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From the wrong kind of snow to rails buckling in the extreme heat, and repeated mentions of "congestion in the London Bridge area", rail commuters are used to hearing reasons as to why their train is delayed or cancelled. But sometimes, we hear (or, in the age of Twitter, read) an excuse which makes us do a double take. Here are some of the best explanations we've heard:
Our favourite ever:
So. many. questions. It also reminded us of this 2014 incident:
Train delay due to man in tree over track at Charlton. Driver - "if you look to the right you should be able to see him" #southeastern— David Carrington (@Davcar1979) August 13, 2014
Inanimate household object blocks the tracks:
There was a wooden chair on the track. ^ST— Southeastern (@Se_Railway) August 7, 2018
Animals are frequent offenders:
I'm sorry, we've had to cancel this service due to reports of wasps setting up home on board the train overnight.— SWR Help (@SW_Help) September 7, 2016
Trains being cautioned between Hildenborough & Sevenoaks due to sightings of llamas on the line.— Southeastern (@Se_Railway) May 8, 2017
"Up to 60 cattle were spotted walking along the track and going into a tunnel between Hever and Ashurst in Kent" in April 2017, according to the BBC, leaving passengers hoping they'd be moo-ved on quickly. It only took four of the creatures to block the line in Yalding.
It's not just animals on the tracks that cause problems. Sometimes they get inside the actual train:
SE-UPDATE Trains from Orpington may be delayed due to a pet squirrel being stuck behind a grill on a train. pic.twitter.com/EKv9m9jBBH— Southeastern (@Se_Railway) November 15, 2016
And it's not just the Home Counties where animal issues occur:
A Wallaby on the line between Huddersfield and Stalybridge is causing delays of up to 10 minutes to trains between these stations.— National Rail (@nationalrailenq) July 15, 2016
When things just don't work as they're supposed to:
A Southern Rail passenger reported hearing that their train was cancelled because their company "couldn't find a driver". Fair enough — staff sickness sometimes means that there aren't enough drivers for all services. On more than one occasion, we've been the recipient of an announcement that the train company couldn't locate "the driver" — as in, a specific member of their staff has gone missing somewhere on their network.
Then of course, there was the time that the piece of equipment that's meant to make everything run more smoothly and prevent delays broke down itself, piling on even more delays. Embarrassing indeed.
There's just no accounting for the general public:
In November 2016, Southern Rail customers were very late home due to a topless rapper filming an audition video on the tracks outside Norwood Junction. As you do.
SERVICE UPDATE: The 19:24 Charing Cross-Dartford is being delayed at #FalconWood because of a fight on board the train. More details will follow ^CH— Southeastern (@Se_Railway) August 13, 2018
Last but not least, the weather issues:
@tattwood Apologies we are having issues dispatching trains due to the strong sunshine this morning. ^MS— Southeastern (@Se_Railway) January 12, 2016
(Note that this incident of "strong sunshine" took place in January. In south-east London).
UPDATE: #Neilston: There is a trampoline blocking the line in the Patterton area. Please remember to secure garden furniture / trampolines if you live near the railway tracks. ^AE— ScotRail (@ScotRail) December 7, 2017
Trampolines are regular offenders, being lifted from trackside gardens in high winds and storms, and landing on tracks from Scotland to Aylesbury. So widespread is the problem that Network Rail asked lineside residents to ensure their garden items are secured.
To be fair, it sounds as though customers give the rail companies as much trouble — and laughs — as they give us. Southeastern published this list of the funniest stories they've gathered over the years, including delays caused by a Christmas tree getting stuck in train doors at Nunhead.