise.

It is operated by West Coast Railways (WCR), the UK’s largest main-line heritage rail operator, and has had to suspend the service as it awaits a ruling from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) on whether it can continue to operate with hinged-door carriages.

Pic: PictureLux/The Hollywood Archive/Alamy
Image: Pic: PictureLux/The Hollywood Archive/Alamy

Hinged-door carriage exemption

The service has operated for more than 30 years under an exemption that allows it to run with hinged-door carriages on the main lines, which is typically not allowed.

WCR has submitted an application to renew the exemption, and made a request for a temporary exemption to operate while the ORR makes its decision.

WCR lost a High Court challenge against the ORR over the safety of doors on its carriages in December.

The company had complained that the multimillion-pound cost of having to retrofit central locking could “destroy” its business and argued its door systems were just as safe.

However, a judge dismissed the operator’s case and concluded the ORR had taken a “justifiable” approach.

The service takes tourists from Fort William to Mallaig, including over the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct.

Pic: PA
Image: Pic: PA

Suspension could cost £50m in lost value

Speaking about the suspension, James Shuttleworth, commercial manager at WCR, said: “The Jacobite service is enjoyed by thousands of customers every year. It boosts the local economies of Mallaig and Fort William and brings an estimated £20m into the UK’s tourism sector.

“If the ORR does not grant us a further exemption, we believe this could lead to up to £50m in lost value to both local and national communities.”

The company said passengers with bookings for the Jacobite will be offered a full refund.

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An ORR spokesperson said heritage operators, including WCR were told “several years ago” that in order to operate after 31 March, they must either have central door locking – as opposed to hinged-door carriages – or would need an exemption.

“WCR’s application for an exemption failed and they made a claim for judicial review,” they added.

“A temporary exemption was granted in order to maintain the status quo, enabling WCR to operate whilst the litigation reached a conclusion.

“Despite this, WCR chose to sell tickets when it was far from certain that a new application for an exemption would be granted, either in time for the commencement of services or at all.

“It submitted an exemption application on 8 March, which we are now assessing.

“ORR is disappointed that WCR appears not to have made sensible contingency plans for the benefit of their customers.”

Sky News Source