Rail Adventures staff work around the clock as Storm Arwen wreaks travel havoc

Staff at a rail-based tour operator worked around the clock to assist passengers as Storm Arwen wreaked travel havoc across the country.

Rail Adventures was set up by South Shields-based agency Westoe Travel at the start of the year to run rail and hotel packages in the UK.

Joan Brett, who runs the agency with husband Graeme, said Rail Adventures has “totally exceeded” predictions and has been a “crucial part” of the business.

But Storm Arwen was the first big challenge for the company.

Storm Arwen saw winds of 98mph recorded in Northumberland with buildings and vehicles damaged. Power failures affected thousands of homes and businesses across the north of England.

“Our team worked until midnight on Friday, from 5am to 10pm on Saturday and all through Sunday dealing with affected customers, hotels and rail companies,” Joan Brett said.

“Friday saw the  cancellation of trains and we had seven customers stranded in Edinburgh trying to return to Newcastle by train.

Winds of 84mph saw the rail lines closed between Edinburgh and Newcastle.

“The rail companies organised rail replacement coaches and we asked the customers to head to the train station to catch these coaches.

“However, Police Scotland then closed the A1 and other roads back to England due to the winds, so the customers could not travel home and would have been stranded in Edinburgh.

“We arranged hotel rooms in Edinburgh for the night for them all.”

Trains between Edinburgh and Newcastle were still cancelled on Saturday and again rail replacement coaches could not run.

She added: “We arranged a private mini-coach to bring the customers home. All of this at no cost to the customer as they had booked a package.

“We also had three bookings due to travel to Edinburgh on Saturday and as there were no trains to Scotland we contacted the customers to cancel their bookings and provide a full refund immediately in accordance with our same day refund policy.

“We also had customers in London and Manchester who we kept in touch with to advise them of changes to their train times

“It was an expensive weekend for us but it demonstrates to customers the value of booking a package.”

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