Health and Safety looms large again today with the dumbing down of the railway. As I passed Thorpe today I noticed the large “Access Point Information” sign. I remember talk of these going in due to accidents occurring because of poor information. Indeed a colleague and freind of mine, many years ago, was killed in just such an incident.
My friend had accessed the track at night to carry out some work. He was walking down the ‘Up’ line facing traffic although the line was blocked. He knew the ‘Down’ line was open so when he heard a horn he acknowledged without turning. The driver said he acknowledged every blast and was looking irritated at the frequency of them. He was on the wrong line and killed instantly.
But still I am not in favour of the dumbing down. It wouldn’t have helped my mate, using an access point in the middle of nowhere on a cold, wIndy winters night. When I worked on the track local knowledge was an asset. You learnt routes and access from your peers and it was lessons well learnt. I remember walking for hours around a farmers muddy field at 2 am in a storm before we realised we were the wrong side of the track. I’ve agreed a collection point then jumped over the wrong fence and surprised a herd of cows. More importantly I still remember which bakers will open their doors to hungry night workers at 4 am. I know where the old fellow lives that will furnish you with tea and stories all night when you pull a tedious shift.
The access point signs will enable even less experienced people to do the job. They will close down many of the long established access points and make the job less efficient. Will it be safer? I doubt it but it will let less experienced people be as safe. But the old boy at Trowse will miss the tea and chats at the next renewal and that’s a shame.