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Author Topic: Train versus tree between Chard Junction and Axminster, 13th January 2020  (Read 322 times)
bignosemac
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« on: January 13, 2020, 09:15:12 pm »

The 1420 (1L41) from London Waterloo to Exeter St David's hit a partially fallen tree between Crewkerne & Axminster at around 1700 today, 13th January 2020

I was caught up in the subsequent delays following an afternoon appointment in Yeovil. I arrived by bus at Yeovil Junction in time for the 1729 back to Templecombe. Even for short journeys I like to ensure I have a plan B, so I'd checked my train running before getting on the bus to Yeovil Junction. Just in case I needed to switch to the Yeovil - Templecombe bus home. Having a plan B is all well and good, except for those times when an incident occurs after you've started on Plan A.

A couple of minutes after arriving at Yeovil Junction the display for my train at 1729 went from 'On time' to 'Delayed'. After checking various sources (including those that are nominally 'staff only') I learnt of the train hitting a tree and knew I was likely in for a long wait. Headed back to Yeovil Bus Station to get the bus to Templecombe was one option but that meant an hour wait until 1830. I decided to stay at Yeovil Junction.

There was another reason for staying. The ticket office had closed early at 1720 (staff shortages - coincidence. Literally 10 minutes before the incident) meaning there were no station staff. I took it upon myself to keep other passengers up to date with the information I could glean from public and staff sources. Displays and automatic announcements are useless in these situations. The Help Point kept dropping calls. Oh, and with no staff available until the usual closing time (1920), there was no waiting room or toilets. That was somewhat alleviated when a down train arrived and was held at Yeovil Junction. I spoke to the guard on that train and he suggested those waiting to go toward London could wait on his train to keep warm and dry. He promised to make announcements and keep his passengers, and those headed the other way, informed. We even got a free trip out of the station and back in when we had to move platforms to allow the ECS service (see below) through.

After passing on info I could glean, one lady even offered me a tip to buy Finn some treats, after we'd talked about his dinner being delayed!

With single line sections on this route, incidents such as this do bring into stark relief the lack of flexibility for degraded running. From what I can tell, there was only minor damage to the incident train (certainly nothing noticeable on the rear end as it trundled through Yeovil Junction on its way back to the depot), and it wasn't a full tree across the lines. More of a vegetation incursion. The incident train was able to run into Axminster, terminate and head back ECS to the depot in Salisbury. The errant vegetation was quickly cleared. But with single line sections, and having to ensure delayed trains could pass each other at loops/stations, the recovery time was significantly longer than had this incident occurred on a double track line. Incidentally, the incident train was sent ECS via Castle Cary to Salisbury, presumably to not add to the number of services stacked up in both directions between Salisbury and Exeter. That I suppose was one bit of flexibility - having crew that sign that route.

My train back to Templecombe, due at 1729, arrived at 1920. It lost a few more minutes and I arrived at Templecombe 116 minutes late. Just shy of a full refund. Darn. I am tempted to write to SWR (cc Mark Hopwood) offering some constructive criticism, with praise for the guard on the down service, and to ask nicely if they'll consider full Delay Repay. After all, I did do the job of a member of staff at Yeovil Junction!
« Last Edit: January 13, 2020, 09:22:39 pm by bignosemac » Logged

TonyK
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« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2020, 11:40:59 pm »

Well done that man and dog! It is good to have some idea what is going on by using the various sources available when no-one else has a clue.
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grahame
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« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2020, 05:32:41 am »

Well done that man and dog! It is good to have some idea what is going on by using the various sources available when no-one else has a clue.

There remains nothing like the human brain - especially BigNoseMac's well tuned one - to interpret the various data sources from the still-embryonic automated interpreters of data feeds.
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Timmer
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« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2020, 06:26:26 am »

There remains nothing like the human brain - especially BigNoseMac's well tuned one - to interpret the various data sources from the still-embryonic automated interpreters of data feeds.
All most people want at times of disruption is to be kept informed even if it’s to tell them you have no information right now but as soon as you do you will pass it on. Just showing ‘delayed’ helps no one.
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grahame
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« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2020, 06:38:19 am »

There remains nothing like the human brain - especially BigNoseMac's well tuned one - to interpret the various data sources from the still-embryonic automated interpreters of data feeds.
All most people want at times of disruption is to be kept informed even if it’s to tell them you have no information right now but as soon as you do you will pass it on. Just showing ‘delayed’ helps no one.

Indeed ... from many years of IT experience, "looking into it" is OK as a starter.  "Will post an update by 07:30" is very much more comforting, and also helps reduce the volume of reports and and enquiries which can be important if it's the same person actually updating the information feed and looking / helping to fix the base problem.

"Delayed" - yuk.
"Delayed - investigating. Update by 18:00" - much better
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bignosemac
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« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2020, 11:43:58 am »

I don't think the automated PA announcement, "Please listen for further announcements" is much use either.

What I'd rather hear in these circumstances is a human being providing information, even if it's initially just, "we have no further information at present, we'll keep you updated." That's essentially what we got from the guard of the down train that was held at Yeovil Junction. And he was excellent with updates and warnings that the delays may be significantl. But that train being in the station and having a proactive guard aboard was fortuitous rather than by design.

Surely a way can be found for staff in 'Control' to patch into stations' PA systems. Yes, 'Control' have to prioritise getting things running again or organising replacement road transport, but train operators need to understand there are passengers out there who are in the dark. Literally and figuratively last night!

Not every station affected by such incidents will have a bignosemac on hand!
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« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2020, 11:52:10 am »

My understanding is that this is what the help-points are for. I appeciate these may not be connected directly toControl personnel - but maybe that is a better query (that they should be) than expecting staff to contact stations with no customers present?

The customer being expected to be proactive to save staff time in making calls to stations where there are noo customers. And as we agree, control centre staff have calls on their time outside connecting with 'empty' stations.

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bignosemac
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« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2020, 02:18:04 pm »

Help Point calls were not connecting last night. An offshore call handler is not best placed to provide up to date and rolling information even if you do get through.

My thought is a system whereby human being announcements are made through PA to groups of stations along the affected line. Last night that would have meant Tisbury, Gillingham, Templecombe, Sherborne, Yeovil Junction, Crewkerne, Axminster, Honiton, Fenton, Whimple, and Pinhoe. At the time of the incident and onward only Yeovil Junction would normally be staffed.

TOCs should be more proactive in this area, not customers. SWR knew enough last night to update their internal information system, with details about milestones, amendments to services, potential alternative transport, and finally, the reopening of the line and resumption of running.

None of that can be relayed to passengers by a display or automated announcement.

One comment to me last night, "I'm glad somebody knows what's going on. That woman ( automated PA voice) is useless."
« Last Edit: January 14, 2020, 02:25:57 pm by bignosemac » Logged

ChrisB
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« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2020, 02:27:34 pm »

Help Point calls were not connecting last night. An offshore call handler is not best placed to provide up to date and rolling information even if you do get through.

My point exactly - but solve that such that the handler is sat within Control, and most if not all issues can be solved.
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bignosemac
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« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2020, 06:09:23 pm »

If you have someone in 'Control' able to respond to Help Point calls then they'd also be able to make announcements via remote access to station PA.
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« Reply #10 on: January 14, 2020, 10:13:31 pm »

Surely a way can be found for staff in 'Control' to patch into stations' PA systems. Yes, 'Control' have to prioritise getting things running again or organising replacement road transport, but train operators need to understand there are passengers out there who are in the dark. Literally and figuratively last night!

I don't know about now, but I do remember in the 90s hearing the occasional tannoy announcement at West Drayton from someone at Slough saying the next train which is running late should arrive at Langley at xxxx, Iver at yyyy and West Drayton at zzzz. I seem to recall that back then the station master for those stations was based at Slough.
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TonyK
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« Reply #11 on: January 14, 2020, 11:25:26 pm »

All most people want at times of disruption is to be kept informed...

Very much so. I have been in the position once of knowing more about what was about to happen at Temple Meads, that being the very late appearance of half of the predicted Voyager heading for Dundee from Newquay, than the poor chap on the platform and the man on the other end of the radio. On that occasion, I confess that I didn't share my knowledge widely until I had taken advantage of the ensuing melée to get my aged mother ensconced in First Class before anybody else thought of asking.
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« Reply #12 on: January 15, 2020, 09:19:05 am »

If you have someone in 'Control' able to respond to Help Point calls then they'd also be able to make announcements via remote access to station PA.

Probably be too busy answering calls from help points. Bur yes, one or the other.
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