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Clyde the tortoise
Photograph: Diane Akers @di_akers

A large tortoise brought trains into Stansted Airport to a halt

The reptile was left shell-shocked after being clipped by a locomotive

Written by
Ellie Muir

This summer, holidaymakers are experiencing a record amount of flight delays, lengthy wait times and even cancellations. Signalling failures? Air traffic? We’ve heard it all before. But, a tortoise on the line? Surely not. Well, rail passengers on the way to Stansted Airport had an unexpected delay after an injured reptile appeared on the train tracks on Monday.

The 76cm-long giant African spurred tortoise, aka Clyde, found his way on to the train tracks operated by Greater Anglia rail – which covers Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, and parts of Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and London – causing delays for more than an hour on Monday afternoon. The camouflaged reptile was discovered on the tracks after he made a daring escape from a local pet shop on Sunday. But he didn’t make it very far; he was found a day later still in the local area. Whatever happened to slow and steady wins the race?

One passenger on board the train, Diane Akers, tweeted a photo of Clyde standing on the tracks, writing to the train company: ‘It’s still alive but injured.’ Sadly, the tortoise’s shell appeared to have a large gash on the top, presumably after being clipped by a train. Ouch. Luckily, the passenger raised the alarm when she finally got to her destination and informed station staff. 

She told the BBC: ‘When we got to Norwich station I told staff in the office there, and the chap looked at me as if I was mad – and then a police officer came along and said he’d seen my tweet.’

In response to the incident, Network Rail Anglia tweeted: ‘We rescued a 50kg giant African spurred tortoise from the tracks yesterday near Harling Road station after being clipped by a train, damaging his shell. We are happy to report that Clyde is OK and will be returning home soon; if a little shell shocked perhaps. #ClydetheTortoise.’

A Greater Anglia spokeswoman said: ‘We are sorry for the disruption caused to customers between this afternoon. This was due to a very large, injured tortoise on the line near Harling Road. Network Rail attended and helped the animal. Services were able to run from 13.25.’

Clyde is reported to be safe and on the mend. Phew. All we can say is: get well soon, Clyde. We wish you (and your shell) a very speedy recovery.

In other rail news: the Bakerloo line might be extended all the way to Kent.

Here’s everything you need to know about the tube strikes this month.

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