THOUSANDS of rail passengers suffered long delays to their journeys today following a power failure in a signalbox at Didcot.

The signalling fault struck in the middle of the morning peak at 7.30am.

Hundreds of passengers arrived at Oxford station to find that services between the city and London Paddington were at a standstill.

First Great Western services between London, Reading Didcot, Swindon, Bristol, South Wales and the Cotswolds were also affected, as were CrossCountry’s trains between Oxford, Reading and the South Coast.

Network Rail engineers had services back on the move by late morning, although it took at least two hours to sort out all the delays.

Victoria Lucking, 35, a watch designer from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, was late for an interview for a sales job in Torquay because of the delay.

She said: “First Great Western paid for a taxi for me to get to Reading, but I will still be late for my interview at 2.30pm. It’s unavoidable but very frustrating.”

Anne Varty, 50, of Lake Street, South Oxford, said she would be late for meetings at Royal Holloway, part of the University of London, where she works.

“It has made my day very complicated,” she said. “I don’t think there were enough announcements to keep everyone informed.

“There wasn’t enough information available and there didn’t seem to be a proper contingency plan in place.”

Niaz Asadullah, 35, from Headington, an economics lecturer at Reading University, was late for an exam board meeting.

He said: “I was looking forward to getting a train at about 9am. We were going to discuss the final exam marks for undergraduates, so it’s a bad day for this to happen.”

And Jon Wade, 43, from Middle Aston, near Bicester, who works as an earth science researcher, was delayed on a journey to Bristol, where he was due to run a course.

He said: “I left home at 6.30am and was due to get to Bristol at 10.30am but that’s not going to happen.”

By about 8.30am, coaches were being laid on for passengers at Oxford station.

Simon Holden, FGW’s duty station manager, said: “We did everything we could to keep passengers moving.

“We got in coaches galore, with some coming from as far away as Leicester and Wolverhampton.

“We also sent passengers up to Banbury so they could use Chiltern Railways to get to London Marylebone.

“It was very difficult but once the problem had been fixed we recovered very quickly.”

FGW spokesman Ellie Banks added: “The incident happened at 7.30am, which was not the best time, and we’re very sorry for any inconvenience experienced by passengers.

“A power failure occurred in a signalbox at Didcot Parkway and after that there were no trains running between Swindon, Oxford, Reading or Didcot.

“We provided 50 replacement coaches at a number of different stations and CrossCountry also provided coaches for passengers.

“The problem was fixed at 10.20am.

“Passengers still experienced some delays for about two hours afterwards, as trains and crews were in the wrong places.”