The Monday morning commute into central London can be challenging enough, but yesterday saw hundreds of thousands of rail commuters experience disruption following a bizarre incident on a South Western Railway train running from Shepperton to Waterloo.
The disruption was caused when a few panicky passengers “self-evacuated” the train after someone on-board with them began acting erratically and they felt their safety threatened. As the passengers streamed down the tracks towards the nearby Wimbledon station, Network Rail, who operate tracks and infrastructure in the UK, were left with no choice but to switch power across that stretch of the line, causing long delays.
The incident that happened around 8.30am actually impacted some of the Transport Security World team on their way into work and the ripples of the delays were felt throughout the morning. The passenger who caused such chaos, has been described as a “Doomsday preacher” quoting the Old Testament whilst the Guard who calmed the situation has received praise.
Speaking to the Guardian marketing consultant Ian O’Sullivan, reported the preacher was; “Quite well spoken and calm.” “He said: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to talk to you about something and that something is the word of the Lord, Jesus Christ. He’s here to heal your sins. The Bible tells you that homosexuality is a sin and sex before marriage is a sin. You need to repent’.”
Other passengers said the man referred to “doomsday” and the afterlife. And people began started pushing and shoving “It suddenly became a Chinese whisper and [there was] panic,” he said. “It was quite a full train, but the area around him was suddenly quite empty.”
It was at this point that some passengers, prised open the doors and went on to the tracks causing the power shut dow and ensuing delays.
O’Sullivan continued; “We could hear a woman [outside] saying there’s a man and he’s going to kill everybody,” he said. “But everybody in the carriage said he never said that.”
An on-board Guard on arriving at the carriage, searched the man, and finding nothing but a flask and books. On finally arriving at Wimbledon station, British Transport Police officers questioned the man, but he was not arrested.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union ( @RMTunion ), which is currently balloting South Western Railway members on whether to strike in a dispute over guards on trains, also praised the guard’s response.
The union’s general secretary, Mick Cash, said: “Panic could have broken out but for the guard’s calm and measured response. This was a packed passenger train at the height of the rush hour. It illustrates just why RMT members are fighting so hard to keep the guard on South Western Railway services.”
Editor's View: Clearly an overreaction from passengers, but perhaps an understandable one considering the now regular wave of terrorist incidents aimed at transport, this unfortunate event does highlight the importance of a guard on-board for these kind of situations. Well done to the guard and the British Transport Police for their measured and reassuring response.
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