Thursday 27 May 2010

Sitting spare in splendid isolation yesterday so we didn’t hear about the signal failure until it came up on BBC News. As with every disruption this meant that trains were delayed, others were re-numbered (or re-formed to give it the correct title), drivers didn’t get off when they were meant to and subsequently weren’t ready to pick up their next train when it turned up. This is where spares come in, filling in the gaps that are the result of any major incident.

Around 11am the DMT (Duty Manager, Trains) on the desk told to pick up Train A, take it to NeP and back, easy peasy. Train A was running very late and when I checked the “plotter” it was only at LaG, nearly half and hour away. In the time it took to arrive we’d had a change of DMT but the replacement confirmed that I was due to pick up Train A. When Train B arrived the driver called up from the platform to ask where their relief was as he was due to finish, no note of this in the book, nothing arranged, so the DMT sent one of the other spares to run it up to Epp and back.

When Train A was at Str another driver walks up, looks at the “plotter” and reveals that he is the booked driver of Train A. Oh yes, they had re-formed Train A into Train B, the DMT on earlier had managed to mix up which train was which, so I went back to the mess room.

Later I got a Woo v Hai and back, Train C. Once again I watch it on the “plotter”, when it’s at Ley I go out onto the platform but as it rolls in it is Train D bound for Lou. Apparently everyone except the driver had been told about the re-form. And obviously if you don’t tell the driver they can’t tell the passengers. So I relay the bad news over the PA and then watch a lot of very pissed off people departing onto the platform. Glad I’m not station staff.

At Woo the nice CSAs tipped me out and I took the train up the siding, 21 Road, ready to shunt across to go back to Hai. As I crossed over the points I noticed a fair amount of smoke coming from one of the sleepers in the big gap between power rails (aka a "rail gap"). After I’d changed ends I called up Control, informed them we had a bit of smouldering and they asked if I could deal with it “without putting myself at risk”. No problem, I waited till the shunt signal cleared, moved up to the smoking sleeper, secured the train, jumped down on the track with a fire extinguisher, gave it a few bursts to make sure it was out, jumped back and carried onto the platform. All those years of fire training finally got put into practice.

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