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‘The problem with communication … is the illusion that it has been accomplished.’ George Bernard Shaw

Communication is a problem sometimes. Tonight I was tootling along when the passenger alarm went off. Although I haven’t had one of those in quite a while they are not uncommon and generally not too serious. As I was still in a station at the time I figured this one was going to be easy.

A quick call to the Voices to let them know what’s going on and I wandered back to see what the problem was. Generally if somebody has a genuine problem they are looking out for the driver and quickly identify themselves. And if it’s been malicious use then we have a nifty alarm and light fitted to the car in which the PEA handle was pulled. In either case it’s usually a simple case of resetting the handle, dealing with any issues and heading off again.

This time I had walked the entire length of the train and heard no alarm. I checked with the various passengers who were popping their heads out like horizontal meerkats but nobody was fessing up to anything. This is generally a good thing as it means there is no incident. But I was left with the problem of a PEA sounding in the cab yet not setting off the alarm in the relevant car. This could lead to a situation where a passenger really pulled the PEA handle but because I already had the noise in the cab I wouldn’t be aware of any new incident. Frankly, it’s a defect I’d never heard of and the only two options I could come up with were to check each PEA handle on the train to see if I could find the one that was pulled or to detrain and run empty. As it was rush hour and there were about a thousand people on my train I ditched the first idea and walked back to the cab to make an announcement. As I went I met a CSA coming down the train and asking the passengers in each car whether a PEA had been pulled. I grabbed him and let him know I’d checked the train and was just going to call in and then detrain.

The CSA then called in to let his supervisor know he was waiting to assist me detraining. At which point his supervisor told him that another CSA had come to the platform, reset the PEA handle and then left. This is mind-boggling to me as clearly the supervisor knew what was going on but wasn’t communicating it to anyone. It’s bad enough that a CSA would do something to the train and then leave but for the guy who is nominally in charge not to communicate either is astounding. This is the second station supervisor I’ve had recent experience of and in both incidents they were less than stellar.

I asked my CSA to call again and establish whether it was a malicious incident or if there was a customer actually requiring assistance. The supervisor came back instructing the CSA to reset the handle and get the train moving. Strange partly because he’d just said that the PEA was already reset but mostly because it’s the driver who moves the train and I don’t act on the supervisor’s instructions. I’m pissed off and standing on my dignity at this point so I made the CSA call him back and repeat the question. This time we got confirmation that it was malicious and no help required so I wandered off cabwards. As I went I could hear the station supervisor telling my CSA to reset the handle and get the train moving. Even now I have no clue what he was on about but I wanted to go home and he’d already confirmed there was no longer any need to remain in the station so I gave them up as a bad job.

I think really the communication problem was probably my fault. I don’t think I adequately conveyed the message to the station staff that if they touch my train without permission again I’ll be chopping their fucking hands off. I really must try harder on that.