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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

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I know that safety is paramount, but I can't help thinking that there is excessive delay and overreaction on anything as simple as a gazebo. Two years ago, waiting for a train at Crews Hill it was announced that all trains were cancelled due to a plastic bag caught in the overhead cables on a completely different line. During WW2 we could bombed tracks replaced and working in 24 hours, now it would take 24 months!.

I agree with Martin(Woodside). Surely once a train driver reports something as flimsy as a gazebo on the tracks, Network Rail should have it removed within ten minutes. What's this nonsense about 15 full cancellations, 8 part-cancellations and 37 train delays over three hours? And "We worked hard to get the railway running again as soon as possible" seems to be an exaggeration. Try ten minutes next time it happens. 

Network Rail do not have enough staff on the ground to deal with incidents within 10 minutes, unless they happen to be around 200m away. Generally, locations on the Barking-Gospel Oak route are within the coverage of two separate Mobile Operations Managers, each with a small van and their own base location. They can easily be out "on the patch" most of their shift dealing with routine tasks, but attend incidents when notified and in London traffic, it can take over a hour to arrive.

The photo shows that this gazebo was not particularly 'flimsey' and that even after being removed from the line opposite (where the car train is) it was still too close to the eastbound line not to be struck by passing trains. The nearest access gate is at Sussex Way bridge (in the distance) with a narrow flight of steps to the lineside, which made removal off the railway time consuming and difficult.

Glenn Wallis

Secretary

Barking-Gospel Oak Rail User Group

Thanks Glenn Wallis for your detailed explanation. And yet I'm inclined to think that somewhere between 10 minutes and 3 hours would make sense for removing flying or crashed gazebos in future. Thanks again.

Out of the industry for well over 10 years now, I was signalman at South Tottenham for 20 years and in my opinion it is privatisation and a much stricter safety regime that has lengthened recovery from incidents. Privatisation has "separated wheel from rail", dividing up train operating companies among themselves and from the operator of the infrastructure, meaning every one has to be consulted and then agree a plan of action before anything can be done. No one objects to improved safety rules, but there ought to be a serious rethink to get delays back to the 20 minutes to a hour which was generally the situation for incidents like this under a unified British Rail.

Safety on the railway is the responsibility of the Offfice of Rail & Road, who now heavily restrict when staff can work on the railway with trains still running and the incidence of staff being hit by moving trains is now extremely rare.

If the 09:03 Riverside-Gospel Oak had hit the gazebo laying acoss the track at 30mph it would have damaged the train enough to render it imovable, closing the line for far longer, luckily the driver was able to stop short of the obstruction.

A plastic bag caught on the overheads, fouling the 25,000 v AC contact wire, if hit by a train pantograph at speed, has the potential to bring the wires down and the area power supply has to be switched off before staff  can remove the obstruction.

Again, thank you for your explanation Glenn. In the case of the plastic bag, the line directly affected was on a different line, the Potters Bar link, I'd have thought that there would be an isolator to switch off power to the bag line so it doesn't affect other routes.

I agree, Hornsey Electrical Control Room would have been able to isolate the Potters Bar area and the normal Network Rail control response would have been to divert all traffic round the Hertford Loop where you were waiting. Did you see any other trains while waiting at Crews Hill?

I wonder if the operator of your train service (you know which one it was) took the view that it was less trouble and cheaper to just suspend their service and wait for Network Rail staff to reopen the line at Potters Bar? Their control office may not have wanted the bother of replanning their driver and rolling stock diagrams and liaising with Network Rail control. Much easier to cancel the service, take the compensation from Network Rail for their cancelled trains and meanwhile tell the public that it is all Network Rail's fault.

I should stress that over recent years this train operator attitude has become a minority one, but it still lingers in places.

I got a train once from Palmers Green, and the driver announced, 'Apologies for the delay, this was due to a goat on the line at Gordon Hill. Unfortunately it was the wrong type of goat.'

I was on a Eurostar, on the France side, when a thump reverberated through the carriage and the train stopped.  An announcement came through that we’d hit a cow.

Surely any proper locomotive should come with a cow/goat/gazebo/trampoline catcher fitted as standard, with a snow tackling function where needed?

I think we ended up having it for lunch

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