On Trains & Buses

Travel news, views & information from Europe & North America by an independent public transport user

All it takes is a fatality

Posted on December 8, 2011

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In February, I was travelling by train from Oxford to Macclesfield and got held up in Oxford for longer than was planned. The cause was a familiar one: someone was struck by a train and died of their injuries. In cases like these, investigations are needed and it takes an hour or more to complete those and reopen the line. My only complaint about that was that we weren’t told sooner what was going on. Of course, when there fatalities, you have to think about those who are left after the deceased. Compared to their lot, disruption to a journey seems trivial.

Tonight, something very similar has happened on the East Coast Mainline around Alexandra Palace in North London. There is no account as to whether the person struck by a train has died or not though it clearly is a concern. Having witnessed a suicide attempt in front a First Transpennine Express train at Oxenholme after a day spent walking in the Lake District, I do realise that these can be survived. That incident may have left me feeling shaken but the vigilance of railway staff meant that all was under control very quickly though that train from Scotland to Manchester Airport got cancelled if my memory serves me correctly. Police investigations always are needed when things like these happen.

Returning to the present, there is no doubt that this evening’s incident has been the cause of disruption for many commuters and other travellers who were headed north from London. In the middle of this, First Capital Connect made available useful maps showing alternative routes for those caught up in the disruption. Hopefully, that information got put into the hands of those who need it because this precisely is what’s needed for onward travel when railway lines are closed like this. Compounding that, a train broke down around Shepreth too so passenger travelling between Hitchin and Cambridge were inconvenienced too though the reason is a less worrying one.

Near the end of September, I too walked into similar disruption at King’s Cross Station while bound for Hatfield. Then, that kind of information was scarce and there was an hour’s wait before I got to know that travelling to St. Albans and taking a bus from there would get me where I wanted to go that night. The cause then was less tragic: rats had eaten cable near Finsbury Park and caused a signal failure that made journeys for everyone so rough that it got into BBC London news bulletins.

For me, it came at the end of a month spent commuting from home to work on site at a client and it brought me face to face with other delays too. Even without fatalities, Virgin Trains were struggling to keep trains running to schedule. A signalling mistake was all it took to delay me between Macclesfield and London one evening, the very same one that I have described above as it happens. Friday night departures from Euston hardly ran on time for me though I have done better with earlier Wednesday and Thursday evening ones since then. Signalling problems around Wembley were to blame one evening so it does look as if railways in the north of London are a little on the fragile and criminality in the form of cable theft does not help either.

While my thoughts starting with persons being struck by trains on Britain’s railway, they seem to have meandering to other causes of railway disruption. Nevertheless, fatalities are the most tragic of all these and thoughts to be with those left behind by such incidents regardless of the amount of disruption that is caused.

Update 2011-12-13: There seem to be two such casualties tonight, one around East Croydon and another near Brighton. Of course, disruption ensues but it’s the families of those struck by trains who should be uppermost in anyone’s mind. Hopefully, everyone gets home O.K.