South West Trains passengers broke out of their stranded train last night and walked down the tracks to a station – only to be confronted by police for trespass.
Trains from Waterloo were stopped outside Woking around 7pm because of a signalling cable theft – and here starts a tale that will be familiar to anyone who uses trains in and out of London. According to passengers, drivers didn’t know what was going on and so began a game of Chinese whispers from friends and family back at the station: passengers on another train had got off and walked down the line, there weren’t enough staff to supervise any more evacuations, some drivers were going off shift.
So, after more than three hours, a group of commuters – including a diabetic man and an eight-months-pregnant woman – prised open the door and walked into Woking, where they had their encounter with the local constabulary.
South West Trains says that the passengers’ escape mission caused further delays because power to the rails had to be switched off – but before SWT get in a huff, they might want to look at whether their failure to communicate created a situation where people felt the only option was to make a break for it. SWT haven’t had a good week: there were signal failures around Hersham and Vauxhall on Monday, and a man killed on the track at Mortlake yesterday morning. And tales of being stuck on trains all night are only six months old. Who can blame passengers for deciding to take action?
We know it’s dangerous to get off a train; however, until the TOCs get their act together and treat their passengers with a little respect, they can’t expect people on their trains to trust them. And especially not when the final response is to call in the cops.