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Thameslink driver refuses to move train 16/11

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bramling

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The unanimous verdict after just a few hours' deliberation was that the guard was guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence. The chronology is as follows:

In the trial, the guard admitted he was frustrated with the disorderly conduct displayed by passengers on the train (which might be typical of a Liverpool night out). The driver, who was called as a witness, said it was "rowdy". The deceased had previously alighted at Meols and then run back onto the train, after being told by her friends it was the wrong stop. The guard actually got out of his cab there and walked along the platform to intervene personally with this passenger. Later, at James Street, he observed the same passenger leave the train, and then return to it. He delayed the departure momentarily for this reason. She then leaned on the train to say goodbye to a friend in the window, which threatened to make the train even more delayed than it was. At this time the platform is deserted except for her. The guard is seen to clearly look directly at the woman, and then gives the departure signal while she is in contact with the train. The train departs, and she is seen to still be in contact with the train, at which point the guard waves her - and possibly also shouts - to move away. The guard does not give the stop signal - one on the buzzer - at this time. The woman then slips during contact with the train is falls under it, where she suffered an unmentionable injury which meant she was clearly immediately deceased. It is only when she falls that the guard gives the signal to stop.

The judge's sentencing remarks concluded:

"In my judgment, the CCTV footage is unequivocal, Georgia Varley was not moving away and she was not showing any sign of moving away.

"She only moved when the movement of the train deprived her of support and caused her to lose balance and fall to her death.

"I am satisfied that you merely hoped and assumed she would get out of the way when the train began to move, and on that wholly inadequate basis you took a terrible risk."


The original thread is here: https://www.railforums.co.uk/threads/merseyrail-guard-on-trial.74367/ - as a content warning I should say there are some predictably appalling attitudes to the deceased, even on the first page, and some from people who work in safety critical roles on the railway. An illuminating read into how some people view duty of care. Anyway, every so often on this forum, someone will bring up James Street as some sort of injustice against the guard. If you move a train with a passenger leaning on it then you don't give a toss about their safety and that is exactly why the guard was guilty - gross negligence. The end.

Worth also adding that the person concerned, as well as being intoxicated with alcohol, was also under the influence of substances. She was essentially unfit to travel. As someone responsible enough to have never done the latter, and never allowed myself to get into such a state with the former (and indeed hasn’t touched it at all for many years) I am not particularly disposed to be sympathetic to people who make injudicious lifestyle choices. People should take some responsibility for their actions. I don’t state this in defence of the guard, however (in my view) the conduct of the individual concerned also fell short.

There really needs to be an acceptance that people need to take some responsibility for their actions in respect of train dispatch. Many of us manage to go through life without putting ourselves in the position where we hinder a train dispatch.
 
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Richardr

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The unanimous verdict after just a few hours' deliberation was that the guard was guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence. The chronology is as follows:

If anyone wishes to read further details, the sentencing remarks of the original trial [there was an appeal] are Sentencing and the RAIB report is RAIB Report
 

Bald Rick

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Quick technical question (I don't sign ATO) Does the Driver have to press the ATO button and apply power (be in a power position; not just in off' or does the train pull away after interlock ?

Driver has to re-engage ATO after every stop. They can choose not to, and drive manually in ETCS.


Is ATO now in everyday use on the Thameslink core? I recall there being a period in which the hardware was ready but drivers weren't trained to use it.

Yes; in my experience well over half the trips across the core are now in ATO. AIUI it is not used at weekends and at certain quiet times in the week.



In the longer term, platform screen doors if possible on a curving platform (@Bald Rick, any ideas?)

Yes (Tottneham Court Road Crossrail east ound is curved) but at Farringdon it is very curved. Also vertical curves to deal with !


As for this incident - the driver was no doubt applying the rulebook to the letter. However I’ll have a tenner that the platforms there have been busier at other times and drivers have departed without issue. I wonder what the specific issue was on this occasion?
 

Hairy Airey

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100% driver in the right......this is why people get told to stay behind the yellow line at stations. I'm reminded of a fairly recent thread where someone was having a whinge about platform staff shouting at people to stay behind the line, well, this is exactly why it's done. PS, I'm platform staff at a large station.....
I am not even train staff but I also shout at people to keep behind the yellow line as trains arrive. I would have used my whistle here and shouted at passengers to get back behind the yellow line. Incidentally I have a seriously loud voice!

I have used my whistle to stop someone go under a train at a large station. They were right at the edge as a high speed train was approaching. Might even be the same station!
 

dctraindriver

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Worth also adding that the person concerned, as well as being intoxicated with alcohol, was also under the influence of substances. She was essentially unfit to travel. As someone responsible enough to have never done the latter, and never allowed myself to get into such a state with the former (and indeed hasn’t touched it at all for many years) I am not particularly disposed to be sympathetic to people who make injudicious lifestyle choices. People should take some responsibility for their actions. I don’t state this in defence of the guard, however (in my view) the conduct of the individual concerned also fell short.

There really needs to be an acceptance that people need to take some responsibility for their actions in respect of train dispatch. Many of us manage to go through life without putting ourselves in the position where we hinder a train dispatch.
If you work in a safety critical role, be it police, paramedics, bouncers, drivers, guards etc etc there’s a good chance you’ll be fatigued by the repeated actions of people under the influence of whatever.

It’s even more important that we ensure we do the right thing and ensure our responsibilities and diligence allow those at that specific time be kept safe even when as you state their own actions fell short.

For all you know this females drinks could have been spiked. People are allowed to make good and bad decisions which we all do. That guard let her down.
 
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357

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Am I alone in thinking we have forgotten the point of the yellow lines? They were introduced in 1976 for platforms passed by trains at more than 100mph because of the concern that the passengers might get sucked off the platform by the vacuum created by the train.
No, as has been spoken about up thread. But they also are a very easy visual indicator when asking passengers to stand back.

What's a reasonable alternative? To specify a measurement and give every passenger a free ruler to check?
 

Tetchytyke

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Worth also adding that the person concerned, as well as being intoxicated with alcohol, was also under the influence of substances.

…which made the guard’s decision making even more inexcusable.

I get why the prosecution unsettled a lot of train crew, but really it shouldn’t have done. The guard in that case was grossly negligent.

The more unsettling prosecution was that of Martin Zee, who did nothing wrong but was still prosecuted. But that prosecution had as much to do with the age of the deceased as much as anything tbh.

As for the original post, the driver is right not to move if he doesn’t consider it safe. But I can equally understand why the platform staff would be frustrated if they’ve done all they can and the driver doesn’t consider it enough. The train remaining in the platform is just going to make the situation worse, and it’ll be the platform staff who’ll cop the abuse for it.
 

AlastairFraser

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Yes (Tottneham Court Road Crossrail east ound is curved) but at Farringdon it is very curved. Also vertical curves to deal with !


As for this incident - the driver was no doubt applying the rulebook to the letter. However I’ll have a tenner that the platforms there have been busier at other times and drivers have departed without issue. I wonder what the specific issue was on this occasion?
Thanks for the info - this seems to be the best option here in future, perhaps.

When you mentioned the other drivers departing, were they DOO services? I've no wish to reignite the whole circular debate, but I think it is relevant to this thread that the driver may be more cautious if they're making the decision to dispatch vs. others.
 

whoosh

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Quick technical question (I don't sign ATO) Does the Driver have to press the ATO button and apply power (be in a power position; not just in off' or does the train pull away after interlock ?

Power/Brake Controller is in OFF. Train has a holding brake until power is taken.

From what I've seen, the PCB remains in OFF position and the driver pushes a single ATO START button. I've often wondered if the DSD has to be held down in ATO too.

Strange that it's a single ATO START button because the Underground demand two pressed together to make it a positive action. See the two green buttons.

Yes, DSD needs to be operated.

Manual control can be taken at any time, and also ATO reselected at any time. I dont think the tube works like that - I think its the one opportunity when starting away, so two buttons to avoid accidental operation.

Why is the despatch corridor so much wider on national rail than the underground. Its about twice the size

Well, I don't think anyone has mentioned it yet, but at Farringdon on Thameslink it is MUCH narrower than usual. On a par with tube platforms.
So if people aren't behind the yellow line at Farringdon, then they are very close to the train. I wouldn't have moved either, and quite frankly the platform staff should've been doing their job instead of lazily trying to make out that the driver was being awkward.
 

Odyssey

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100% with the driver on this. Looking at a DOO camera when too many passengers are not standing behind the yellow line, it is impossible to see if one of those passengers could be trapped or become injured by the moving train after it departs. If that happened the driver could face a criminal charge and a jail sentence not to mention losing the job. If those platform staff haven't got the confidence to move people back they are in the wrong job. I don't want to blame the platform staff though. The employer is clearly at fault for inadequate training and not employing enough staff. When I was a Guard I would sometimes refuse to dispatch a train until all passengers on the platform were behind the yellow line. After seeing the story about the Merseyrail Guard going to jail for dispatching the train when a passenger was too close to the train and then fell it and died really wasn't worth the risk. Very different circumstances to this I know but that was a wake up call to everybody along with the failed attempt to charge another Merseyrail Guard.
 

exbrel

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Aside from the superfluous commas, there is a very obvious basic flaw with that statement (even to a layman) - the rule-book cannot be a get-out-of-jail-free card for any action that is not in the rule-book. It may be a so-called "excuse" for an action that you yourself find ridiculous, but if I may reiterate what has been said on multiple previous occasions on this thread: the delays caused to passengers by the driver refusing to move his train away from a crowded platform for safety reasons will be way less than those that would be caused by a driver moving the train while the dispatch corridor is unsafe and a PTI incident ensuing...
so you are saying apart from my use of commas, " is that all rail staff follow the rule book", as i've no doubt they mostly do, but if in some cases it also is a excuse to delay things or give you a few mins, not i may say in normal times but where there is a long on going dispute, in that case why is the work to rule used in some stage of a industrial action?

this post may/or probably does contain gramatical errors...
 

WrongRoad

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Welcome to the SWR 701. No driver is going to be moving a train if they think it’s unsafe. So the idea the DCO is going to make improvements in dispatch times is wishful thinking.
 

Edsmith

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Power/Brake Controller is in OFF. Train has a holding brake until power is taken.


Yes, DSD needs to be operated.

Manual control can be taken at any time, and also ATO reselected at any time. I dont think the tube works like that - I think its the one opportunity when starting away, so two buttons to avoid accidental operation.



Well, I don't think anyone has mentioned it yet, but at Farringdon on Thameslink it is MUCH narrower than usual. On a par with tube platforms.
So if people aren't behind the yellow line at Farringdon, then they are very close to the train. I wouldn't have moved either, and quite frankly the platform staff should've been doing their job instead of lazily trying to make out that the driver was being awkward.
What were the two platform staff supposed to do? I appreciate the situation isn't ideal but it's probably like that at Farringdon, and elsewhere, everyday during rush hour.
 

Bald Rick

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When you mentioned the other drivers departing, were they DOO services? I've no wish to reignite the whole circular debate, but I think it is relevant to this thread that the driver may be more cautious if they're making the decision to dispatch vs. others.

Yes all DOO. Farringdon ‘national rail’ has been DOO for four decades.


Manual control can be taken at any time, and also ATO reselected at any time.

Strictly speaking, there are certain conditions which must be met before ATO can be selected, but in principle it is available almostall the time.
 

Redowen2005

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I would be interested in knowing whether your glee at the platform staff instigating a row would of remained had the driver GONE AGAINST THE RULE BOOK and someone had been injured or worse.

If I was that driver I'd of told him to shove his "underground argument" up his backside and go and work there if he likes that method of work. It's almost like some people cannot wait to get themselves onto that slippery slope that leads to an incident!
 

F285

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I (a guard) delayed a train (by many minutes) recently until I got a clear PTI put it into the Delay Reporting App , not a single word said and nor would I expect one. The Merseyrail James St incident is highlighted to us in training and we are reminded the guard went to jail.
Yes, as a guard in my previous role, I delayed a train by 6 minutes because the despatch corridor was busy spilling over during rush hour. Didn't have platform staff that day apart from agency staff so I walked to the back and almost to the front telling people to get back. Good thing I did as the next time I did that service the agency staff was being proactive.
 

Edsmith

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The Thameslink core should be closed completely. Far too dangerous. Drivers should never move trains if passengers are on the platform. He was 100% right. God bless him.
Maybe close the entire tube network down as well?

For anybody not familiar with Farringdon
 

Islineclear3_1

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Excuse my ignorance but how have the platform crowds been "managed" at Farringdon since the opening of Thameslink in 1987/8 which has always been DOO?

I used to commute through and work near Farringdon every day in the early 1990s and was either blind or deaf to happenings except that the crowds are nothing new.
 

IndianPacific

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SWR manage to put lots of agency staff at busy stations (such as Clapham junction, or Twickenham on an event day). They wear yellow vests and their only job seems to be to keep people behind the yellow line. The orange vested staff dispatch the trains. I do wish they would do this at every station as with even the slightest disruption in rush hour all platforms become very crowded.

Maybe GTR have decided that the odd 10 minute delay is cheaper than providing more staff all the time?
 

JustPassingBy

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stretch is DOO, but if the driver can’t see the corridor properly, the driver requests degraded dispatch so we have to do it.

Please can I ask what degraded dispatch is and what the process is specifically? Thanks
 

dk1

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Please can I ask what degraded dispatch is and what the process is specifically? Thanks

On GA (Stadler fleet) driver releases doors and guard closes them and dispatches with assistance from platform staff where they are provided.
 

Bikeman78

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On the latter point, there have certainly been a few such incidents of late, certainly RAIB have been sniffing around them.

LU is a strange one, as they never seem to have fully got their heads round the “train safety check” that the mainline does, which I suspect in part is due to the transition from guards - who monitored the train while departing - to in-cab monitors where again this is possible. Those lines which still run on platform-based mirrors and monitors are kind of left in the middle, and it’s surprising more hasn’t been made of this really. There will I’m sure be a really high-profile incident at some stage, and we can then probably expect LU to grind to a halt when all of a sudden people start doing really detailed train safety checks before moving.

Thinking about S stock, for example, the train seems to move as soon as the last door clunks shut. As you say, if they adopted the National Rail approach, they would have to reduce the frequency along the busiest sections because you simply wouldn't be able to get the trains in and out fast enough. Always amazes me the speed at which Victoria line hurtle into platforms with people barely a foot away.

Another oddball was some of the stations served by class 317s. From memory, the likes of Ponders End, Brimsdown, Enfield Lock and Waltham Cross had no DOO equipment. The driver opened the cab window and looked back. Easy in daylight, but not at night when it's raining.
 

whoosh

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What were the two platform staff supposed to do? I appreciate the situation isn't ideal but it's probably like that at Farringdon, and elsewhere, everyday during rush hour.
The best they can, is all they can do. Having an argument about it isn't any good. The driver can only make a PA inside the train, and the doors were closed so no-one on the platform would've heard.
Station staff can make PA on the platform, blow a whistle, walk up and down, gesture to people to get back, shout - they are much better tasked to police the passenger's behaviour and positioning on the platform.

A point was raised about the platform becoming even more crowded as the delay lengthened. There would be a procedure for overcrowding, including closing the station to anyone waiting to enter temporarily, and skip-stopping Elizabeth Line and tube lines, so as not to add anymore people to the crush.

I'll reiterate that the yellow line is 30 - 40cm from the edge at Farringdon - much closer than any other station. If people can't stand back that small distance, then the train won't move - quite rightly.
 

windnoise69

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If someone had thought giving me verbal would resolve the issue and think I would take the train risking my career they would be mistaken.

Even as far as refusing to move and wanting relief for being stressed due to the manner of being spoken too.
 

Enthusiast

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I have read this thread with great interest.

I am not and never have been employed in the rail industry. I am, as my username suggests, merely an “enthusiast”. I have spent most of my life interested in trains of all types. Whilst I have not even a tiny proportion of the knowledge, experience and insight into working practices that most who have contributed to this thread have, I do know one thing: any contact between a moving train and a human being will always, always result in only one winner. The result of the “combat” will be anything from a few bruises to death and where a person falls between the train and a platform, it is much more likely to be the latter than the former.

A station platform is (or should be) just about the only place where people and moving trains come into close proximity. In view of the risk of contact and the likely outcome, it is therefore imperative that all reasonable steps to reduce the risk must be taken. Not starting a train when there are people close to it is an obvious way to reduce that risk.

I am somewhat aghast at the OP’s suggestion that the driver should just have “winged it” – hoped for the best and started the train when they were absolutely as sure as tjhey could be that it was safe to do so. In fact, from the description, the driver was reasonably sure that it was not safe to do so. Regardless of the possible legal repercussions, I can’t imagine any railway employee would take an unnecessary risk of injury or death to a passenger (or anybody else) when it could be avoided.

I am old enough to remember slam-door stock and spent many years commuting into London on EPBs, BEPs, CEPs and VEPs. On many occasions I witnessed passengers boarding moving trains (and was, now to my shame, guilty of it myself once or twice). Fortunately I never witnessed any serious incidents, though I did see people struck by prematurely opened doors and saw one passenger fall from a train by alighting after it had departed (fortunately with only minor scrapes).

I’m glad trains now have doors which passengers cannot open whilst the train is moving and even more glad that procedures are in place to reduce as far as possible any conflicts between moving trains and people at stations. I don’t bemoan it as “Elf n’ Safety gone mad”; it’s a series of sensible precautions to minimise the risk of serious injury or death.

If the OP’s version of events is correct, as purely a “lay” person in this, I am 100% with the driver. To suggest they should have started her train – even at 1-2mph - when of the belief that there were people too close to it is utterly insane.
 
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43066

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so you are saying apart from my use of commas, " is that all rail staff follow the rule book", as i've no doubt they mostly do, but if in some cases it also is a excuse to delay things or give you a few mins, not i may say in normal times but where there is a long on going dispute, in that case why is the work to rule used in some stage of a industrial action?

this post may/or probably does contain gramatical errors...

What’s described in this thread has nothing to do with industrial action. “Working to rule” in that context refers to working to contractual “rules”, not helping out, not working overtime etc. Rest assured railstaff (at least the ones who don’t want to be summarily dismissed for gross misconduct and/or prosecuted) do not disregard the rulebook in normal operations, and only stick to it during industrial action!


What were the two platform staff supposed to do? I appreciate the situation isn't ideal but it's probably like that at Farringdon, and elsewhere, everyday during rush hour.

I suspect much if not all of the OP is entirely fabricated given developments on this thread today. However delays of this type would usually result from someone deliberately standing far too close to a train that had closed its doors before they arrived, and perhaps even touching the train and refusing the move (as I can personally vouch for having witnessed before in the TL core!).
 
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Adrian1980uk

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End of the day, driver being awkward or correctly identifying a safety issue, there is no room for common sense in today's world as it's the driver who would be up in court of something goes wrong so it's his or her perogative.

Where I work, within the industry, if you identify a potential safety issue the everything stops no matter what the cost until the issue is resolved. There is no more 'grow a pair and get on with it' or however you want to say it, it's drummed into us safety is number 1 and everything else is second.
 

43066

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End of the day, driver being awkward or correctly identifying a safety issue, there is no room for common sense in today's world as it's the driver who would be up in court of something goes wrong so it's his or her perogative.

Indeed. Platform staff berating drivers over their decision not to dispatch is likely to lead to a fairly swift “I no longer feel fit to drive based on the way I’ve just been spoken to” call to control, and all the associated fallout. I’d never say never, but it very rarely happens.

Hence I would take much of that aspect of the OP with a large pinch of salt.
 
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Travelmonkey

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I'm with the driver on this one. If platform staff can't muster a good GET BACK! shout then they shouldn't be on that duty. Noone wants any kind of accident or injury but even if it's 1 or a 100 if a train isn't safe to dispatch it will not be!

*video of Accessiblility campainer & wheelchair user Doug Pauley trying to use a shortformed LNER service but unable to access due to lack of ramp to wall clearance after a delay the train was shunted forward*


Saftey is paramount in all facets of ops,
 

MCR247

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I'm with the driver on this one. If platform staff can't muster a good GET BACK! shout then they shouldn't be on that duty. Noone wants any kind of accident or injury but even if it's 1 or a 100 if a train isn't safe to dispatch it will not be!

*video of Accessiblility campainer & wheelchair user Doug Pauley trying to use a shortformed LNER service but unable to access due to lack of ramp to wall clearance after a delay the train was shunted forward*


Saftey is paramount in all facets of ops,
This has its own thread in Traction & Rolling Stock https://www.railforums.co.uk/thread...-reverse-configuration-at-kings-cross.257877/
 
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