Tuesday, November 28, 2023
West Coast Railways (WCR), the operator of the Jacobite steam train, famously known as the Hogwarts Express from the Harry Potter films, is facing potential disruptions to its iconic route if its challenge against safety regulations proves unsuccessful.
WCR contested the requirement for central locking systems on carriage doors, arguing that implementation could cost £7 million. A ruling on the judicial review is anticipated in January, with the outcome potentially determining the future of the steam journeys on the West Highland Line, a renowned Scottish railway route from Fort William to Mallaig, featuring the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
The train, operational from March to October, attracts approximately 750 daily passengers during peak seasons, drawing fans eager to experience the magic of the Harry Potter universe.
However, the service's continuation hinges on the outcome of the safety regulations dispute. The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) had previously granted exemptions allowing the use of heritage rolling stock, but these exemptions expired on March 31, 2023.
After an inspection in July revealed concerns about door lock procedures, the ORR issued a temporary exemption until November 30.
The ongoing legal battle involves WCR defending its position against the ORR's safety demands. If the judgement favours the regulator's stance, the steam train's future operations could be in jeopardy.
WCR contends that retrofitting locking systems to the traditional 1950s slam-door carriages would incur substantial costs, potentially erasing a decade of profits.
James Shuttleworth, the commercial manager, expressed WCR's intent to continue operations but acknowledged the financial challenges associated with complying with the safety measures.
The decision, when rendered, will have significant implications not only for the future of the Jacobite steam train but also for the enchanting journeys enjoyed by Harry Potter enthusiasts traversing the picturesque Scottish landscapes.