Blue murder on the disorientated express

LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
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Stepping down from the Sheffield train on to a Manchester Piccadilly apparently undergoing complete meltdown last Wednesday evening my blood ran cold.

Not, one hastens to add, because it swiftly thereafter became clear, upon surveying the departure board, that my homeward journey was henceforth a merry game of chance.

Far from. Take my word, any rail commuter with a core body temperature much below the regulation average of 98F while acquiring such routine knowledge is either reptilian or a zombie.

No, the chilled red here derived solely from a few known facts, at platform level, of the prompt for this latest bout of delay and cancellation.

Passenger train, travelling between Manchester and Bolton, derailed and exploded, near Salford, some point prior.

News to fire, most balefully, the imagination of any habitual victim (or customer, as operators prefer to dismiss them) of this line; broadly as follows:

FACT: Any regular passenger service leaving either station any time post 4pm would have been crammed.

Literally, crammed.

The overcrowding must be seen to be believed.

Comfortably (thus uncomfortably), in terms of space per body, the match of any rush-hour tube around central London.

Hurtling sardine tins of human flesh, all aisle and door-well space densely packed.

Derailment alone would inevitably cause mass injury, but explosion? Fire?


This and more - bar the ‘Yikes’ - was put to rail operators, notably regional shamble-mongers Northern Rail, in a report last year.

Said outfit shot back: ‘In December 2011 we introduced 50 new carriages across five major urban hubs... but we acknowledge there is more to be done.’

Translated, we agreed something should be done, did something, made little odds - that is all.

Leaving countless passengers (victims) precisely nowhere.

Or maybe laid side-by-side along a wintry siding under sheets provided

by emergency services? Thankfully, our age of the smartphone helped such bleak thoughts quickly be dispelled.

Early afternoon.

Private hire. Empty.

A great sigh of welcome relief. Followed at once by a lesser sigh of familiar sorrow, upon returning to one’s own selfish concerns and casting a gimlet eye over that increasingly convoluted departure board.

POST SCRIPT: Ongoing disruption from this incident proved beyond doubt that our rail operators’ ability to react and respond is apparently limited to phoning a coach firm and laying on scanty replacement.