Trains Arriving at Unlit Stations

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Starmill

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Recently I arrived at around 0100 at a suburban station on the last train that was about 40 minutes late. The station is high on an embankment and set back some way from the public highway. The access is via what I will guess is a private road and this was also unlit at this time. The platforms were in total darkness and I could hardly see a thing.

It was very cold and there was salt and ice on the platform and when I stepped down, shocked by the darkness I slipped. Before I had recovered the train had departed and everyone else alighting had gone. Following this I had to find my way in near complete darkness to the exit, down the stairs and out along the road by myself in freezing temperatures with the aid of nothing but ambient background city light and the red signal at the end of the platform. How I am still here with just a bruise is a bit of a surprise. It's an inner suburb with the typical level of crime. Under no circumstances would I go for a winter walk in a local park by myself at 1am, which represents a similar level of risk to the situation which the train company put me in.

The train had 4 coaches, and there was absolutely no way the guard would have been able to see down the train with no lights on. Seems like a pretty cavalier attitude to safety to allow a train that has been delayed to arrive at an unlit station, and for the response from staff to be 'just get on with it'. To close the doors and leave immediately, without checking that everyone is on their way safely and at least walking along the train seems to be a huge risk to the safety of passengers. I would have thought that there would be a procedure for this kind of situation - it's not as if it's unpredictable that the last train of the night may be late. Had I fallen down the gap between the train and the platform I may very well not be typing this now.
 
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Jonfun

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Have you reported the accident to the train company responsible for operating the station?
 

Starmill

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Yeah, I have emailed them. Unfortunately that didn't help me much while I was actually there. I'm working out what I should say to the train operator too.
 

Llanigraham

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Good grief!!
How do people manage?
Good job you don't live outside the urban area where there are no street lights and darkness is accepted as the norm.

You could obviously see the station was in darkness as you approached the station, so how could you be "shocked by the darkness"?

I very much doubt that someone has been along and switched the lights off. I expect they are on automatic timers, so unfortunately aren't able to deal with late running trains.
 

D1009

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I think the station lights on many unstaffed stations switch off automatically half an hour after the time of the last train, and I'm not sure train crews can do much about it, though I agree they should check everyone has left the platform safely. But how much additional delay is considered acceptable for this purpose?
 

Bungle965

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I think the station lights on many unstaffed stations switch off automatically half an hour after the time of the last train, and I'm not sure train crews can do much about it, though I agree they should check everyone has left the platform safely. But how much additional delay is considered acceptable for this purpose?

A lot less than if he had been hit by a train because he had no idea where he was going.
Sam
 

ComUtoR

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... and I'm not sure train crews can do much about it

It should be reported and we can refuse to stop there. Some times the Signaller will ask you if you are comfortable stopping at an unlit platform and you can refuse if you believe it would not be safe. Some times you will be called up and specifically asked not to stop too.
 

Starmill

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Good grief!!
How do people manage?

With no lights? Not very well I suppose. Or can you see in the dark?

Good job you don't live outside the urban area where there are no street lights and darkness is accepted as the norm.

Where I would go out alone with no torch / vehicle? You'll have to clarify how this is relevant.

You could obviously see the station was in darkness as you approached the station, so how could you be "shocked by the darkness"?

Ah yes. I could see the darkness and be well prepared for it. I think you might have gotten your physics confused. In any case how is one to prepare for not being able to see?

I very much doubt that someone has been along and switched the lights off. I expect they are on automatic timers, so unfortunately aren't able to deal with late running trains.

No idea. That's why I'm posting. But if you are correct, which seems not unlikey, does that somehow make it better? Surely it isn't beyond the wit of man to solve this very simple problem?
 

GrimsbyPacer

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The 185's have a special auto announcement when Grimsby Town's unlit due to powercuts.
Was a similar warning given in your case?
 

CC 72100

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No idea. That's why I'm posting. But if you are correct, which seems not unlikey, does that somehow make it better? Surely it isn't beyond the wit of man to solve this very simple problem?

Question is - does Station operator TOC know that Train operators TOC's train is running late and will therefore be calling at their station when all of the lights have gone off?

Of course, we're all assuming it is a timer issue here, it could equally be a lighting fault.

Whenever we have a fault a message is put out on Tyrell... but whether other operators who use the station also get that same message I don't know.

Was a similar warning given in your case?

Nothing to stop a Guard giving a warning over the PA - IF they knew about the problem of course...
 

ainsworth74

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You could obviously see the station was in darkness as you approached the station, so how could you be "shocked by the darkness"?

They were getting off the train and weren't driving said train (so no front view) so how could they see it before they arrived?

I very much doubt that someone has been along and switched the lights off. I expect they are on automatic timers, so unfortunately aren't able to deal with late running trains.

Surely not beyond the ability of man to devise a system to deal with late running trains however. Lets be honest it isn't exactly an unlikely scenario is it? One thought that occurs would be to have most lights switch off after the last train but have one or two remain on all the time. Alternatively motion sensors (which are increasingly common in offices and similar) which could turn the lights on if there are people moving around on the platform (so lights on all the time usually until after the last train but if it is late then the lights would be activated by the people on the platform).
 

Gemz91

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We got a briefing on it at our company a few years ago as a guard. Think the jist was we could stop, and if need be we were to escort people off the platform using out handlamps. That was pretty much it. Didn't say anything about delays it may cause.
 
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Surely not beyond the ability of man to devise a system to deal with late running trains however. Lets be honest it isn't exactly an unlikely scenario is it? One thought that occurs would be to have most lights switch off after the last train but have one or two remain on all the time. Alternatively motion sensors (which are increasingly common in offices and similar) which could turn the lights on if there are people moving around on the platform (so lights on all the time usually until after the last train but if it is late then the lights would be activated by the people on the platform).

Or even something as simple as a big red button attached to the lamppost that would switch the light on for a few minutes. We've got something similar in our flats.

PIR sensors would be problematic I suspect. Cats or wildlife, or passing freight trains could activate them. There might be some local residents who wouldn't want the light to come on suddenly at night for no reason.
 

Deepgreen

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They were getting off the train and weren't driving said train (so no front view) so how could they see it before they arrived?

The highly-strung on this forum don't need much excuse to launch!

Surely not beyond the ability of man to devise a system to deal with late running trains however. Lets be honest it isn't exactly an unlikely scenario is it? One thought that occurs would be to have most lights switch off after the last train but have one or two remain on all the time. Alternatively motion sensors (which are increasingly common in offices and similar) which could turn the lights on if there are people moving around on the platform (so lights on all the time usually until after the last train but if it is late then the lights would be activated by the people on the platform).

Yes - perhaps a timer system with a back-up passenger-activated feature for 'after hours' use that turns the lights on for, say, five minutes in those cases - enough to get people off the platform safely, but not left on all night.
 
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najaB

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It's not ideal to have to disembark at an unlit station, but the train crew would be between a rock, a hard place and the deep blue sea - if they don't stop people don't get home, if they stop and dispatch as quickly as possible then people are left in darkness, and if they wait to make sure people get off the platform it adds to their delay.

As an aside, if the access road is unlit, wouldn't you have been left in darkness anyway?
 
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if they wait to make sure people get off the platform it adds to their delay.

We hear constantly in these threads about how passenger safety is above all else, so surely if ensuring passenger safety means a short delay, then so be it?
 

ainsworth74

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Or even something as simple as a big red button attached to the lamppost that would switch the light on for a few minutes. We've got something similar in our flats.

Yes that would do the trick, maybe a small emergency type light to draw attention to it for anyone on the station but not bright enough to effect nearby residents or use much power?

Good point on the PIRs.
 

Tetchytyke

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You get used to a lack of lighting in rural areas. Armathwaite is pretty much in darkness as the lights are dim and once you're off the platform there's no lights at all. It's the same at most rural stations. And no, one doesn't always have a torch, it's amazing how quickly your eyes adjust to the darkness.

Of course the only "safe" solution is to cancel the stop and taxi everyone back from the next station. But I'm sure that wouldn't go down well.
 

Bungle965

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TPE could have simply not stopped and proceeded to the next station and got people taxis from there depending on how many people there was getting off.
Or better still someone phone up Northern control and say we are late can you make sure that the lights are left on until we depart the station.
But there is to much common sense in that.
Sam
 

najaB

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We hear constantly in these threads about how passenger safety is above all else, so surely if ensuring passenger safety means a short delay, then so be it?
They were already 40 minutes late - add enough delay and the crew could end up out of hours.
 

Llanigraham

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With no lights? Not very well I suppose. Or can you see in the dark?
Reasonably well, thank you.
And you said yourself that there was ambient urban lighting and some light from the red signal.


Where I would go out alone with no torch / vehicle? You'll have to clarify how this is relevant.
I have no street lighting where I live, but seem to manage without falling over without the use of a torch. Stopping for a couple of minutes to let your eyes get used to the lack of light is not difficult.


Ah yes. I could see the darkness and be well prepared for it. I think you might have gotten your physics confused. In any case how is one to prepare for not being able to see?
Quite easily. I do it regularly; see above.


No idea. That's why I'm posting. But if you are correct, which seems not unlikey, does that somehow make it better? Surely it isn't beyond the wit of man to solve this very simple problem?
How?
Do you expect them to have a man rushing to every station when a train is late to turn on the lights?
Are you prepared to pay for that with increased ticket prices?

It strikes me that there are some people who will find any excuse to criticise the railway for every small incident, especially when they say themselves that other people getting off the train at the same station seemed to manage.
 

curtly

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This seems to me as an example of our very somebody else must be at blame society.
You fell over on ice, that could of happened day or night. The lighting makes no difference over this and if you didn't fall, you wouldn't of thought anything of it.

My local station has next to zero lighting, but it isn't scary or i feel the world is going to cave in. Just get off the train and walk to the exit.
 

Starmill

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The 185's have a special auto announcement when Grimsby Town's unlit due to powercuts.
Was a similar warning given in your case?

The guard made no announcements at any point during my journey. The train was operated by 2 class 156s not fitted with auto-announcements.
 

ainsworth74

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I have no street lighting where I live, but seem to manage without falling over without the use of a torch. Stopping for a couple of minutes to let your eyes get used to the lack of light is not difficult.

That would depend on how you weight the risks though wouldn't it? As has already been stated the location of the OP is not the sort of place you'd wish to hang around waiting for long at all.


Perhaps by using some of the ideas suggested by myself, Deepgreen and CharlieSpotted?

Are you prepared to pay for that with increased ticket prices?

The methods suggested by us would hardly be expensive. Certainly not compared to your strawman of a suggestion.

It strikes me that there are some people who will find any excuse to criticise the railway for every small incident, especially when they say themselves that other people getting off the train at the same station seemed to manage.

One could equally say that there are some people who will find any excuse to relieve the railway of any blame or possibly culpability for every small incident. Indeed there are those that seem to be unwilling to admit that perhaps the way things are now are not the way they should always be.

The OP has already explained that they fell and by the time they got back up again and were ready to proceed off the station that the train was pulling out and therefore removing the ambient light provided. A problem those that were lucky enough not to fall did not face.

This seems to me as an example of our very somebody else must be at blame society.
You fell over on ice, that could of happened day or night. The lighting makes no difference over this and if you didn't fall, you wouldn't of thought anything of it.

Perhaps not when it comes to ice (though I don't think ice was mentioned) but it does at trying to safely exit a station. Plus how do you know the OP wouldn't have thought anything of it?

My local station has next to zero lighting, but it isn't scary or i feel the world is going to cave in. Just get off the train and walk to the exit.

I wouldn't mind getting off at my local station with no lights either but then I'm quite happy that my local station is in a safe area. The OP did not enjoy that same confidence.
 

Starmill

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This seems to me as an example of our very somebody else must be at blame society.
You fell over on ice, that could of happened day or night. The lighting makes no difference over this and if you didn't fall, you wouldn't of thought anything of it.

My local station has next to zero lighting, but it isn't scary or i feel the world is going to cave in. Just get off the train and walk to the exit.

How do you know the light had nothing to do with it? I mighthave been able to see it if the lights had been on.

I find it surprising that some members don't think this is a safety issue! Given we're told how safe the railway is why do we think it's now acceptable to be so blasé about lighting? Furthermore, Curtly, I missed the part where I blamed someone for falling. But I am upset that a) there were no lighs on and b) the guard put timekeeping ahead of my safety and that of other passengers.
 

Bellbell

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We are allowed to hold trains in platforms if there's a problem with the lighting until passengers have left the station. Personally, I sympathise with you over the lack of lighting on the station and the ice/grit (although the presence of both together is a bit strange!) and think you should bring this to the attention of the TOC for sure.

I'd be careful before casting aspersions over the guard's despatch though. The light from the train windows would most likely have given sufficient view to see that the platform/train interface is clear, particularly as you mention ambient lighting.

Finally, the issues over the access road and your insinuation that you are at risk of crime (you mention the level of local crime and draw a parallel with walking in the local park) are separate problems. The access road is extremely unlikely to be under the control of a TOC or Network Rail so that is an issue for you to raise with your council. I'd have said, myself, that you were at equal risk of crime whether the train was on time or not. You might feel more vulnerable without lighting but I really doubt anyone is lurking on a train platform for the last train on the off chance someone becomes separated from the rest of the passengers and can be attacked.

Just to reiterate, I think, providing you did fall on the platform rather than out of sight of the guard (and before the despatch had been started) then you are probably right to complain. I don't think you ought to send in a letter with all the accompanying catastrophising though, I think you are more likely to be dismissed that way.
 

Starmill

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You might call it catastrophising, but I would call it a near-miss. In my view this is an incident that could have been handled better and as such one from which a lesson can be learnt. We all might not be so lucky next time.
 

Bellbell

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What aspects of it would you call a near miss?

The crime etc are a red herring in my view. You were happy to get a late night train there, to this suburban station high up on an embankment, set back from the public highway but you feel that the lack of platform lighting has made you vulnerable to crime? If it's only the lack of platform lighting that makes you so at risk I'd say you were pretty at risk anyway. In either case, you weren't the victim of any crime.

I've already said that I agree that you're right to complain and the TOC will presumably carry out their own investigation into what happened. I still think you're right to do that but equally I think all this guff about winter walks in parks etc detract from your complaint.
 
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Elecman

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Isn't it an ORR requirement that platforms must be lit when trains call at them, I know stations haven't been able to open when the lighting fails until rectified? In this case surely the guard should have escorted all the passengers off the premises using his hand lamp or not opened the doors when he realised the lights went working until he had his lamp and advised any passengers getting off to wait for him to export them off the station.
 
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