Des­per­ate pas­sen­gers aban­don stranded trains

Rail (UK) - - Network News - Richard Clin­nick As­sis­tant Edi­tor richard.clin­nick@bauer­me­ @Clin­nick1

PAS­SEN­GERS stranded on five South­east­ern trains made the de­ci­sion to self-evac­u­ate onto the tracks in south Lon­don dur­ing the evening of March 2.

Over­all, some 9,000 pas­sen­gers were stranded on nine trains as a re­sult of the se­vere weather con­di­tions. Of these nine trains, one was not fit­ted with toi­lets and had around 1,000 pas­sen­gers aboard. Con­di­tions de­te­ri­o­rated on the train, and amid ris­ing dis­tress from those who took to so­cial me­dia to com­plain or seek in­for­ma­tion, the op­er­a­tor’s of­fi­cial Twit­ter han­dle swore at pas­sen­gers (see panel).

In­ves­ti­ga­tions are un­der way by the op­er­a­tor, while Her Majesty’s Chief In­spec­tor of Rail­ways Ian Prosser has also con­firmed he will be in­ves­ti­gat­ing the in­ci­dent.

RSSB spokesman Matt Cle­ments con­firmed there is no in­dus­try stan­dard (as such) for evac­u­a­tion, but pointed out that an ATOC/ Net­work Rail Guid­ance Note from June 2014 states there is an “as­pi­ra­tion” of evac­u­at­ing “within an hour” of the train com­ing to a stand.

He added: “How­ever, that does need to be put into the con­text of the whole guid­ance, the spe­cific op­er­a­tional pro­ce­dures within NR and the train op­er­at­ing com­pa­nies them­selves (which they will own to sat­isfy their own need to meet safety re­quire­ments), and the pro­fes­sional judge­ment of op­er­a­tional staff on the day.”

The in­ci­dent started at 1816, when it was re­ported that the late-run­ning 1556 Lon­don Char­ing Cross-Dart­ford (2M48) came to a stand out­side Lewisham un­able to draw power. NR sent a Mo­bile Oper­a­tions Man­ager (MOM) to de-ice the rail­way to help 2M48, which then suf­fered an Au­to­matic Warn­ing Sys­tem (AWS) fault at 1828. It had started its jour­ney 67 min­utes late, and was 80 min­utes late by the time it left Lewisham.

The plan was for 2M48 to run to Black­heath and ter­mi­nate. The Up and Down fast lines were blocked un­til the train got un­der way - this would al­low the 1626 Char­ing Cross-Dart­ford (2M50), which was be­hind it (formed of 376002/035) but which had yet to call at Lewisham, to pull for­ward into the south Lon­don sta­tion. This train had started its jour­ney at 1713 (47 min­utes late), and was 54 min­utes late when it was re­ported ap­proach­ing Lewisham at 1738.

At 1836, the MOM con­firmed he was on site and had had to take an emer­gency iso­la­tion of the third-rail sys­tem on the Up and Down North Kent lines to de-ice the con­duc­tor rail. He took the iso­la­tion on both lines due to the prox­im­ity of the con­duc­tor rail.

Nine min­utes later, at 1845, the MOM ad­vised that “mul­ti­ple per­sons” had alighted from 2M50 at Lewisham Junc­tion, and were on the track. He re­quested emer­gency as­sis­tance, and an emer­gency iso­la­tion of the third-rail was put in place. Be­tween 1845 and 2026 there were six fur­ther re­ports of

pas­sen­gers self-evac­u­at­ing.

Speak­ing to RAIL on March 7, South­east­ern Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor David Statham said: “The first iso­la­tion was for a lim­ited sec­tion, but this was never taken off.”

This was be­cause pas­sen­gers were de-train­ing from 2M50. Asked if trains would have been able to run had that not hap­pened, Statham said: “What I can say is once we got the iso­la­tion off there was a 15 to 20-minute win­dow and we were able to grad­u­ally start mov­ing.”

The NR log re­ports the cur­rent was re­turned at 2136 and trains were mov­ing at 2159. Statham sug­gested that trains could have been run­ning by 1900.

Some pas­sen­gers had been on the first train for 92 min­utes, be­fore those on the one be­hind got off their train.

NR con­firmed that the routes were suf­fer­ing from freez­ing rain. As soon as the wa­ter landed, it froze. Ac­cess to the lo­ca­tions was by road only.

Pas­sen­ger Robin Clarke blogged his ex­pe­ri­ence. He de­scribed con­di­tions aboard the ‘376s’ as: “I my­self needed the toi­let but was not in des­per­ate need, oth­ers were get­ting quite up­set about it and started to face the re­al­i­sa­tion that they will need to ei­ther find a bot­tle (which is ob­vi­ously eas­ier for a man) or face the hu­mil­i­a­tion of wet­ting your­self - or worse.”

When the driver an­nounced the plan to de-ice the track, he blogged: “We should be be­ing evac­u­ated not wait­ing for South­east­ern to make a half-ar­sed at­tempt at spray­ing some car de-icer on the train track.”

He wrote that af­ter at least a fur­ther 30 min­utes: “I could hear sev­eral peo­ple in the car­riage cry­ing and the smell of urine had be­come ap­par­ent.”

Statham said South­east­ern’s op­tions in this sit­u­a­tion is to get the train mov­ing, or move pas­sen­gers to an­other train ei­ther by nose-to-nose or side-by-side. “Walk­ing on the bal­last is the last re­sort,” he said.

He con­firmed there were “four or five” oc­ca­sions when South­east­ern sought to turn the power back on, but couldn’t be­cause pas­sen­gers were on the tracks.

Statham said be­cause there were nine trains to deal with, seven of them ex­tremely busy, the plan had been to get the power on for all trains, rather than se­lected trains. “I un­der­stand peo­ple were in dif­fi­cult con­di­tions,” he said.

Asked whether a lo­co­mo­tive could have been used to res­cue the trains, he said that would be in­ves­ti­gated, but that “it would have been a very dif­fi­cult po­si­tion for all nine trains”.


Pas­sen­gers leave the stranded Class 376s near Lewisham on March 2.

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