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Author Topic: Please allow adequate time for your journey
Geoff Mayo
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Somewhat off-topic as far as Amtrak is concerned, but I had the dubious joy of experiencing a rail service collapsing overnight in the UK on the 23rd/24th December - remotely. Through the wonders of technology (and, I admit, being somewhat "in" the industry and having privileged access) I had a birds' eye view with live controllers and signalling information (signals, routes set for trains, real time running information etc).

All because of the weather. High winds and storm surges brought everything on to active railway lines from leaves on the line (with trees still attached), flooding, trampolines, garden sheds, and displaced wildlife/cattle.

Concentrating mostly on the Great Western region which is London to the west country and Wales, one route after another became blocked by one or more of the above. As soon as a diversion was put in place for a train, its diversionary route became impassable.

The "down" sleeper (beds from London to Penzance) had passengers boarded but its driving crew were stuck on a delayed train. By the time the crew arrived, the passengers had to be disembarked because all routes were now blocked. The "up" sleeper (Penzance to London) fared a little better, arriving at Exeter (roughly half way) at around 4:30am instead of around 1am there and 6am in London. Another train got stuck between floods and the passengers made good use of the buffet car (and Twitter, and by the sound of it, actually had a good time - though probably not everybody on that train). The train operating company offered to rescue the non-essential crew but they refused while passengers were aboard. Good for them. Bear in mind road transport for the passengers was also somewhat dubious for the same reason - flooding, debris on the roads, etc. Taxis for crew have somewhat different liabilities than coaches for passengers.

Next up was a Swansea to London high speed service, normally taking around 3.5hrs. It limped in to London 6 hours late. Even the relief crew on that were under half an hour from expiring. As I write this the empty train is still waiting in the station for a relief crew to take it to the depot for servicing, maintenance, and cleaning - two hours after arrival.

However, it's not as if it's blocking any other trains. London Paddington station has 14 platforms ("tracks") and only 3 are occupied at 7am. Normally it would be thrice that but most services throughout southern England have been cancelled entirely until daylight and lines have been checked for debris at reduced speed. Even with extra crews clearing the lines, there are only so many crews available to do so - and they also have to battle the roads which might be similarly impassable.

It's now 7:15am and the chaos has quietened down somewhat, but that's more because services have been cancelled at origin rather than scrambling to get people home by any means possible overnight. The controllers now have the job of trying to get trains and crews back to their correct places, with appropriate rest periods, fuelling (the west country is virtually all diesel territory), and other supplies. Virtually no passenger services run on Christmas day but the Christmas period is also traditionally the time when major engineering works takes place. Well guess what: the engineering trains and crews are going to have to scramble to get into place by tonight - and that's assuming they can even get there given the severe flooding in various parts.

Last night the airlines didn't fare much better, with London airports rejecting a lot of traffic. Many flights ended up further north in the country. Think of expecting to land at JFK and ending up at Boston with somewhat troublesome methods of transport (road/rail/air) to get back to New York in time for Christmas.

Fun, fun, fun! And the lesson for today, boys and girls, is to not leave travel until the last minute if you can possibly avoid it. Merry Christmas everyone!

Geoff M.

Posts: 2426 | From: Apple Valley, CA | Registered: Sep 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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Thanks for the inside scoop on what's happening across the pond. I love the part about the non-essential crew TURNING DOWN being rescued while passengers were on-board. I just can't imagine that ever happening on an AmTrain. They'd be outta there before you could say All Aboard!
Posts: 2355 | From: Pleasanton, CA | Registered: Apr 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Geoff Mayo
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Member # 153

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Thanks Smitty. Some photos now daylight has occurred:
There's track there somewhere
No trains today
Fortunately the "fireman" side

BBC news

Geoff M.

Posts: 2426 | From: Apple Valley, CA | Registered: Sep 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator

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