Virgin Trains – Good in a crisis?

Well basically no. Travelling from Birmingham to Leeds yesterday evening and my train is stuck behind a delayed Virgin train in front. The train is packed and there are people and bags down the aisles and around the carriage doors. Sensibly they couple both trains together at Derby. Shortly after myself and other passengers smell burning, smoke is billowing past the windows and then smoke appears in the carriage and the one in front. A fellow passenger goes down the train to tell the guard and then comes an announcement from the train crew. They claim diesel fumes from a previous train have been sucked into the air-conditioning when we passed through a tunnel. Had they got off their fat lazy arrses and investigated the passengers concerns properly they would have seen this was unlikely to be a problem with the air-con.

Moments later the driver brings the train to a rapid stop, the lights go out and engines are shut off in quick time. A rumour spreads rapidly down the carriage of people getting off the train further up but I can’t see anything. Then a member of the train crew comes into the carriage and tells us to evacuate the train, so those in my end of the carriage move towards the nearest door and away from where we think the smoke is coming from. This creates a cluster-f**k as some passengers want to go the other way because what they could see was that the front portion of the train was at a station and by moving forwards we could all get out onto a platform. “Leave your bags where they are” says the crew, well usually that’s sound advice but not when the bags are in the aisles and people trip over them. So hundreds of passengers mong around on the platform at Donfield (an arrsehole of a place) while the fire brigade pitch up (and locals with camcorders) and decide there is no fire and we can continue our journey with one of the engines shut down.

After re-starting the crew announce they are sorry for any delay but they had to stop and evacuate the train for our “safety” while they investigated the problem. A happy ending but no thanks to Virgin.


This is why the Railway is keen on recruiting ex service personnel. Give it a thought, write up SOPs and drill the crews. A few announcements about what to do to the pax at the start of the journey and away you go! The Railway seems pretty good at Disaster management which means that experienced people tend to take charge. Iwish however that they trained the staff below them and the panic wouldnt set in as all would know what to do. The RN is good at training crews to do 2 main jobs, ie signaller/comms and first aider etc and all seem to be well versed in damage control. This needs filtering down. Civvies do not have the discipline to take over if the senior staff rep is down as they lack the experience now that only grandads did national service. I suspect had this happened in germany the people involved would have had it drilled into them and they are still well experienced from their service.
I havent had a problem with virgin at all. and i use them frequently.

i have been****ed over by gner many a time. lets just say i had to sleep rough in edinburgh because of there shite timing.
When I saw the words 'Virgin' and 'Trains', a different topic came to mind. I'm not disinterested in public transportation issues per se, but boy that was a letdown!
the fact the trains are called the virgin voyager still makes me giggle.
PartTimePongo said:
It would also help if Virgin put more carriages on the Pendolinos (sic) as anyone whose had to travel up from the Bristol area on a Friday afternoon will testify. There has to be a H+S issue right there.
You would indeed think it was a H+S issue but sadly not. I used to travel daily into Leeds on a commuter train, on one occassion there were only three carriages instead of the usual four. It was like a cattle truck and many of those standing (including me) were being thrown around as the train was hammering down the track. People ended up on the floor and when we came to the station only one door would open. So a bunch of us wrote letters of complaint to the train operator and the HSE. Bullsh*t repiles from both, the HSE claimed in recent crashes (doesn't that say something in itself?) over-crowding was not a contributory factor to the overall number of fatalities or injuries.

I would agree that recruiting some ex-forces staff would be a good idea, essentially they need to inject some leadership into their crews.
My job now is driving trains.

There are many things to concider, it doesn't only effect the train that you are on.

If you evacuate into a tunnel, this is one of the most dangerous places to be! All other trains in your area have also to be stopped and any electric supply turned off. The train crew must then 'protect' the train for a mile and a half in both directions AND stay in constant contact with the signaller. Even in a fire situation (which very rarely involves a big fire), passengers can move to the next carriage. That's why you have those doors at the end of each carriage-they are fire doors!! Believe me when I say the safest place is on the train, NOT on the track.

All train crew are trained (get it ;)) in fire fighting etc.

many squaddies I've served with have been useless in lesser circumstances, so don't tar us all with the same brush.

BTW served for 13.5 years ;)
I would not disagree that being on the track is a very dangerous place to be and the driver, once he was aware of the problem appeared to do all the rights things (in my lay-persons opinion), he got the train to a platform and shut down promptly. My issue is with the "train managers" (why can't we call them guards anymore?) whose original explanation of the problem (air-con) was based on zero investigation and clearly wrong. The evacuation was for a time a cluster largely because of the unclear instructions. Had that been a fire I think the outcome would have been very different. When passengers tell the crew there is a smell of burning and smoke both outside and inside the carriage it doesn't give you much confidence in the crew when its dismissed as fumes having ingressed the air-conditioning.

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