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The Present

The first story here is a member of station staff's account of having to deal with a 'one under' - a person under a train.

The words are the writers; but I've added a few words of explanation where this helps make things a little clearer.

The Worst Day of My Life

The sun had risen, and at this time of year it was after I'm meant to book on for early turn (07:00). I tried to find my mobile phone to see what the time was but couldn't find it until I picked my shirt up, it was 07:35 and I was late for work.  I just didn't hear my alarm because of the clothes I had accidentally stuck upon my chair.

I phoned as a matter of courtesy to Westbourne Park station to explain I would be there shortly. Roughly one hour later I had reached there and apologised to the Station Supervisor 'no point saying it to me, the Duty Station Manager was on the phone asking for you to cover at Bayswater - I think you best do him a memo to apologise'.

I made a coffee before going to the gateline to commence my duties whilst I wrote my memo out. At about 10:45 the supervisor came out to say he was off to 'teamtalk' which is a regular company briefing for employees, the booking clerk and I were now the only people in charge of the station. However half an hour later the booking clerk left as he only worked part time. When the booking clerk left, I was then a 'babysitter' - a Station Assistant who staffs a station and stays by a phone in case of any calls and to deal with emergencies within their capacity. (This is a standard London Underground procedure - a 'babysitter' means that a station can remain open to the public. Any unmanned station must be closed) I was in the ticket office thinking I was on easy street, soon I was to be corrected on that.

I had a newspaper which I was reading but felt guilty as it seemed like I was shirking from my duties, still I periodically checked the various profiles on the cctv to ensure safety and security.

At around 12:35 an eventful event occurred.... when looking at the cctv I saw a train which had stopped halfway along the platform and knew I would be required to help it on its way. I gathered my radio and hat but I just couldn't find my keys, while searching high and low the driver of the train 'blew up twice' (London Underground slang for blowing the train's whistle). I found the key and sprinted like no tomorrow thinking it was someone messing around with the passenger emergency alarm or something like that.

I got down to the platform and spoke with the driver who stated there was a person under the train. and that his radio was playing up. For a split second I was at a loss as to what to do, however the first thing you learn in training school is on how to get traction current off. I remembered exactly where the phone on that platform was and called line control who presumably knew of the event as he took a couple of moments to answer the phone.

I then felt it was important to search the platform length but I just couldn't find anything which was a shame as I wanted to talk to the victim and assuage him, thereby offsetting any effects of shock which I got to learn previously is a fatal thing.

I went upstairs to close the Bostwick gates (the metal gates used to close a station) as I didn't want any new people coming in, only when I began to close them, to their credit the Metropolitan Police (my old colleagues (yes I was old filth once upon a time)) turned up. I showed the police officers the way to the platform and we all started searching the length of the platform. Myself and the police officers eventually saw a severed leg and we heard someone faintly calling 'help! help! I don't want to die'. Due to the fact I was experiencing belated shock some of my memories are hazy, but I do recall walking along the tracks to evacuate a train which was stuck and what will stick with me the most was the fact there was a school party and their teacher said 'say thank you to the man for guiding us safely'. After that I recall being in front of the station entrance directing people when I went into shock, all I could do was shake and stare into empty space.

I feel very guilty and responsible to this day as I felt I neglected my care of duty although my counsellor told me I did everything within my power to do what I could

Whilst that makes harrowing reading, I think it illustrates so well how a perfectly 'normal' day can suddenly go terribly wrong and the kind of incident which a member of staff can suddenly have to cope with on their own.

In my page 'One Under's' I describe some of the more technical aspects of how these situations are dealt with. I also comment on some of the reactions of passengers who are delayed. If you ever find yourself in the situation do think of our staff and what they're having to cope with.

I believe that the writer's feelings of guilt are a very common reaction; the counselling to which he refers is made available as a matter of course by London Underground's Occupational Health department.  Also available is a 'buddy' system to help support colleagues through difficult and distressing times such as this.

Thanks to Prakash for the story.


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