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The more alert among you may have noticed that the rain has been rather fluffy and white lately. And given that this is the south of England this has naturally caused all sorts of chaos.

Much of the line now looks like this. The rails are dry, the current supply is pretty steady and we don’t really have any problems. It wasn’t always this way.

This is how the rails looked before the trains ran on them:

Not a huge amount of snow but certainly enough to start covering the running rails. That’s not really enough to stop our trains running and we had trains out overnight to keep the rails cleared. We certainly struggled during the evening as the snowstorm made driving trains around difficult. But our biggest problem was transporting staff by road.

Taxis sent to take the late crews from sidings back to the depot didn’t turn up for hours as the drivers struggled in the snow. This meant the late turn traindrivers didn’t finish work until many hours after their shifts should have ended. Shifts are worked out carefully so that minimum times offshift are observed and the whole debacle meant that the late turn drivers had to come in later than usual the following day. LUL operate with a rolling shift system and this left us with a bit of a gap in drivers starting work.

Another difficulty was in people getting to work the next day. Most people in the south don’t experience snow very often and are woefully inexperienced at driving cars in it. People took it slow and ultra-careful and quite a number from more remote areas weren’t able to get in on time. And there was also the issue of this:

Yep, snow on the rails again. Although this is LUL track, the Train Operating Companies which use Network Rail track had exactly the same problems we had. Which meant that if our staff were travelling to work by train they had to wait patiently for the other TOCs to get their service up and running.

The stations had their own problems with snowy platforms. LUL’s current method is to have as few staff in a station as they can possibly manage. Often there will be only one person on duty. That person has to do all their usual duties regarding opening up, dealing with customer queries, ticket machines and information management and also to pick up a shovel and start clearing snow to make the platforms safe. It’s a big job for one person.

Of course, being the helpful person that I am, I spent a frantic ten minutes at the terminus “helping” to clear the snow.

What? It’s piled up out of the way isn’t it? 😉