Thousands of train passengers in Manchester experienced rail delays yesterday after a helium balloon got tangled up in 25,000-volt overhead electric cables.
Network Rail said that the cables power trains across Manchester city centre, and images released by the organisation showed the large foil balloon caught in cables with Beetham Tower in the background.
Rush-hour trains between Manchester Oxford Road and Warrington Central stations were hit by delays as engineers worked to free the balloon, and the line – which is one of the busiest in the region – was closed and the electricity supply switched off.
The incident prompted Network Rail to issue an urgent warning.
The organisation said that “while helium balloons are fun, they pose a real safety and performance risk to the railway”.
In a statement issued on the incident, Network Rail explained: “The foil balloon got caught on the high-voltage overhead wires, delaying trains travelling between Manchester Oxford Road and Warrington Central.
“Engineers had to close the line and switch off the electricity which powers trains through one of the busiest railway corridors in the country so the balloon could be safely removed.”
Phil James – Network Rail’s North West Route Director – added: “Fortunately, our engineers quickly removed this balloon before it could seriously delay passengers and freight [but] while helium balloons are fun, they pose a real safety and performance risk to the railway.
“Please keep helium balloons away from the railway.”
Network Rail also revealed that helium-filled balloons cause dozens of train delays for passengers across Britain each year, with more than 600 balloon-related incidents across England, Scotland and Wales having been recorded over the last 10 years.
Featured Image – Network Rail