Train bosses take steps to avoid repeat of winter Lewisham train chaos

Train bosses have announced plans to ensurethere is no repeat of the chaotic scenes that emergedatLewisham station during the winter's freezing weather.

Southeastern and Network Rail have said the events in March, which ended with a flock of passengers fleeing over tracks and halting other trains, were "unacceptable" and "regrettable".

Theiraction plan follows an independent report into Lewisham train disruption in March, when heavy snow, ice and freezing temperatures meant some trains were stranded near Lewisham station, forcing passengers to climb down onto the tracks.

A series of recommendations have been made for improvements to command and control arrangements, asbosses said industry procedures for stranded trains need revisiting to avoid a similar incident in the future.

A spokesman said: "While railway staff worked hard to get an unprecedented situation under control, the independent investigators identify lessons to be learned in managing disruption and ensuring the wellbeing of passengers.

"In particular, the report provides recommendations in co-ordinating communications between different organisations, and in sharing information more effectively with those on trains."

In a joint statement, David Statham, Managing Director of Southeastern, and John Halsall, Network Rail’s South East Route Managing Director, said: “Winter weather conditions in 2018 were the most challenging we’ve seen in the south east for more than a decade. Unfortunately this led to a very serious incident in Lewisham, and we’re determined to learn from what happened.

Emergency workers at Lewisham station on Friday (PA)

“We sincerely apologise to passengers for what was an unpleasant and distressing experience. Our staff worked exceptionally hard in extremely difficult circumstances, but the number of trains involved in this incident made it difficult to co-ordinate a response.

“Both Southeastern and Network Rail are taking steps to minimise the possibility of this happening again."

Rail engineers and emergency workers at Lewisham station(PA)

“We would like to emphasise that the safest option for passengers is to remain on board and await help, even in the exceptionally unusual scenario of a train getting stuck between stations."

The incident on March 2 was described as madness, as impatient passengers waited for workers to clear the third rail of ice "metres away" from the platform at Lewisham station. There reports of fights breaking out in a one carriage and many took to social media to complain. "Three-and-a-half hours now. No toilet, heating or lights", described one tweeter, who dubbed the whole affair "#Trainmageddon".

Operators pledge to make improvements

Improvements will include training for 3,500 staff, involving scenario simulation of major incidents to ensure staff are well-rehearsed on emergency procedures.

Network Rail is also looking into the expansion of conductor rail heating near key locations, such as Lewisham.

A trial of a more effective anti-icer on Network Rail's fleet of snow and ice treatment trains, and Southeastern is exploring the use of ice-breaker shoes on some passenger trains.

There is also research into extending train battery life so systems stay online when the third rail is unavailable, as well as improvements to communications and customer information systems.

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