Since fans caught a glimpse of the train in ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’, the Jacobite train running from Fort William to Mallaig has been a true legend. People from all over the world travel to the once desolate Glenfinnan Viaduct and its surroundings, either to make the journey themselves (with 750 passengers a day during peak season) or to just marvel at the train from afar, seeing how it steadily slides over the green landscape, almost other-worldly on its high-perched bridge.
However, the famous train could soon be out of service. The heritage route is currently operated by West Coast Railways. The Jacobite steam train used on the route is now said to have been putting passengers “at risk of serious personal injury”. In order to rectify this, central locking systems should be put on the carriage doors, which would cost around 7 million pounds, according to West Coast Railways. According to the BBC, a judgement on the judicial review should be expected in January.
The issue isn’t exactly new. Over the last 20 years, the Jacobite had been running through an exemption granted by the Office of Rail and Road, concerning the closing system on the doors. That exemption expired in March 2023. In July, the Office of Rail and Road pointed out the procedures around secondary door locks, after which the train line was given a temporary exemption that expired last week. As the train only runs from March until October, so far, the schedule hasn’t been affected by the loss of exemption, but the future of the Hogwarts Express could well be at risk.
A decision on whether or not the train receives a new exemption will follow in January. If the answer is negative, the necessary investment of 7 million pounds would wipe out 10 years of profit, according to West Coast Railways.
“If the ORR comes down on us heavily, it’s going to be difficult and we will have to make a decision on that. It’s our intention that we keep running it but if we have to fit door locking, it’s going to be an expensive business”, commercial manager James Shuttleworth told The Herald.