Tonight I got on your train at 18:15 from Waterloo, and I got off your train at 22.59:45 at Woking after the following:
1. Total chaos at Waterloo with delayed trains and no explanation whatsoever
2. Finally getting on a train after failing to get on two previous ones as people were literally hanging out of the doors
3. Train rode well to Clapham then crept towards Woking – no explanation
4. Train stops
==== Guard does the following announcements in a variety of orders and not very often and very reluctantly =====
Apologies for the delays tonight
Apologies for the delays tonight it is because of signal failures
Apologies for the delays it is because of a fire in Farnham
Sorry for no information, I can’t get through on the telephone for an update
The managers say that you have to stay on the train
The engineers are fixing the signals
We have too many trains in the station
There are no trains going in or out of Woking – (except that one)
Then – after 2 hours of being stuck on your train, the lights and air go off. No explanation. After ten minutes, the guard says that he is going to open the central doors to help air movement – he doesn’t. He also mentions that he has a drink and a sandwich, but does not offer to share – we have no food or water, people start getting ill.
==== the air is off for well over an hour – that’s the air conditioning that enables a packed train to breathe – imagine that =====
The announcements start up, and this time the driver joins in – once – (note he didn’t when it was the signal failure being blamed)
We are told:
- If we get off the train we will be arrested
- That police are walking the track and waiting at Woking to arrest anyone who attempts to leave the train – we see no sign
- That *passengers* have broken out of the trains and are roaming the tracks therefore we can’t move – I see no passengers, or indeed any activity outside
- That the manager cannot organise a manual evacuation as there are not enough staff (sorry I pay *how much*?)
- That the reason we have no light or air is because of these (alleged) passengers on the track – again, no one I was tweeting (and there were many), saw any passengers leave any train or on any track
We were told the above in such authoritative and scary ways that we were all too frightened to ask if a door could be opened so we could breathe. By this point we have been stuck in your train for 4 hours and we have had no light or air for 2 – TWO HOURS… and FIVE HOURS in total on that damned carriage.
Incidentally, as the guard was telling us how Woking station was swarming with policemen waiting to arrest us, and that were it not for our fellow passengers escaping from these trains of hell we would all be home and dry. So a fellow passenger who was on the phone to a friend waiting at Woking station told us that there was no train movement in Woking, therefore we were not going anywhere anyway, and that the one van load of police who had turned up, left an hour beforehand and there was nothing other than concerned people waiting to collect people from the trains – friends and family, not your staff of course, they were not there.
We considered briefly calling the fire brigade – or Dominos – but Dunkirk spirit prevailed and we were all terribly English and sympathetic with the “poor” guard who was hogging his sandwiches and water and threatening us with the police – I have to say I was not so sympathetic, I thought he needed to go on a special course for awful people to use in emergencies.
At 22.59:45 we crept into Woking station, somehow the train staff had managed to make us all feel cowed and responsible for the whole debacle because some of our peers had allegedly broken out of a train – and quite frankly who could have blamed them – although I don’t believe it for a minute – I was there and I saw no one – nor any police or arrests – total blarney.
Therefore no one expressed any surprise, that after being trapped in your airless, oppressive, food and water free train (that we paid to go on) that you guys had not bothered, in the 5 hours we were all stranded on the tracks between Waterloo and Woking – to lay on some staff, food, drink, forms – when we piled out at 11pm, feeling a bit guilty for the trouble we had caused, in Woking, even though I and all my fellow passengers and fellow tweeters had done nothing more than swear at you a bit on twitter, no one had ACTUALLY left the train… no one and I don’t believe they ever did. But IF they did, who could blame them quite frankly.
This authoritative and shouty voice that was relayed to us as “the SWT managers say you must not leave the train or we will arrest you and we have police patrolling the tracks…” etc which tried to keep us in our place, did not have the courage to meet us off these trains of hell and try to at least make sure we had a glass of water. NOT ONE of you bothered – and even the station staff had fled, just leaving the gates open – not ONE official was on Woking station, not one that I saw. Where was the help and apology?
So I suggest that you do the following:
1. Install emergency water and food on every carriage
2. Have a phone on every carriage that in such emergencies people can use to call loved ones/get on the Internet
3. Train your staff to explain always what is happening and why we have to stay in carriages
4. Have a way to ensure that there is light and air in an emergency
5. Ensure that if ever a train is stuck for longer than an hour, that there is a crack team to help at the first receiving station
6. Have a manual signalling system to take over from faulty signals
7. An arrangement with the local fire brigade to evacuate passengers held for longer than an hour in a safe way
8. If indeed this was all caused by a cable theft bid that we are told this from the start, that you don’t run trains when there has been such a cable theft – although I am not totally believing this convenient story
One point I must make, is that the person or persons manning the twitter feed on @NRE_SWT was calm, informative, personal and not threatening. This was a job well done by those manning twitter and they should be commended. This was until my phone ran out after 3.5 hours on your train of hell.
*update* I am told by a fellow passenger, who is heavily pregnant, that she did get off the train but after she was told that the power was off on the track – whch would mean a decent amount of time after we had been trapped in the airless, light-free carriages <- a convenient excuse for SWT to hold onto, in my opinion. What caused the panic amongst passengers that they would risk their lives and those of their unborn children? This is panic, not rationale, and cannot be blamed for what had happened beforehand