Platform peril

SIR – The article by Aimee Brannen (Children trapped as train pulls out, Herts Advertiser, February 25) brought back some bad memories. On Friday, June 27, 2008 at Radlett station exactly the same thing happened to my daughter, who was with my wife and so

SIR - The article by Aimee Brannen (Children trapped as train pulls out, Herts Advertiser, February 25) brought back some bad memories.

On Friday, June 27, 2008 at Radlett station exactly the same thing happened to my daughter, who was with my wife and son.

My daughter, who had just turned 10, ran onto a London-bound train that was about to leave. She was literally less than two seconds ahead of my wife and son, the doors then closed and the train left the station.

Nobody in the carriage pulled the alarm handle, although thankfully a very kind couple did look after my daughter, which included getting off at Mill Hill with her, until she was re-united with my wife and son.


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After lengthy correspondence with First Capital Connect, including the chance to watch a CCTV re-run of what happened, the train company were, to my surprise and concern, able to show that technically, the train departure procedures for an unmanned station were properly followed.

Alison Banks and Nicola Lunn (in your report) will probably be led to the same, worrying conclusion. The reality is that as long as the driver has 1) checked on the platform monitors that the doors are unobstructed before he/she operates the door close button, and 2) checked that all the door lights have gone out (meaning all doors are safely closed) before pulling away, he has done his job correctly.

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And yes, that does mean that, once the door lights are out, the driver does not necessarily have to take any different a course of action in the event of a screaming, shouting, arm-waving parent leaping up and down on the platform - who the driver in theory may not even see anyway, because the second the train starts to move, the driver no longer has a view of the fixed platform monitors, and also doesn't have a rear view mirror, doesn't have a platform monitor in the cab and isn't required to take a last backwards look out of the cab window.

I cannot deny that First Capital Connect were very helpful and professional in the way they dealt with the aftermath of what happened to us.

However, I am convinced that if the driver of the train had taken a little more care, and if his/her job were more equally focused between people behaving like humans on the one hand and less on performance, targets and statistics on the other, my 10-year-old would not have been carted off towards London all on her own.

An episode like this is really upsetting for everybody involved, particularly the children and it's awful that it's happened again. But nothing so personal and individually distressing is going to be allowed to get in the way of the crowded train schedules planned for the future (higher frequencies, so trains closer together, therefore any delay even more disruptive than now) - or at least, not until it's too late, and an incident has ended in tragedy.

One final point is worth recording. Alison Banks and Nicola Lunn were lucky that somebody pulled the alarm handle.

Maybe that was because their children are so much younger than my daughter was at the time.

Having been horrified that nobody set off the alarm and stopped the train for my daughter, I was even more surprised afterwards to find out that many friends and acquaintances said that they too wouldn't have been confident about being responsible for stopping the train - mainly because of the risk of being prosecuted and fined.

The reaction of the First Capital Connect senior managers when I passed these views on to them was, in turn, one of surprise and concern - they were quite adamant that this is exactly the sort of situation when the alarm should be used.

JEREMY PLATT

The Mall, St Albans

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