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Signal failure hits rail passengers

Signal failure on one of the country's busiest railway lines meant hundreds of passengers were stranded for hours on stuck trains.

Network Rail said a computer system which operates the signals failed, causing five passenger services and five freight trains to be halted on the East Coast Main Line between York and Northallerton, North Yorkshire.

The fault meant all signals turned to red at around 1.10pm on Saturday. The rail network operator said a temporary fix to get the 10 immobile trains moving out of the problem area was implemented at 6.45pm.

The fault caused other trains to be cancelled or disrupted and bus replacement services were brought in on some journeys.

Among the passengers affected was BBC Radio Five Live reporter Steph McGovern, who was heading to London when her train got stuck near Northallerton for six hours.

She told the BBC passengers were eventually allowed to climb down a ladder and walk along the track to a level crossing. They had been provided with free food and drink during the wait.

A Network Rail spokeswoman said: "We had our systems engineers working on it to fix the fault but we had quite severe problems this afternoon. Obviously for those people on these trains there has been significant disruption. We can only offer our sincere apologies."

Network Rail said that after repairing the faulty signalling system some long distance services had been restored but there were still problems at a regional level, where services are not expected to return to normal until Sunday.

British Transport Police stressed the delays were not caused by cable theft. Operator East Coast said it was operating a reduced timetable, and asked people not to travel unless "absolutely necessary".

No scheduled services were running between York and Newcastle, with a limited bus replacement service between the two cities. A reduced number of trains were operating between London and Leeds, London and York, and Newcastle and Edinburgh. An East Coast spokesman said: "We're working hard to look after our customers and put in place contingency plans, such as the revised timetable this evening."

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