State rail operator Renfe was forced to apologize and issue full refunds to all 109 passengers on the Alvia train and have launched an internal investigation into the incident.
The train had been due to arrive into Madrid at 23.15pm on Tuesday but it was delayed leaving Santander and so, for reasons not yet made absolutely clear, the driver chose to clock off around 9.30pm.
So when the train pulled into Osorno in the province of Palencia, the driver turned off the engine and left the controls even though no other driver was available to take over.
Passengers report that they were told the delay was due to “technical problems” and then later that the driver couldn’t continue over his set hours because it would raise the risk of having an accident.
Passengers were furious to be told that they had to wait until alternative transportation could be found and after several hours a replacement bus service eventually turned up to transport people to Madrid.
The disgruntled passengers arrived at their final destination around 2.30 in the morning.
Renfe are currently locked into a labour dispute with its train drivers who have taken strike action to protest a deficit in the number of train drivers.
A spokesman from the train diver union Semaf said that the driver had not staged a protest but had been forced to clock off “in keeping with the legal requirements”
“Drivers are not allowed at the controls for longer than 5 and a half hours straight,” Carlos Segura told local Cantabrian newspaper El Diario de Montanes.
“He repeatedly told headquarters that he was coming to the end of his shift and would go into overtime but received no answer, so he had to stop.”