We were returning from Harrogate to London last night on the Great North Eastern Railway (GNER) after attending the well-run and interesting UTSG conference.
The trip from Harrogate to Leeds was uneventful. On the trip from Leeds to Kings Cross in London, we were interrupted by what I believe the announcer said was a Code 3 on Coach M. (We were on a different coach so at the time didn’t know what that was), though we did not stop there.
Later the announcer told us that there had been vandalism, a rock through a window, which needed to be repaired before we proceeded.
The coach was held at Peterborough for about 15 minutes while repairs were made to the broken window, and we arrived 15 minutes late. When we arrived, I could not locate the vandalism, so it must have been cleaned up fairly well.
Three observations spring to mind …
(1) If this had happened on a plane it would be called terrorism.
(2) If this had happened on a plane, the delay would be considerably more than 15 minutes.
(3) This doesn’t seem to happen on planes.
This does seem to happen a lot on trains. In fact on 100% of my trips (both of them) from northern England or Scotland to Kings Cross, my journey has been delayed by rocks thrown through windows. The precise statistics on train vandalism (by rocks through windows) I have not been able to find, but it must be common, and there are websites discussing vandalism. It is and has long been so common that it features in a Thomas the Tank Engine season one episode
My previous trip from Edinburgh to Kings Cross on August 30, 2003 was eventful for several reasons.
My notes on the day
“Depart Edinburgh. Check out of Globetrotter, take hotel shuttle to train station, catch next train to London (on the half hour).
Train: operated by GNER
1st conductor upset we are on wrong train, but eventually allows us to stay
2nd train stops at Grantham Station and engineer announces we are stopped because the train ahead was involved in a fatality on the tracks. this involves a 1 hour delay (death = 1 hour)
3rd, train stops south of Stevanage when someone pulls the emergency stop. It seems a window was broken on the car, the glass was inside, suggesting perhaps a rock was thrown?
Arrives a King’s Cross.
Transfer to King’s Cross/Thameslink station, which is not at the King’s Cross Train Station, nor at the King’s Cross underground station, but 2 blocks away. Surely these could have been connected somehow.
Take Thameslink to Gatwick. The train passes through some really poor areas of London.
At Gatwick catch hotel shuttle to Renaissance Hotel Gatwick. Everything operates smoothly.”
So there was what I have later learned has come to be termed a “person under a train”. This too seems fairly common. Several weeks ago I vistited Stevanage New Town, as part of my visits to a number of the New Towns in London (I am from Columbia, Maryland after all). While my train did not hit anyone, another train was cancelled for this reason and the system was delayed. The announcer at the station apologized several times for the train cancellation due to a person being hit by a train. This is a very British thing, saying sorry but somehow blaming events beyond their control. If the person was hit accidentally, I suspect he deserves a much more significant apology than the delayed customers, however that might not have been the case.
These “suicide by trains” are potentially as dangerous as other suicide bombers that we normally call terrorism. But this is rail, not air, so we don’t make an issue of it. The number of people who have been killed by train derailments caused by vandalism and by suicide does not make the news.
Now why are people so disgruntled they feel like destroying? Are the causes political (I don’t like trains because they destroy the environment, or community, or lead to industrialization … the vandals are merely illiterate or uneducated Ted Kasczynskis in the making), or merely for the entertainment of the vandals (It is amusing to see things destroyed)?
Not being a vandal myself, I don’t understand the psychology.
I am not the only one disappointed in GNER service, there is a blog devoted to the issue.
At any rate, I could say the trains are decrepit, but it would be much more polite to say the British make excellent use of their capital investments and don’t waste money on maintenance.