West coast rail ways
Jacobite Service Not Running

Jacobite Service

3rd April 2024

Why is the Jacobite service not running yet? 


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 a temporary 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. Exemptions have been 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:
    1. “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. Due to this clarification by the court, 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. 
  2. Other companies are operating on the mainline rail network, using the same mark 1 and mark 2 carriages that WCR use without having CDL fitted. 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 there is no short term safety issue with the carriages, 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.
  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. 
  1. Why doesn’t WCR rent carriages from another operator to use on the Jacobite service?
    1. This has been suggested by the authorities and some news outlets. The Jacobite Steam Train trip is unlike our other operations as it is a tourist attraction. Using modern carriages will not have the same tourist attraction that the mark 1 carriages (similar to those used in the movies) have.
    2. Having spoken to the companies suggested by the authorities, the only mark 1 carriages available are those that have not had CDL fitted, and even those companies do not have sufficient carriages available for us to operate the two trains a day. Again, those operators are able to run those carriages as the ORR have granted them an Exemption, the same as WCR have requested.

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.

PLEASE NOTE - BOOKINGS FOR THE JACOBITE ARE CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE -  Click Here - to see if your trip has been affected.

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

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