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Wales and Western Network Rail manager resigns after passengers left stranded near Paddington

17 Dec 2023 3 minute read
Paddington Station Oxyman, CC BY-SA 3.0

A Network Rail manager has resigned after passengers were left stranded for more than three hours near London Paddington earlier this month.

Michelle Handforth, managing director for the Wales and Western region – which includes Paddington – has stepped down, Network Rail has confirmed.

Hundreds of people including celebrities were stuck in cold, dark carriages after an overhead cable fault caused all trains to come to a standstill on December 7.

Pictures and videos shared on social media showed commuters sat in dimly lit carriages before they were eventually evacuated.

National Rail, Elizabeth Line and Heathrow Express services were all disrupted and some passengers said they heard no information from rail operators and were unable to go to the toilet.


Celebrities including musician James Blunt and TV presenter Rachel Riley were affected by the disruption.

Blunt posted on X, formerly Twitter: “Been stuck somewhere outside Paddington for close to 4 hours now. Out of peanuts and wine”, while Riley wrote: “Nearly 4 hours after we got on, we’re getting off the Elizabeth line, woohoo!”

It came after multiple system faults and damaged rails led to repeated delays in the weeks before the incident.

Commuter Mikey Worrall told the PA news agency at the time that the evening was the “most surreal” of his life.

He described the train lurching to a stop and then a multiple-hour wait in semi-darkness as the driver drip-fed what little information they had through to passengers.

Eventually, the battery backup running the train’s heating and light services ran out and passengers were left in darkness for another hour and a half until the evacuation.

Mr Worrall said: “We saw a couple of workers come past and they were trying to keep everyone calm.

“Suddenly, we saw a stream of people coming down the track and at that point it was clear that we would be getting off.

“It was really eerie, walking down the railway line in amongst this big crowd of people. It felt like a wartime thing.”

Different excuse

On why the line broke down, Mr Worrall added: “Every day it’s a different excuse.

“It seems to me they opened this whole thing without actually being fit for purpose.

“If they knew there were infrastructure issues that they needed to work on, why didn’t they work on those before?

“They opened the line and it doesn’t work.

“It (goes down) multiple times a week and it’s incredibly frustrating. The Mayor of London needs to sort it out.”

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines said: “I would like to thank Michelle for her hard work and support over these past three-and-a-half years.”

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Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
6 months ago

This isn’t uncommon with our rail service. The other day our train from Cardiff was half hour late and due to that lateness terminated at a station one stop before ours – still 8.5miles from home. The next train, if we were lucky was to be about a hour later. Terrible service, no one initially knew what was going on and were left out in the cold and rain. No wonder people are sticking to their cars!

Barbara H.
Barbara H.
6 months ago

Having been caught in the chaos on December 7th, I would like to applaud the train staff for their efforts to make passengers comfortable. Kudos to the incredible, GWR manager Kim who coordinated getting the massive number of passengers into taxis and safely home.
I had left Dorland House in Paddington a little after 5pm and passed it in a taxi at a little after midnight. 7 hours. Then a very long car drive home.
In the main, passengers were incredibly patient and tolerant.

Bob McIntyre
Bob McIntyre
6 months ago

Next to go: Jan Chaudhry-Van der Velde, Chief Operations Officer at TfW. Some enterprising journalist should look into his previous posts at ScotRail and West Midlands, and ask if there is a coincidence with the state our railways are in?

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