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Derailment knocks out line between Milton Keynes and London

A train derailment at Bletchley on the West Coast Main Line in the early hours has caused chaos for commuters between Milton Keynes and London as well as “significant” damage to the local rail infrastructure.

The derailment took place at Bletchley south junction around 2.20am this morning and was an electric locomotive (engine) leased to and operated by Virgin Trains — it was not attached to any carriages.

The locomotive was due to be coupled to some Mark 3 coaches for a chartered passenger service for later on today. The engine unit had been leased from a freight operator.

Network Rail said the unit is blocking the line and has caused “significant” damage to the local rail infrastructure. However, it hopes to have two of the four lines open by early afternoon but said it was unlikely that the remaining lines will be repaired today due to the “scale of the damage” caused.

A Network Rail spokesperson said the train scraped at an angle across several of the tracks after being derailed, so the tracks are buckled in places. A number of sleepers have been dislodged and the set of points where the train derailed has also been damaged. Overhead lines have also been brought down.

The driver was the only person on board and suffered minor injuries. A Virgin Trains spokesman confirmed that the driver was a Virgin employee but couldn’t comment on their condition. “We can’t comment on the driver. We wouldn’t want to speculate on what happened at this point,” he said. “It was one of our drivers but it wasn’t one of our trains.”

Repairs and investigation

Network Rail and Virgin Trains are working with the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) to look into the incident. The RAIB has now completed its initial work on the scene allowing Network Rail engineers to start repairs to the track and overhead lines.

“Unfortunately there is quite substantial damage to the tracks and overhead lines following this morning’s incident,” said Network Rail managing director network operations Robin Gisby. “Our engineers have been on site since the small hours to assist investigators and are now carrying out repairs to the tracks and overhead lines which have been damaged.

“We hope to have two of the four lines open by the early afternoon, though it is likely that severe disruption will continue for the remainder of the day as we work to repair the more significant damage.”

Passengers are being advised to consult National Rail Enquiries before they travel. There is a much reduced service operating between London Euston and Tring with bus connections to Milton Keynes for services northwards.

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