The following is a list of excuses used in station and in on-train announcements to explain why trains are delayed or cancelled.

Not everything goes onto this page. Some lists are separate as they have different topics

Contents

A

  • A bit has fallen off the train - a First Capital Connect service from London Bridge to Brighton, Feb 17 2012
  • A body on the line at XXX
  • A broken "insert another TOCs name" train in the XXX area.
  • A drunk man on the line (at Maidenhead, 1999)
  • A living person was actually found in the quiet car, @MikePulsifer Twitter 2011 Nov 17, retrieved 2014 Nov 3
  • A problem currently under investigation
  • A remarkable lack of investment in the infrastructure of the railway system by government
  • Abandon travel - Virgin tweeted ahead of a major storm: "NEW: ALL CUSTOMERS TO ABANDON TRAVEL #UKSTORM"
  • Abandoned Freight Train[1]. An abandoned freight train caused mayhem after the driver left his 36 wagon set outside Nottingham station. The eastern approach was blocked for over an hour while a replacement driver was ferried in from Toton, causing hour delays to passenger services. The cause as due to the driver not having the required route knowledge and no forward driver had been booked on in error.
  • Ambulance on the line - delayed a tram[2]
  • Accountant - "We apologise for the poor service this evening, this is due to the new boss of London Underground being an accountant. Thank you."
  • Adverse weather conditions
  • All approaches to Hyde Park Corner v slow due to an earlier "troop movement" - not a rail excuse but so plausable it's in the list[3]
  • Ammonia from an ice rink has leaked on the line
  • Apparently the train is no longer terminating at Barking, but is in fact terminating here. I'm sorry about this but I to was under the impression that this train was going to Barking, but 'they' have other ideas. I mean why tell me - I'm just the driver.
  • Armed escaped prisoner on track threatening trains.
  • Asylum seekers on the line - Mar 23 2015 8.07 from Guildford[4]. After leaving Effingham Junction the driver saw three people beside the railway line so stopped the train and informed the signalman. Power to the line now switched off. Turns out they are asylum seekers likely to have come from a neat by lorry park on the M25. The guard said they don't speak a word of English but know the word asylum.
  • Avalanche on the line - happens in winter in Canada
  • Awaiting free platform.
  • Awaiting police assistance.

B

  • Badger on the line - where a badger decided to dig a hole under track, June 25 2012
  • Woman leaving her bag on the train - @BrendaSmiffy 2015 Aug 26 tweeted "Was told by a staff member that our trains on the Woolwich line are delayed due to a woman leaving her bag on the train."
  • Bed on the line - VirginTrains tweeted "NEW: We've reports of a bed on the line near Euston (a single, with memory foam mattress if you're interested...). Minor delays possible." 2014 Feb 24
  • Bicycle on the Line - Bicycle thrown onto the live line causing an Explosion at Woolston, Southampton
  • Bird Strike - on Nov 5 2015 bird flew into the windscreen of the 15:46 London Euston to Crewe service at Hanslope causing disruption for hours across the Midlands.
  • Delays of up to 15 mins between Otford & Maidstone East until further notice because of a passenger giving birth on a train at #WestMalling - the 1818 from London Victoria to Ashford international got delayed at West Malling on March 7 2013 due to a passenger falling ill. It turned out she wasn't ill but had gone into labour. She gave birth to a girl Pheobe on the train.
  • Broken rail.
  • Broken window on train being replaced.
  • Burglar in tree - A suspected burglar climbed a tree over the line at Charlton at 2am on Aug 13 2014 whilst being chased by police. He stayed there until 7pm with the rail line beneath being closed the entire day[5][6]
    • "Driver - "if you look to the right you should be able to see him"[7]
  • Bus blocking the line - St Dunstans Crossing barrier was struck by bus blocking the line between Canterbury West and Ashford, Mar 5 2013

Baloons

  • Balloon on the overhead lines blocking Platform 11 at Birmingham New Street - London Midland tweet on Feb 22 2012
  • Balloons on the overhead power lines - Southend Standard Apr 11 2015, retrieved Aug 4 2015

Bomb

  • Bomb scare.
  • All lines blocked due to an unexploded wartime bomb between Cardiff & Newport - GWR had to close the line for 3 hours after the bomb was found[8]

Bridges

  • Bridge bash - also known as Bridge Strikes
  • Boat striking bridge - 2015 Jun 26 Southeastern tweeted "Because of a boat striking a bridge at Blackfriars the 19:04 Blackfriars to Ashford Intl (20:42 arr) train is cancelled tonight ^MH"[9]
  • Bridge cutting electricity supply[10]. On Dec 11 2015 a new bridge at the station finally opened 1 year after the original was demolished. However when it was moved into place power cables were cut meaning the car-park ticket machines have no power.

C

Circle Line suspended due to the Circle Line Party
  • Camels on the line - Australia where thirsty camels being killed by trains regularly BBC
  • Camp site on the line - a driver was told to drive under caution after reports of someone pitching their tent against the rail line
  • Canine Incursion at Denham - occurred on 9 Feb 2015 and given as an excuse in a Chiltern Poster for the 4 weeks to 28th Feb 2015.
  • Car heading towards us - "sorry for the delay, someone is headed towards us in a car."
  • Car wheel welded to track - Someone threw a car wheel onto the track between Chatham & Gilingham welding it to the third rail & shorting out the power to a High Speed train[11]
  • Cat welded to driver's cabin - Southwest trains once cancelled the service from Basingstoke to Surbiton due to a technical fault. Apparently a cat had electrocuted itself and became welded to the driver's cabin.
  • Slippery rails due to squashed migrating caterpillers[12]
  • Children playing on the line[13]
  • Children surfing on the side of trains.
  • Circle Line Party - On May 31 2008 the circle line was suspended after 22:00 due to "The Circle Line Party"
  • Collapsed sewer - 'The train has been delayed due to the collapse of a Roman sewer at York.'
  • Collapsed Viaduct - 'one of the train lines will be out of operation in total for about 3 months when a section of a viaduct collapsed'[14]
  • Collision.
  • Completely incompetent management at every level.
  • Computer Failure.
  • Conductor rail problem at Blackfriars
  • Could not get the brakes off, Orpington Aug 11 2015 @alp1959
  • Cow / sheep / dog / deer / badger / llama / whatever on the line.
  • Crew's taxi delayed.
  • Criminal was under the train. (It turned out that the Police had taken possession of the track.)
Collapsed Viaduct

Cancelled

  • Cancelled due to Dog Bite - 1417 London Victoria to Portsmouth Harbour service forced the train to stop when a 12-inch Daxiedoodle puppy – a cross between a dachshund and a poodle, bit the conductor[15]
  • Cancelled due to a Faulty PA - @Rail_Inspector, Twitter 2016 Feb 9
  • Cancelled due to opening doors on wrong side -@MiguelCooper on twitter forwarded "New excuse for your site. 1712 Victoria to Ashford cancelled at West Malling due to driver opening doors on wrong side of train and him not being allowed to carry passengers anymore and having to go to be drug and drink tested.", 2014 Feb 6
  • Cancelled due to rota mistake - Southeastern cancelled at least 17 high speed services on the busiest shopping weekend of the year after they realised they didn't have enough drivers.[16]
  • Cancelled due to shortage of resources.
  • Cancelled due to "water is dripping on my control pad"[17]
  • 'Connex customer services apologises for the Cancellation of the 13:09 service from Tattenham Corner to Charing Cross but the driver has mislaid the paper with his duty on it whilst assisting to recover a failed train in the London Bridge area (whereas in fact they were short of staff!!!)'
  • "The 9:23 to London Euston is cancelled, as the train does not have an engine."

Christmas

  • Because it's Christmas - Actually used by SNCF (France) when asked why an off-peak ticket from Rouen and Paris was more expensive than usual during December 1999
  • Christmas - excuse used for why the ticket machines at Bolton were broken... on January 20th 2014 one month after the festivities![18]

D

  • Damp rails causing 2 hour delays around Inverness on Mon Sep 29 2014[19]
  • Defective bogie.
  • Defective central locking.
  • Derailment.
  • Deranged female on line (SC of Leeds - King's Cross train, North of Finsbury Park, circa 1994)
  • Dew on the tracks - Affected Southeastern & Southern services into London Bridge on Tue 8 Feb 2011[20]
  • Dog on the line
  • Dog welded to track - A dog was on heat and 'leaked' on the live rail giving her a shock. She turned around and bit the live rail. Once power had been cut off they had to use a crowbar to remove her.
  • Doors falling off
    • Door fell off[21] - @JamesJWalsh tweeted to Southeastern "Door fell off 1904 London Bridge > Catford train. Just realised I could of been leaning on it.". After Southeastern asked what train & door he responded "an external door" & "detached from the runners... Train driver bolted it locked"
    • When they introduced the automatic metro in Copenhagen, the doors kept falling off. Some spokessuit explained that, well, these doors were insanely complicated, they were built from more than two hundred different parts.

Delays

  • "An accidental emergency call was made from the depot which caused trains to come to a stand. Delays of 10-15mins possible."[22]
  • Delays to the service
  • Delayed by freight train.
    • Announcement at Maidstone East 2014 Aug 27: Train was Held at Ashford as as "High Speed" put a Freight Train in front of the service - which is odd as the Freight Train wasn't on High Speed 1 but the Maidstone East mainline & it's a common sight in the morning - it was just 10 minutes late itself
    • National Freight Train has stopped in the tunnel - The excuse used by LeShuttle, Eurostar & the BBC[23] as a freight train had stopped in the channel tunnel on March 15 2015 causing 1 to 2 hour delays.
  • Delayed due to earlier delay
  • Delays of up to 2 hours due to Intensive Migrant activity, @GeraldMain on twitter, 2015 Jul 23.
  • Delayed due to the Royal Escort - the royal's can't be held up at any level crossings so the trains get delayed instead.
  • Delayed due to people on train roof
    • "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry for the delay. I have just been informed this is due to people on the roof of the train ahead. (Long pause, then sounding very quizzical) Yes you are probably thinking some of the things I am, but that's what I've been told by my control."
  • Delayed due to short term illness - London Midland tweeted[24] "Unfortunately the 07:59 from #MiltonKeynesCentral is currently delayed at #Bletchley, this is due to short term illness. Sorry if affected.". Aparently the staff member fell ill after the service started.
  • Delayed due to signalman trapped in toilet[25]. The driver of the Hereford to London service heard the hapless worker’s cries for help after he was forced to stop his train because he could not make radio contact. Colleagues eventually managed to set the signalman free by forcing the door open with a crowbar.
  • Delays due to train hitting the station roof - First Capital Connect Thameslink service travelling southbound hit the roof of Blackfriars Station at about 09.55 GMT on January 2 2014. If you look at the photograph in that article you can see they didn't drop the Pantograph at Farringdon and that's what hit the roof.[26]
  • delayed due to the water cannon train. Excuse heard by @sue_markantoni on a southeastern train 2014 Nov 6
  • Long intervals between trains - "We apologise for the delays which are caused by long intervals between the trains"
  • Sorry for the short delay I dropped my keys out of the train - The guard on the 07:27 Robertsbridge to Charing Cross Southeastern service, 2013 Dec 6 heard by @Bin_Lurchin
  • The xxxx train is delayed due to roadworks at Lewes - The roadworks were next to a level crossing and the crossing was being operated by hand in sync with traffic signals.
  • There are delays due to delays caused by earlier delays. Apologies for the delays - Thameslink tweeted this (date unknown). Reported via commute.london
  • This service is delayed due to the train catching fire on its previous journey
  • This train has been delayed due to delays on the service of this train
  • This train has been delayed at Paddock Wood. This is due to passengers transferring between trains.
  • This train is delayed as the guard has been taken away by the police. We hope to find you another one in half an hour. (Guard arrested for excess ticket fraud by plainclothes)
  • This train is being held at Victoria whilst the Signaller decides which train to let out first - Sep 29 2014, 1907 service to Ashford International was held at the platforms until they decided that it should go first

Diverted

  • Diverted from normal route. (Then while diverted, driver missread incorrectly set signals, so went into Ferrybridge power station.)
  • Diverted due to failed Track machine[27]

Driver

  • Driver abandons train
  • The bus driver falling asleep at the wheel - presumably causing the train driver to be late?
  • Driver / guard late for work.
  • Driver has been hit by a Seagull - Southeastern Tonbridge station Feb 17 2011[28]
  • Driver has been asked to check the overhead equipment for damage.
  • The driver having a sprained eyebrow
  • Driver having his teabreak.
  • Driver held up in motorway traffic jam.
  • Driver locked himself out of cab - the longest delay I've ever had was when the driver managed to lock himself out of his cabin. We were in the middle of the nowhere and they had to wait for someone to drive a spare key from the head office, we were there a good few hours!
  • The driver on the freight train ahead has gone home sick... causing 40 minute delays
  • Driver only being 5 feet 1 inch tall - Dec 3 1999 Middlesbrough to Hartlepool service was delayed: "The service is delayed today because the driver is only five feet one inches tall and his swivel chair has broken. He is too short to reach the pedals"
  • Driver's taxi got lost on way to station.
  • Driver walked of to collect kids from school.
  • Driver’s wife throwing him out and him having to sleep in the car
  • Driver shortage
    • Dorry for the delay, this is due to a driver shortage[29]
    • Temporary shortage of drivers - ThamesLink Tweeted that cancellations on morning of Aug 24 2015 were due to a shortage of drivers
  • Wrong Driver - 'Sorry for the delay but we have picked up the wrong driver'[30] Banbury station where crew got on the wrong train, supposed to get Swansea to Paddington but took the Paddington to Swansea train. Caused 30m delays whilst they reversed back to Banbury

Due to

Collapsed Viaduct
  • Due to a broken down coal train[31]
  • Due to a problem with station lighting, trains are unable to call at Harpenden - via RoxyMartinique on twitter, Feb 28 2012
  • Due to an issue on a train behind us - heard by myself on a Central Line train on Dec 19 2014 for why we were held east bound from Bond Street. The problem was a fault on a west bound train at Holland Park. Holland Park also being west of us so not even in the same tunnel!
  • Due to being slow in places - excuse I actually heard on Feb 2 2016 for the reason for being 4 minutes late into London Victoria
  • Due to difficulties
  • Due lightning strike[32]
  • Due to no reason whatsoever - heard at Fleet.
  • Due to passengers standing over the yellow line - actually a good safety point really. @benay79 Twitter 2015 May 5
  • Due to someone deciding to have a crap on a seat - Southeastern driver announcing why a carriage was locked out of use, via @mpellatt Oct 16 2013
  • Due to a carriage having been used as a convenience[33]
  • Due to the general imcompetence of British Rail.
  • Due to the Guard taking his break in Sainsbury's - 1953 London Bridge to Hastings service was cancelled & 2 others delayed as the guard was taking his break in Sainsbury's[34]
  • Due to the Guard eating his dinner[35][36] - 2012 May 3, the 2217 Ashford International to Maidstone East didn't leave until 2310 as "they couldn't leave until the guard had finished eating his sandwich on his 'mandatory break'.

It can't leave until he finishes his one-hour break. He's eating a chicken salad sandwich and a bag of crisps,'

  • Due to high levels of sickness - Great Northern Rail had to cancel services when they had too many staff off sick, Dec 12 2014
  • Due to high wind
  • Due to the horn handle coming off in the drivers hand Rail forums
  • Due to the train hitting an Elephant. Happens a lot in India & somehow the driver's don't see them![37]
  • Due to the weather (rain).
  • Trains being too wide - French railway SNCF ordered 2000 new trains but found they were 20cm too wide for 1300 stations built more than 50 years ago. Estimates it'll cost €50m euros to shave all of the platforms[38][39][40]

E

  • Eaves on the line - A roof had blown off a house next to the railway line. The conductor announced to passengers (with great glee) "The train is delayed due to eaves on the line."
  • Emergency stop due to passenger boarding the wrong train.
  • Earlier late running.
  • Electricity turned off
  • The driver of the train just announced the train had run out of electricity[41]
  • Exploding pigeon (apparently the wires at Kings Cross Thameslink are quite low and a bird flying between the wire and the roof causes 25kV to earth itself on the train via the bird!)
    • "This train is delayed due to an exploding pigeon."
  • Excessive Dust - an announcement on the Jubilee line in Feb 2011 that Baker St was closed
  • Excessive vomit - BBC Programme about the tube broadcasted "Im sorry for the late cancellation of this train, this was due to excessive vomit in the carriages" - BBC2 Feb 20 2012

F

  • Failure of another train on the route.
  • Failure of safety equipment at stations (eg DOO monitors).
  • Fatality
  • Fault on the train which has now been rectified
  • Female patient on line....
  • Ferret ate driver's cheese sandwiches - a ferret escaped its handler and terrified passengers before making its way into the driver's cab, whereupon it broke into his lunchbox and ate his cheese sandwiches.
  • Fighting has broken out among the passengers
  • Finding the farmer to retrieve cows from the line...30 minutes... to be fair, this also resulted in the best one-liner from the conductor.... "we'll be mooooving soon"
  • "First TransPennine Express apologise for the delay caused. This is due to...a problem".
  • 'many first class carriages are being refurbished' - excuse given by Southeastern for short formed services, Feb 2012
  • Flamingo on the line - circa 1974 near Penscynor having escaped from the wildlife park there
  • Flying Pigs - a two-hour journey from Kings Cross to York ending up taking seven hours, three trains and one coach. We were finally told this was "due to a hurricane which had caused pigs to fly".
  • Foil on the line - The wrapper of a sandwich carelessly discarded caused the entire Piccadilly line to grind to a halt in Feb 2000 causing London Underground to erect a sign telling commuters: "Delays will occur following an earlier interruption due to foil on the line. Please take your litter home with you. Thank you." The sandwich wrapper had trig-gered a signal failure at Hatton Cross.
Harry-Green-HampsteadHeath-copy.jpg
  • For some reason - excuse given at Hampstead Green for delays at Gospel Oak[42]
  • Fox hunt on the line.
  • Frozen points.

Fire

See also Train Fires

  • Fire alarm sounding at station XX.
  • The train now arriving on platform one is on fire. Passengers are advised not to board this train - Announcement at Bournemouth station:[43]
  • Lineside fire.
  • “We are sorry for the fire caused by water” - explanation for no fewer than three fires in signalling cabinets that resulted in wrecked getaway plans for thousands of rail passengers on Dec 21 2012[44]

Flood

  • Flooded line.
  • Flooding (replacement bus service, setup)
  • Station closed, Flooding[45] - On July 15 2015 A fire alarm triggered (somehow, they shouldn't work this way) the sprinkler system at Canning Town DLR station. The water from the sprinklers then flooded the station.

Fog

  • Fog causing delays between Peterborough and Stevenage - Network Rail tweet, Mar 15 2012 twitter.com
  • Fog being blamed for slow running of 0745 Maidstone East to Victoria on 2013 Sep 24 when in reality the 0645 had to inspect the track then waiting on Signals & Slippery rails between Kemsing and Borough Green

G

  • Gazebo on the line - Virgin tweeted on Dec 5 2013 "Lines are currently blocked at Coventry as further garden furniture in the form of a gazebo has now been blown onto the line."
  • Golf unbrella on the line - Dec 2000 & 400 passengers at Sevenoaks station by almost an hour after a metal golfing umbrella fell on a live section of track.
  • Graffiti - 30 carriages of Southern stock had to be withdrawn after graffiti was painted on them over the weekend 7-8 Feb 2015. By Tuesday 10 2015 10 carriages were still out of commission.[46]
  • Grass too long
  • Grizzly Bear on the line - "on Amtrak some years ago, the train was delayed because a Grizzly (identified by a retired Forest Ranger) was on the track and the crew was afraid to go out and chase it off. Ultimately, it got off its butt and walked away." Yahoo Answers 2008 Aug 16 retrieved 2015 Aug 4
  • Guard has been left behind by accident - I think this happens more often than they would let us believe

GPS

  • It appears that Southern really has problem with GPS:
    • "Awaiting a spare part for the GPS beacon." - cause of delay for the 8.45am Southern service from Brighton to London Victoria on 25th June 2013. It was also noted that "they need to know exactly where the train is for the doors to open"[47] - see also Wrong kind of cloud below
  • Rear train doors may not open due to satellite difficulties? That's a thing? @naxxfish, Twitter Dec 3 2014

H

  • Haystack on the track - 'The train has been cancelled and replacement bus services will be in place for the next few hours because a train has hit a haystack on the track'
  • Heavy Loading - 'New one from #southeastern this morning; it's not 'due to overcrowding' but 'heavy loading'. [48]
  • Herons mating.
  • Horse on the line.
  • Horse stuck on level crossing[49] - A road in Adversane was closed after a horse became stuck on the level crossing in the afternoon of Saturday September 7 2013 disrupting rail services on the Mid Sussex and West Coastway lines.

I

  • Incident.
  • I'm lost[50] - Train driver admits he doesn't know where he is. The train was either for Gillingham or Sevenoaks - both on different lines
  • I'm pleased to announce that the 8.38 is actually on time. This remarkable occurence is due to a following wind.
  • I won't tell you how late the 8.58 is, but copies of War And Peace are now available at the bookstall.
  • illegal immigrants on the line - announcement about a delay at Wembley Central, The police were chasing them up the track and requested all power be turned off. [51]

I apologise for

  • I don't know what the problem is, I'll just have a look (SC on Virgin Cross Country service at Oxford, early Nov 1996)
  • I apologise for the delay but the computer controlling the signalling has the Monday morning blues.
  • I apologise for the delay, caused by trying to fit too many trains on too little track.
  • I apologise for the delays to your service this evening this evening, This is due to... well, it's just a crap service, isn't it?

Ice

  • Ice on the conductor rail - reason given at Maidstone East for an early train to fail at Charing blocking the London bound Maidstone East line for 3 hours on Jan 30 2015
  • Ice on the line.
  • Icicles in tunnel - Greater Anglia services into Liverpool St delayed after power was turned off due to icicles - Feb 9 2012
  • Heavy Icing[52] - First Capital Connect “A large number of trains have also failed and more are failing as they are prepared for work – again because of heavy icing. There is also the issue of some trains being in the wrong location as a result of failing yesterday."

K

  • Kangaroo on the line - "colleague once stopped to report a Kangaroo on the line at Shrepreth"
  • Kids throwing bricks at trains off a bridge
  • Kitchen Sink - A speed limit had been enforced on trains between Sholing and Netley on the eastbound line after a smashed Kitchen Sink[53] was strewn across the line around 10am and delayed passengers using the service.

L

Mudslide outside Croydon in 2011
  • Landslide. Also Mudslide[54]
  • Large Passenger Flow[55] when Southeastern cancelled trains due to too many passengers
  • Leaves on the line.
  • Lion or Lion & Cub on the line, Nov 6 2011 Shepley, West Yorkshire
  • Locusts - Slippery rails caused by crushed Locusts, happens a lot in Africa
  • Loss of everything in one Traction Carriage - Southeastern June 20 2013[56]
  • Luggage on the line - apparently at southampton airport parkway

Late

  • Late arrival of stock from the depot.
  • Late arrive of incoming service.
  • Late running engineering work.
  • Late running proceeding trains.
  • Late running proceeding service.

Level Crossing

  • Level crossing failure.
  • Delayed due to a problem at a Level crossing
  • Jammed crossing barriers[57]. Signalling problem caused the barriers to jam causing 45 minute delays to road traffic. However there was also a speed restriction in place on the rail because of it causing delays to rail traffic as well.

M

Man lying in front of a train at Lewisham
  • 'man on the track'
  • Man lying on the track in front of the train - Lewisham Jan 15 2016 via @thelifeofsam
  • Man touching himself on the train[58]
  • Man with an umbrella on the line
  • May I remind you to take your rubbish with you. Despite the fact that you are in something that is metal, round, filthy and smells, this is a train and not a bin on wheels.
  • Mechanical failure of train.
  • Milkman being late[59]
  • Miscarriage - Commuters were shocked when staff used that as the excuse for severe delays through Rochester on the evening of Feb 23 2016. Southeastern responded that they are looking into the details of why that much detail was given out.
  • Missing Pensioners - apparently they were over 100 years old!
  • Moose on the line - apparently this happens on the Canadian rail network
  • Mule race - USA: there was a cross country mule race that crossed the tracks and the organizers called the railraod and asked them to hold all trains and sure enough they did!

N

  • Naked man delaying train[60]
  • Newspaper on the line - actually on the Victoria Line Oct 14 2011 it blocked the points closing the line south of London Victoria[61]
  • No driver / guard.
    • "Bangor to Belfast and it stopped between stations. There was an announcement saying there was no driver for the train and we would have to wait there until a driver arrived. Remember, it stopped between stations. Never did figure it out."
  • 'No refreshments on this morning's service as the Travelling Chef was stolen from our depot'

O

  • Old lady sitting on the live rail - apparently she actually survived this
  • Operating difficulties.
  • Ostrich on the line - Between Crowcombe and Stogumber on West Somerset Railway about ten years ago. Took about five minutes before the ostrich decided to walk off the track
  • "outbreak of buddleia" - excuse for delays during June 2000 by Railtrack - a strange excuse, given that the purple-flowered plant has long been associated with railway sidings and does tend to flower every summer - similar, in fact, to the way trees shed their leaves each autumn. But still Railtrack insisted that the unusually humid summer had created the perfect climate for the plant, which had consequently embedded itself into brickwork at many stations, outbuildings and bridges across the network.
  • Overcrowding
  • Overhanging tree branches (at Market Harborough)

P

  • Passengers throwing Hot Coffee - On Monday May 23 2016 Passengers on the 06:29 Southern service from Littlehampton to London Bridge were delayed for 30m due to two first class passengers arguing over seats and ended up with them throwing hot Coffee over each other before being taken off the train by the Police[62]
  • Person taken ill
    • Passenger sick onboard train.
    • Passenger taken ill on board service.
  • Train has "lost it's pathway into London" — @beltingebob twitter Jul 23 2013
  • Person by the side of the line with a rifle
  • Person under the train - Person under a train
  • Pigeon droppings fell on our signals
    • June 2000 - A 13 hour delay in Ashford, Kent was caused by the droppings of a single pigeon. Railtrack said it had landed on a vital component at a power sub-station, wreaking havoc with signalling. The Railtrack spokesman further explained: "Our engineers are happy to report that the pigeon survived."
  • Points failure.
  • Pony on the line[63] outside Gravesend. It ended up walking away
  • Poor drainage - Haywards Heath suffered massive delays on Sep 30, 2014 with signal failures which Network Rail sayig: poor drainage in Haywards Heath tunnel can cause problems as it interferes with equipment.[64]
  • Poor rail conditions (leaves on the line).
  • Too much Pollen in the air[65] - Pollen is said to be clogging up the radiators on diesel trains running from Birmingham and Shrewsbury over to Pwllheli and Aberystwyth - a case of Thomas the Tank Engine struck down with hay fever.
  • Portakabin blocking the line (It was very windy that day, and one had toppled over and was blocking the up fast and the two down lines between Watford Gap and Milton Keynes.)
  • Power collection shoe damaged on a train near Elephant & Castle
  • Power failure at signal box.
  • Power failure.
  • Power surge at Southwark Park Sub Station
  • Problem with the doors.

Plastic Bags

  • Plastic Bag on the line - Once got stuck outside Peterborough for hours on end due to a "plastic bag" on the line. I'm not even kidding. Then they told us to get off the train. Then about 30 seconds later there was an announcement- 'errr, it's OK now, the bag has blown away!'
  • Plastic Bags on the trains roof - April 23 2015: The 6.55am service from Oxford to Paddington was delayed until 7.50am and the 7.52am service was cancelled after a rail manager spotted the [2 shopping] bags on the roof of a train and Thames Valley Police were called.[66]

Q

  • Quarantined due to Foot and Mouth - a train ran over a sheep and the vet had to be called to disentangle it. Then the train was quarantined because of the foot and mouth.

R

  • Railway is too Dry[67]
  • Red light causing delay.
  • Rat self destructed whilst chewing through signalling cables.
  • Rodent damage to signal cabling[68]
  • Report of open door on proceeding service thus forming a check of the line.
  • Restricted Air Space - After NATS suffered a power failure closing the UK airspace on Dec 12 2014, National Rail Enquiries tweeted: "Southern passengers affected by restricted airspace over London may travel on later Southern services today or tomorrow morning."
  • Returning a football[69] after the Driver stops train to return a lost ball outside Cambridge
  • Large Rock - Severe delays occured after vandals put a rock on the like outside Eynesford Kent causing a train to hit it. Trains ended up queueing whilst the damage could be determined. Feb 21 2013
  • Rugby related problems (on Reading - Waterloo services after a Rugby watch at Twickenham).
  • Rioting football supporters on train.
  • Running on one power car

Rough Ride Report

A report, usually from a member of Rail Staff, about a train going over a section of track poorly, possibly due to a potential problem on that section of line.

  • Southeastern tweeted on Nov 18 2014[70] "A rough ride report between New Cross & London Bridge has caused safety checks between the stations. Delays/Cancellations expected.".
  • MBTA Commuter Rail also tweeted[71] a similar incident on Nov 25 2014: "Hi Alayna, we got a report from an crew of a rough ride on a section of track. A a speed restriction was instituted for safety."

Interestingly, MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston, Massachusetts) is owned by Keolis who is also one of the owners of Southeastern here in the UK.

S

  • Sea water damage[72]. Trains were disrupted between Folkestone & Dover due to "Damage to the railway caused by sea water"
  • Seat reservations cancelled because electricity supply has been disrupted...
  • Shortage of trains in the West Country.
  • Slippery Rails
    • Slippery rails all over the country (given at Surbiton)
    • "as you can hear the train is unable to grip the rails" @JamesWaters Twitter 2014 Nov 3
  • Some charlie's used an alarm handle as a coat hook (given on a London-Bedford Thameslink train)
    • The current delay is due to some charlie using an alarm handle as coat hook.
  • Some prat attempting suicide
  • Spooks - A prop used on the BBC TV series Spooks was stored securely in the production’s private courtyard near the rail line at Deptford[73]. A member of the public looked into the yard and, on seeing the prop, decided to alert the emergency services as a precaution.
  • Squashed squirrels on windscreen
  • Stock is currently frozen to the rails in Letchworth.
  • Stock shortage due to being misplaced yesterday - via @Undergoon on Twitter: "#southeastern regrets to inform you that this train is only 4 carriages this morning. This is due to stock being misplaced yesterday.. "
  • Suicide.
  • Swan on the line
    • A swan was hit and killed by a train on the line between Rochester and Sole Street on Oct 3 2013 causing chaos in north Kent for several hours
    • "Sorry for the delay, this is due to a SWAN being on the line" outside Stratford on Apr 24 2014 causing delays[74]

Signals

  • Signalling fault.
  • Signalman's decided to send us down a non-electrified line
  • Signalman's decided to send us via the branch instead of the main line
  • Stuck outside Dartford due to the 'Signaller being an arse' - driver heard on Southeastern train on 2015 Mar 6
  • The signalbox computer's just crashed (it's running Windows, what d'you expect? :-)
  • To a platform of passengers waiting for the train from Woking to Waterloo. Delays were caused because somebody had climbed on to the signals near Weybridge and was taking pot shots at passing trains.[75]
  • "unfortunately signaller cocked up & put train next to us in front of us, so now you will be even later" @Vivstwits Twitter 2015 Sep 10

Snow

  • Fluffy snow - Eurostar blamed fluffy snow for delays in December 2009[76]
  • Frozen snow - excuse made by Mersey rail for delays on Jan 30 2015[77]
  • Snow on the line.
  • 'high levels of snow on the track'
  • Snow at North Pole (Eurostar depot - so they can't get any trains in or out).
  • Wrong kind of snow.

Sorry

  • “I’m very sorry, everyone. The last station was Elephant & Castle and I completely forgot to stop.” Thameslink driver after forgetting to stop BT July 29 2015
  • "Sorry about the delay so far, and that we continue to run at a reduced speed. If you would like to look outside through the right hand windows, you will see quite a lot of water".
  • "Sorry for the delay. We can't find out why we are being delayed here outside X."[78]
  • "Sorry for going so slow. We seem to have lost the power units at the rear" - A southeastern train Feb 17 2012
  • "Sorry for the late running of this train, this is due to a train on the platform in front of us…" - Southeastern Feb 22 2012
  • "Sorry ladies & gentlemen. But my windscreen wipes aren't working so we can't go anyway" - Southeastern Jan 1 2014 via @Sundariel

Staff

  • High turnover of staff - London Midland blamed 30 cancellations on Oct 2 2012 due to "predominantly due to recent high turnover of staff"[79]
  • Missing member of staff - 'Delayed because of missing a member of staff'
  • Staff shortage.
  • Train staff are currently missing
  • Staff being left at Cardiff[80]

Sun

  • The driver has forgotten his sunglasses - Southeastern drivers into London Bridge have been advised to wear Sunglasses due to the sun reflecting off the shard[81][82]
  • Due to glorious sunshine[83] - similar to the Sunglasses excuse above, Sep 17 2013 Drivers affected by the glare of light reflected in mirrors at Pelaw station in Gateshead had to wait with their trains in the station while extra checks were carried out.
  • "The low sun is shining on the monitors!" & "We have delays though Lewisham due to drivers not being able to see the dispatch screens due to the sunshine." - Reported by Southeastern, on Jan 12 2016 for delays through Lewisham that morning. Also @FOH_LBG & @miss_ramsey & Evening Standard
  • Trains held up by Strong Sunlight Southeastern at Herne Hill Jan 25 2016

T

Trees falling on the line
  • Congestion on tracks caused by trains @claire_pearsall Twitter 2016 Jan 20
  • Tanking train toilet - They are refilling the water tanks, which is something Southeastern do not do
  • Technical problems.
  • The fing train's broken down. (Given at Milton Keynes)
  • The police have asked us to lock the doors and await their clearance because they are onboard to make an arrest (ECML darlington 1996)
  • The doors won't close (on a 455 with defective doors at London Waterloo)
  • "the pikeys stole the signalling wire" from a member of staff at Nuneaton station[84]
  • There will be no further trains due too a giraffe becoming entangled in the overhead wires (given at Fenchurch Street during a particuly bad evening.) - CONFIRMED as a giraffe is a piece of equipment used to maintain the overhead wires. Named as such as its tall & can reach things high up.
  • Theft of cables.
Greenpeace Tightrope Walker
  • Tightrope walker on the line[85] @Kent_999s tweeted: "GREENWICH: Police were called to a tightrope-walking Greenpeace protestor at the cable car crossing this morning."
  • Tires on the line - apparently the 1907 from Victoria to Ashford Int on 19 Sept 2012 didnt start from Victoria due to car tires being dumped on the line at Kemsing
  • Train toilet closed in October due to 'adverse weather conditions' - seen on a HS1 Javelin from St Pancras to Dover service. Sign even stated “The low temperatures have caused freezing to the extraction and filling points at each depot.” At its lowest, the temperature that day was 10°C[86]
  • Toilet troubles
  • Tomatoes growing on the line - A Tomato plant was found growing between the tracks by a rail worker at Rochford on the Liverpool Street to Southend line. It was being fertilized by excrement being dumped by train toilets[87]
  • Tortoise on the line - Services on the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway came to a halt On June 18 2013 due to the presence of two tortoises loose on the line near Wirksworth.[88]
  • Traffic cones on the line - Vandals put 15 traffic cones on the track delaying the 2250 Waterloo to Reading train for 3 hours [89]
  • Train being diverted.
  • Train broke in two - London Victoria to Rochester train was leaving Sydenham Hill station at 6.20pm when the four front carriages became uncoupled from the rear half of the train.[90]
  • Train damaged by track near Farringdon
  • Train is delayed due to Madonna (at Liverpool Street, 1995(?) Great Eastern decided to hold the last train of the evening to allow concert-goers to return from Wembley)
  • Train proceeding at caution due to report of shopping trolley on line.
  • Train receiving fitter's attention.
  • Train won't departure because of snorlax on the train tracks - Seen at a Dutch rail station Jul 12 2016. For info, a Snorlax is a Pokémon character
  • Trainspotters on the line
    • near Grantham, in 1999
    • East Coast main line outside Peterborough was closed on 2016 Feb 25 when Trainspotters were on the track trying to get a photograph of the Flying Scotsman - @Virgin_TrainsEC
  • 12 foot Trampoline on the line that was blown out of a neighbouring guarden - Jan 5th 2012 outside Cuxton blocking the Medway Valley Line between Maidstone West & Strood
  • Tree blocking onto line.
    • the train has unfortunately hit a tree
  • Trespassers.
  • Two fat ladies at chatham - "We apologise for the delays and cancellations. This is due to two fat ladies at Chatham." The announcement of two fatalities at Chatham had become corrupted along the line.

U

  • Train taken out of service due to "Unbearable Stench" - The May 29 20145 08.47 from New Beckenham to Charing Cross was taken out of service after an angry commuter said urine was running through his carriage.[91]
  • Unknown problem
  • Unexploded World War 2 bomb at Ramsgate[92], found at 14:15 reopened at 17:15 but caused delays the entire network for the rest of the evening of 2013 Sep 23rd. The bomb was destroyed in a controlled explosion at 19:45 BST in another location.
  • Mystery person has urinated on the drivers seat - The 21.52 Southern service from London Victoria to London Bridge was cancelled because the driver discovered a mysterious pool of liquid behind the locked door of the train's driver cab.[93]

V

  • Vandal dropping object down tunnel ventilation shaft.
  • Vandalism.
  • Vandalism on its inward journey by School Kids (via photo posted on twitter/Foursquare)
  • "Vandals have restored power to the signals" - No that's not a typo
  • Vasectomy - Yes a Vasectomy was the cause of a delay on the Circle line train in September 2003

W

  • Wallaby on the line between Huddersfield and Stalybridge @NationalRailEnq tweeted on Jul 15 2016
  • We are being held here waiting for other trains to clear the London area - Southeastern Mar 28 2012
  • We are now approaching Manchester Picadilly. On the behalf of Virgin trains I'd like to apologise that you had to put up with such an awful journey and can only hope that your day doesn't get any worse.
  • We don't know what we're doing - excuse given by the driver of a Manchester to Glasgow service which, instead of being 6 carriages long, only the back half of the train turned up, labelled wrongly. This lead to much confusion and standing as, essentially, all the seats were double booked. The reason given my the driver, after a heartfelt apology was 'we don't know what we're doing'.
  • We have contingency plans, however many of our diversionary routes are blocked due to the engineering works - South West Trains tweet (date unknown), reported by commute.london
  • We wish to apologise most sincerely to the passengers who have recently arrived on the Royal Highlander from Inverness. Your train was delayed for several hours due to a locomotive failure near Drumochter. Then the overhead wires came down near Wigan, so your train was diverted via Manchester. A passenger was taken ill, causing the train to have to wait for an ambulance to arrive at Stockport. Finally, you were diverted via Northampton, due to signalling equipment failure south of Rugby!
  • "were forced to cancel trains because the overhead power lines were either melting and at best wen't functioning correctly..."
  • We're lost
  • We've run out of sand[94] - Southeastern driver's excuse for slippery rails
  • Welcome aboard the Flintstones railway. Once I get my feet on the floor and start running we should be on our way.
  • When the gentleman on platform four has finished his phone conversation, would he kindly tell us how he gets a mobile service here when the rest of us can't?
  • Wild Boar on Marshlink line - quoted by Southern at the Hastings Rail Summit on Jan 30 2015[95]
  • Wonky algorithm - the excuse given for a bug in calculating rail fares over a weekend when trying to avoid engineering disruption at London Bridge[96]
  • Wrong platform - "I once was stranded on a train at Leeds station for 45 minutes because, '...the train has arrived at the wrong platform and two of the carriages are not covering the platform because it's too small.' Forty-five minutes later, the train reversed out of the station, stopped, the driver walked through the train and drove back onto the platform we'd just left...all doors opened and we got on our merry way. There were a number of employees of the train company in my carriage who were in hysterics..."

Waiting for

  • Waiting for the other driver (Birmingham New Street 1994, when HSTs needed 2 drivers)
  • "We're...erm...sorry for the delay. This is because the train is waiting for a new driver. Not that there was anything wrong with the old one. But...well, we're waiting for the new one."
  • Waiting for the Tide - around 2005 outside Exeter with no trains moving west and after over two hours they announced that "they were waiting for the tide to go down so that they could reopen the line at Dawlish"

We apologise for

  • Weedkiller damage - Network Rail had to apologise to a couple after applying weedkiller on the tracks which then started to kill off their garden [97]
  • the delay. This is because we have arrived early
  • the delay. I know you're dying to get home... unless you're married to my ex-wife, in which case you'll want to cross the footbridge and head off in the opposite direction.
  • the late arrival of the train at Norwich. This was due to a delay.
  • the late departure from Norwich. It was a result of the driver having his car wheel-clamped.
  • the late arrival of the train from Manchester. This was due to trespassers fighting on the lines at Wilmslow

Wheel Damage

  • Broken wheel
  • Wheel Damage due to trains being too light[98]

Wrong kind of

  • boat - The wrong type of boat on the line (During rain and strong winds a boat was blown onto the line between Dawlish and Teignmouth.
  • cloud - Southern electrostar refused to open the doors as clouds were blocking the GPS signal.[99] See "spare part for the GPS" above as well
  • coal - The Southend Rail Travellers' Association, dated 1948, excuses were being made that locomotives were failing at Fenchurch Street because of "the wrong kind of coal".[100]
  • dirt - Sept 1999, trains between Ilkley & Leeds were told:
Passengers have complained that they cannot see out of the windows and have missed their stations in the dark.

We have investigated the cause of this blackout because we are used to dealing with normal muck.

But this is the wrong kind of dirt caused by dust from the brake blocks on our trains.
  • heat
    • heat - Used on 2015 Apr 15 when many network faults in the South East on the first hot day of the year caused the rails to get too hot. There was also a derailment at Brighton (unconfirmed if the same cause) at the same time.Front page of the Metro with said excuse
    • Excessive heat on the tracks between Bedford & Luton[101]
  • rain - ‏@Benjionthetrain tweeted 'Let's all remember the time that London Midland told me their train was delayed because of the "wrong kind of rain".'
  • soil - Dry soil has caused train tracks to shift resulting in cancellations Nov 2011 [102]
  • wind - Eurotunnel blamed disruption in Nov 1998 to the "Wrong kind of Wind". In the channel tunnel.

Y

  • Your delay this evening is caused by the line controller suffering from elbow and backside syndrome, not knowing his elbow from his backside.

I Broke the train

'This was on a WAGN service from King's Cross to Cambridge on a Sunday evening in May of 1997. "Ladies and gentlemen..... I just broke the train. [He paused, perhaps deliberately; he *definitely* sounded sheepish.] Fortunately, we've found a replacement, so if you'd like to make your way over to platform (whichever it was), we'll be departing in a few minutes." (At the appointed time, the train had rumbled ominously, shuddered about six feet down the track, then stopped. The driver made this announcement about a minute later.)'

De-Icer failure

'I am sorry for the 3 hour delay this afternoon, but unfortunately the De-Icer (or should that be Sandite) in front of us has laid a too thinner layer of solution on the rails this afternoon and this unit (it was 456020) is far too light to cope with the current rail conditions.'

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