The Chaos of Tragedy

I drove my Wife to the station this morning – it saves around 15 minutes for her. Normally she walks or gets the bus but the Transport for London website was reporting severe delays on the Northern Line with closures on both the Bank and Charing Cross branches south of Moorgate and Waterloo with no service from there all the way to Morden. The official words for the cause of this Chaos is a euphemistic “Due to a person on the track”. It’s a phrase designed to screen the general public from any imagined scenes of carnage. I believe that staff, who have to handle these emergencies, colloquially refer to such events as a “One Under” and who can blame them for they too need to shield themselves from the horror of what they are dealing with.

Person on the track incidents are quite common and range from trespass to suicides. Efforts to prevent such incursions include ever higher security fencing on our mainline railways (which somehow still fail to stop cows and horses from getting on the tracks!). Barriers on platforms to prevent access to the fast through lines – now prevalent on the stations on the Great Northern route out of Kings Cross. On the newer sections of the Jubilee Line the tracks are screened by a glass wall with doors that are controlled from the train itself – adding these to the rest of the London Underground network is prohibitively expensive and unlikely to be done.

I believe the statistics show that Monday’s are the common day for suicides on our railways. During the recent Easter school holiday Alasdair and I experienced two “Person on the tracks” incidents on a Monday, both affecting the Northern Line. Travelling in to town we arrived a Camden Town. While waiting for the right away, the normal lights on the train went out and the driver announced that the power had been turned off due to a person on the tracks at Kentish Town. Knowing how long such an incident takes to resolve I told Alasdair that we should bale out and walk across Regents Park. Later in the day we encountered the second incident at Charing Cross where the emergency services were in attendance. This morning’s incident may well have been a tragic accident with a person falling from one of the narrow platforms at, for example, Clapham Common.

Whenever a Person on the tracks incident occurs the emergency services response is on a large scale – here are some photos from the Charing Cross incident referred to above…


  1. I know it must have been the last straw before someone decided to take their life, however often I think ‘poor’ driver has the rest of his/her life to suffer the aftermath effect. Actually I heard a guy in the radio who was severely depressed after witnessing a suicides on the tube. Sad for all concerned.

    1. A number of drivers never return to their career after one of these incidents and for those that do, it can take several months of rehabilitation before they feel confident again. I understand that the train companies are very good at assisting their employees with counselling and finding alternative work within the company if they cannot face returning to driving. It is indeed sad for all concerned.

      As part of my hobby I am often standing down the end of the platform to photograph trains – I make a point of ensuring the approaching driver sees the Camera so he knows what I’m doing there.

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