Dozens of trains on London’s new Elizabeth Line have faults which whistleblowers claim could injure or even kill people.
The Daily Mail can reveal that around 70 trains are fitted with metal boxes near the passenger doors, which are at risk of exploding from a build-up of gas. Insiders say the boxes’ metal doors – weighing 15lbs (7kg) – can be blown off at any moment.
They fear that such an event could cause serious injury if it were to hit someone while a train was travelling at speed past them. A door is said to have blown off one train during testing on the line last month.
The trains’ builders, Alstom, last night admitted there was a ‘potential fault’ but denied they posed a risk. It said ‘detailed risk assessments’ supported keeping the trains in service.
But an internal memo to Alstom staff reveals engineers have been warned not to go near the boxes, which contain electrical converters to power the trains, while working on carriages in depots.
The Daily Mail can reveal that around 70 trains are fitted with metal boxes near the passenger doors, which are at risk of exploding from a build-up of gas. Pictured: Moment metal box near doors explodes on an affected London Overground train
The trains’ builders, Alstom, last night admitted there was a ‘potential fault’ but denied they posed a risk. It said ‘detailed risk assessments’ supported keeping the trains in service
It says engineers walking past the devices while trains are switched on is ‘permissible if no other option is available’. It adds: ‘However, make sure you are as far away from the converter as possible, do not loiter by the converter, walk as quickly past as possible, take no longer than four seconds to pass.’
It continues: ‘If there is a choice of routes, a route not passing a converter should always be used.’
A whistleblower told the Mail: ‘It’s odd that it’s enough of a risk to employees for them to implement safety precautions, but not to customers.
‘If the trains are passing through stations at 100mph or crossings where there are people and one of the doors comes off, it’s a 7kg lump of metal that could cause chaos and wipe quite a few people out.’
It is the latest controversy to hit the £18.9billion line, which opened last month nearly four years late and £4billion over budget.
It was due to be completed in December 2018 and was set a budget of £14.8billion in 2010. The line, which began running last month, will still not fully open until next year. It is also not currently operating on Sundays.
The line, which had been known as Crossrail during construction, was renamed in honour of the Queen, who visited Paddington station in west London to celebrate the completion of the project alongside Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
The Elizabeth Line stretches from Reading and Heathrow to Abbey Wood in south-east London and Shenfield in Essex, via tunnels under central London.
It is believed explosions could be caused by gas building up inside the faulty boxes.
One theory is that the gas is ignited by heat from within, causing an explosion.
A whistleblower told the Mail: ‘It’s odd that it’s enough of a risk to employees for them to implement safety precautions, but not to customers’
The boxes are fitted diagonally below the passenger doors, meaning they are below platform level when pulling into stations, so are unlikely to pose a danger while trains are stopping in stations. At least 350 of the boxes are fitted on the 70 affected trains.
It is understood that a further 70 trains used by operator Greater Anglia on services in and out of London from East Anglia are also affected, along with 54 London Overground trains.
A recent fire caught on CCTV of an Overground train is feared to be linked to the boxes.
A spokesman for Alstom said the boxes posed ‘no risk to passengers using our Aventra trains, or on station platforms’.
They added: ‘Mitigating even the smallest risk for our depot maintenance staff is our absolute priority, which is why we have proactively introduced a temporary maintenance procedure pending the rollout of a modified component in the next few weeks.’
A spokesman for Transport for London, which runs the Elizabeth Line, said Alstom ‘assure us that [the potential fault] poses no risk to our customers’. They added: ‘This assessment has been supported by industry experts.’