West coast rail ways
Important Announcement The Jacobite Pm 1

Important Announcement - The Jacobite Afternoon trips

21st May 2024


We are sorry that we need to cancel further trips on our Jacobite Steam Train service (afternoon trips only). 

The morning trips departing from Fort William at 10:15am are unaffected by these cancellations and are due to run on time.

Today we have announced some additional cancellations of trips for the afternoon service - (12:50 pm departure from Fort William). The cancelled trips are now from the 6th May to the 3rd June 2024 inclusive. Passengers will be contacted directly by email and SMS text to inform them of the cancellations. To clarify, we have now cancelled all the afternoon service trips departing Fort William at 12:50 from 6th May to 3rd June 2024 (dates inclusive).

As we are unable to offer alternative trips on the Jacobite afternoon service at this time, our reservations team will process full refunds for customers with bookings on those dates in the next 10 working days. 

All refunds will be paid via the payment method used to make the booking. Customers who used credit vouchers will be issued with a replacement to the same value to redeem before 31 May 2025. 

This suspension of this service is due to a debate with the rail regulator around door locking (please see below for further details). We share the regulator’s commitment to safety and our priority now is to work with it to renew permission to enable us to run The Jacobite on the main rail line.

We hope to be able to operate scheduled future afternoon trips on the Jacobite, but will contact all customers ahead of their journey date directly, in the event the trip they have booked will not run. In that case, we also will issue a full refund. 

PLEASE NOTE - NEW BOOKINGS FOR THE JACOBITE ARE CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE FOR BOTH TRIPS, except those detailed on the https://westcoastrailways.co.uk/news/jacobite-seats-available-to-book page.

Please contact WCR via: enquiries@westcoastrailways.net for further information. 

Further details

What is the dispute with the Office of Road and Rail (ORR) all about, and why does West Coast Railways (WCR) believe it should receive an exemption from the ORR.

The ORR has a policy (called Regulation 5) for all heritage Mark 1 and Mark 2 carriages (the Mark 1’s are used on the Jacobite trip) to have central door locking (CDL) fitted, so they can continue to run their carriages on the mainline rail network in the UK. The basis of this policy is to ensure the safety of rail passengers when travelling in these heritage carriages.

Why then is WCR requesting that it should receive an exemption from this?

  1. There have always been exemptions granted under this policy and WCR has had exemptions on these carriages for nearly 30 years. In the court case in December 2023, the Court judgement helpfully summarises the policy as follows:

“The ORR’s policy gives a strong steer that central door locking will be required, but it nonetheless makes clear that ORR will consider granting an exemption from Regulation 5 where an applicant can “demonstrate that there are exceptional circumstances”. Two examples of exceptional circumstances are given but they are not said to be exhaustive. It is ‘expected’ that any deviation from the policy “provide an equivalent level of safety protection to central door locking” but the requirement is not mandatory.”

  1. Other companies are operating on the mainline rail network, using the same mark 1 and mark 2 carriages that WCR use. The ORR has allowed them to continue to run under an exemption granted by the ORR, even though these carriages have not been fitted with CDL. WCR has not been granted the same exemption as these other operators. 
  1. As this policy is deemed to be about safety, it is clear from the above that this is not the case, otherwise no operator would be allowed to run these carriages without have CDL fitted. 
  1. Is this about WCR not being up to the level of safety that these other operators are? 
    1. Again, it is very clear from the court case in December 2023 that this is not the case. The ORR Admitted to the court that there were no safety concerns with WCR’s operating procedures adopted when running these heritage carriages.
    2. In fact it is WCR’s contention, as submitted in their application for an exemption continuation, and in the comprehensive risk assessment attached to the application (produced by an independent Health & Safety company), that the current method of having two door locks fitted to each door (one main lock, plus a secondary deadbolt), plus having a steward present in each carriage, is far safer than having to spend millions of pounds to fit CDL. 
  1. Exemption: WCR have requested (and fully expected to receive, as other operators have), a temporary exemption, whilst the ORR considered it’s full application. 

We are working closely with the ORR to reach a speedy conclusion to this, but until then we have had to suspend running the Jacobite service. This is affecting not only WCR, but over 100,000 passengers, the majority of whom are tourists to the West Highlands, this in turn affects thousands of local businesses and employment in the area.


Further updates will be posted here on a regular basis.

West Coast Railways


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