The operator of a train service that featured in the Harry Potter films has lost a High Court challenge against a rail regulator over door safety.
West Coast Railways (WCR) contested demands for central locking systems to be installed on the carriage doors.
The owners of the Jacobite – which starred as the Hogwarts Express in the boy wizard films – stated that implementing the new measures could cost £7m.
It operates on the iconic West Highland Line from Fort William to Mallaig.
WCR initiated legal proceedings against the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) after it declined to exempt the company from rules prohibiting the use of hinged doors without central locking.
The company relies on the safety exemption to allow for the continued use of heritage rolling stock.
It argued that the cost of adding locking systems to the traditional 1950s slam-door carriages would potentially erase about 10 years of profit.
WCR expressed “disappointment” with the High Court ruling and reiterated that safety was its “top priority.”
A judge dismissed the operator’s case and concluded that the ORR had taken a “justifiable” approach.
Mrs. Justice Thornton noted that a feature of the Jacobite was the hinged doors that “can be opened by anyone inside the train even when the train is moving.”
She remarked that it was “common sense” that a central locking system was safer than one “dependent on no more than an assumption by the guard that the stewards have locked the doors.”
The judge stated that the ORR had observed no evidence of a WCR investigation or “lessons learnt” after a train left York with a door open in October 2020.
Or an occasion when a passenger overpowered a steward to open the door of a moving train in June 2022.
The ORR told the judge that it did not want heritage train operators to go out of business, but it wanted to ensure heritage trains “meet minimum safety standards” by introducing central locking.
West Coast Railways supplied Warner Bros with the locomotive and heritage carriages used for the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter film series.
The Jacobite train makes two trips a day, from March to October, using some of the same carriages that were used for filming.
The WCR’s legal challenge centred on an ORR exemption refusal in January and March.
Heritage appeal The company, whose trains run at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour, argued that its door procedures were as safe as a central locking mechanism, with train stewards operating them and warning signs for passengers.
WCR’s commercial manager, James Shuttleworth, said: “We have decades of experience of operating on the main line and safety has always been, and remains, our top priority.
“We will now reflect and consider options to enable us to continue running safe services enjoyed by so many visitors from the UK and around the world, upon which local businesses along our routes rely.
“We are committed to working with the ORR to find a long-term solution which safeguards the future of heritage services.”
Welcoming the ruling, the ORR said it was committed to “ensuring the safety of all passengers.”
A spokesperson said: “Other charter heritage operators which use the mainline railway have made the necessary investment to install central door locking on ‘hinged door’ carriages.
“It remains open to the West Coast Railway Company Limited to do the same.
“Such converted carriages can both retain their heritage appeal yet also reflect minimum modern safety standards.”