The Suspension of the Jacobite: A Pause in the Magic of Scotland’s Harry Potter Train

The enchanting journey of the Jacobite steam train, famously known as the real-world Hogwarts Express from the Harry Potter film series, has hit a temporary halt.

This beloved attraction, which has captivated fans and tourists with its scenic route through the Scottish Highlands, faces a critical moment as it awaits a safety ruling that could significantly impact its future operations and the local economy.

The Heart of the Issue:

At the core of the suspension is the train’s unique feature: its hinged-door carriages.

These have been a hallmark of the Jacobite’s charm for over 30 years, thanks to a special exemption allowing them on main lines.

However, as West Coast Railways (WCR), the operator behind the UK’s largest main-line heritage rail service, seeks to renew this exemption, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has yet to deliver its verdict, putting the service on pause.

James Shuttleworth, WCR’s commercial manager, encapsulates the significance of the train, “The Jacobite service is enjoyed by thousands of customers every year. It boosts the local economies of Mallaig and Fort William and brings an estimated £20m into the UK’s tourism sector.”

The potential loss, should the exemption not be granted, could ascend to “up to £50m in lost value to both local and national communities,” highlighting the train’s substantial contribution beyond its cinematic fame.

The Controversy and Consequences:

The ORR’s stance stems from safety concerns regarding the hinged-door carriages, with heritage operators previously informed of the need for modern central door locking systems or an exemption to continue operations past a certain deadline.

Despite a temporary exemption granted during judicial review proceedings, WCR’s decision to proceed with ticket sales amidst uncertainty has drawn criticism from the ORR for lacking “sensible contingency plans for the benefit of their customers.”

The Path Forward:

As the Jacobite’s fate hangs in the balance, with the ORR assessing WCR’s latest exemption application, the outcome will not only affect the future of this iconic train but also the broader implications for heritage railway operations and tourism in the UK.

Passengers affected by the suspension are being offered full refunds, a small consolation as many await the chance to once again experience the magic of the Highlands through the windows of the Jacobite.


The suspension of the Jacobite steam train service underscores the challenges of preserving heritage while ensuring safety in modern railway operations.

As fans of Harry Potter and railway enthusiasts alike hold their breath, the hope remains that a resolution can be found to keep the magic of the Jacobite alive for future generations to explore the stunning landscapes of Scotland and the rich tapestry of stories that have made the route a beloved symbol of adventure and imagination.

You might also Like