There are over 100 incident of persons falling
or jumping under trains each year on the London Underground. The person often
doesn't survive the experience or ends up badly injured. A few are very lucky and
survive with a few cuts and bruises. In this article, District Dave writes about the
effects of such incidents, known as "One Unders".
A One Under is the term used by London
Underground staff to describe the unfortunate situation of a person under a train. This
situation arises for a number of reasons, some are deliberate acts but many arise
accidentally. But sadly in many cases the result is a fatality, after all the human body
is not designed to cope with the trauma of the best part of two hundred tons of train
hitting it at a speed of 30 mph.
Im pleased to say that (so far) Ive not had a One
Under myself. Ive had a near miss which is described in the Disjointed
Jottings page - but there have been three such incidents affecting the District Line in
only the last three weeks and I was involved in the resulting delays and disruptions.
I certainly dont intend going into the details of the individual incidents,
though it will be necessary to try (as best as I can) to explain how the incidents
Notting Hill Gate
The first incident occurred at Notting Hill Gate on the Inner
Rail. From a drivers point of view the approach to this station is both
unsighted until quite close to the station and, as with most platforms, the train is
arriving at about 30 mph. It was late in the evening, just before midnight, when a
young man whod been out for the evening with his mates decided that he needed to
relieve himself of some of the excess liquid hed consumed during the evening but,
rather than find a toilet he decided to go down the ramp at the end of the platform for
the purpose. Unfortunately for him a train was approaching. The driver saw him and,
quite correctly, applied the emergency brake.
It appears that the front of the train missed the individual
but the driver stopped the train about half into the platform, got out and walked back
with the intention of taking the individual to task. It was then that it became apparent
that the young man had been hit by the train and dragged down between the train and the
platform. The procedures in place to address this all to frequent situation came into
operation (Ill describe these more fully later) and it was at this point that I
became aware that something was wrong.
The duty I was doing on this evening meant that I was
bringing the last train from Olympia down to Earls Court and then to High Street
Kensington. Id left Olympia on time at 23:50, had departed Earls Court and was
just approaching Platform 3 at High Street Kensington. Id checked the speed of
the train down to ensure the speed-controlled trainstop had dropped and was coasting into
the platform. This is an uphill approach, so I moved the CTBC to a motoring position but
At this point there had been no radio calls, so I thought I
had a defect of some description. I started going through my checks, having
apologised over the PA to the passengers on the train, but quickly realised that the
problem was not with the train but that the Traction Current had been turned off
underneath me. Fortunately Id got the first two cars into the platform. I
couldnt get a reply from the Controller, so I resorted to blowing the train whistle
to summon assistance from Station Staff.
A young Station Assistant appeared quickly and told me
theyd just been informed of the emergency and confirmed that the juice
had indeed been switched off. So, Ive got a train only about a third into the
platform, with passengers on board and I cant open the doors in the normal way.
So I need to get them off by walking them to the front of the train and opening one
door on the front car by the butterfly cock provided for this purpose if possible.
Alternatively Id be able to bring them through the cab.
I made a PA advising of what had occurred and requested they
start making their way towards the front of the train using the emergency doors between
the cars. I could now see Id in fact got enough of the train into the platform
that I could in fact butterfly the doors on two cars. The SA and I walked through
the train and made sure everyone got off and, understandably, being asked questions along
the way. Most passengers were understanding of the situation but a few (and
Ill come back to this point later!) were very aggressive and couldnt
understand why the train service had been stopped. Im afraid at this point I
did get a little impatient and I had to draw a rather graphic and gruesome word picture
By now its about 00:10. I should be on my way
back to Ealing Broadway on my last trip and then stabling the train in Ealing Common Depot
but of course Im not going to be moving until the juice is back on.
The Station Supervisor then appears and reiterates the situation. Firstly I
make a point of commending his young SA (who I find out has only been on the job a couple
of weeks) for his help and calm assistance and then (in true railway style) enquire if
hes got a kettle as I might as well make a coffee to pass the time.
The Supervisors office is on the platforms at High
Street Kensington, so we head off down there. Hes got a hand held train radio,
so I can hear the chat going on and give an ear to developments. At about 00:30 I
decide to go back down to my train. I get back in the cab and wait. By this
time the air pressure in the reservoirs has been gradually leaking away, so I know that
when the current is restored Ill have to wait for that to recharge before Im
able to move the train.
At about 00:45 the current comes back on - the Alternators
start up, the compressors start working and the lights come back on. As pressure
builds up I can hear the various safety devices cutting back in, so I select Slow
Speed on the TMS (Im subject to a three minute delay before Full Speed can be
used - the train reacts in the same way as if its been tripped) and
bring the train fully into the platform. Now I can shut the train down and change ends
ready to start my delayed trip to Ealing Broadway.
As I start walking down the platform, Im quite
surprised to see the signal clear for me to depart, so I open up the train and immediately
head off towards Earls Court. On arrival I find that theres been no trains
westbound for quite a while, despite the fact that the current has been on all the time.
Apparently theres been a shut down at South Kensington caused by
a disgruntled (and drunk) Circle Line passenger whos decided to start a fight with
station staff because he cant get to his desired destination, so thats caused
even more delays to the service.
I eventually arrive in Ealing Common Depot about forty-five
minutes late which, in all the circumstances, wasnt too bad. Im sorry to have
to relate though that the young man who was the victim of the one under was
fatally injured. I believe he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Another accidental death occurred only a couple of days later
in the Plaistow area. I wasnt working on this occasion, but will relate the
outline of what occurred. The Metropolitan Police had been called to a house which
backs onto the railway by concerned neighbours who believed it was being used for the
purpose of illegal drugs. The Police raided the house but one of the occupants
decided to try to escape by vaulting the fence at the bottom of the garden and escaping
via the railway. Unfortunately for him one of our trains was approaching at full speed and
he was hit and I understand killed instantly.
Again, the emergency procedures all came into action to deal
with the occurrence but it was more complicated on this occasion as the Police also had to
deal with what had occurred as a scene of crime. I believe the resulting delay was
in excess of two hours and, as you can imagine, decimated the service.
The final incident I relate occurred towards the end of the
evening peak one day earlier in June. Id had a pretty typical eastbound trip
but, as is normal at that time of day, was running probably two or three minutes late.
I had departed from Barking sidings a couple of minutes after my booked time of
1814, so was a little surprised when I was held in the platform for three or four minutes.
I could see that there was a Hammersmith and City Line train in the bay platform, but his
doors were still open.
Eventually the signal cleared and I moved off towards East
Ham. I noticed the H & C train moved off too but I was given the route and had a
clear run through to East Ham. On arrival there, the Station Starter signal remained
at danger - most unusual as I knew no trains wouldve passed through there for
several minutes and there was no train in the section ahead. However, I could see
one in the platform ahead at Upton Park.
Nothing had come over the radio to indicate all was not well
at that point, but radio reception at East Ham isnt great. I try to call the
Controller but cant get a channel to open. At this point, an SA arrives and
tells me theres a one under at Stepney Green and the service is
suspended between Bromley-by-Bow and Whitechapel. At the same time, the Central
Public Address system comes to life with the same information being broadcast to
passengers. I make a PA telling the passengers again that given whats occurred
its unlikely that the train will be moving for some considerable time and suggesting
that they find alternative methods of travel.
Eventually, the Autophone next to my cab rings.
Its the Signaller at Barking to say that hes going to clear the signal
and that Im to move up to Upton Park,but to remain there irrespective of what signal
is displayed until he tells me its OK to leave. So after about twenty minutes
at East Ham we depart - Ive warned the passengers that its only to the next
station and that the process will repeat again there. Again Im doing PAs
telling that Ive no idea how long well be remaining at Upton Park and as I
have to walk the length of the platform to use the Autophone Im answering the same
questions. I wonder if theyve been listening to the announcements by me, the
Central PA and the Station Staff. Im held at Upton Park for about thirty-five
minutes until the Signaller gives me the OK to move up to Plaistow but that again the
process will be repeated there.
Ive only been at Plaistow about five minutes when the
word comes over the radio that the situation has been resolved and that service is resumed
but that trains are to non-stop Stepney Green. I speak to the Signaller who confirms
its OK to depart and to then obey all further signals but that, of course, the trip
may be slower than normal. That proves to be an understatement, but things improve
once west of Whitechapel.
The radio is, of course, now very busy as the Controller
starts to recover the service. Trains are being re-routed, turned short, reformed
and all the other choices he has at his disposal. Im due to go to Wimbledon
and then back as far as Earls Court for my meal break. But theres no
instructions for me. It occurs to me that Im going to get to Earls Court
westbound at about the time I should be getting back there eastbound and that maybe
theyre going to take me off at about my booked time and reform the train or short
trip it later.
At Earls Court theres no sign of any relief for me, so
I continue down to Wimbledon. A quick change of ends and departing straight away
makes up a few minutes of the time Ive lost but this comes to no avail as all the
problems have now caused huge congestion around Earls Court and I get there over an hour
and ten minutes late. By now I'm over my four hours fifteen minutes maximum driving
Theres a DMT on the platform just trying to keep the
service running and of course then has to find a relief for me. I take my belated
meal break and go back to the DMTs office where Im told to reform another
train into my second half. Of course I should have picked this up well
over an hour previously and Im meant to do Richmond, Upminster, Ealing Broadway and
then stable. If this were to happen then Id not be stabling until well after
01:30. The train I pick us is showing a Wimbledon destination and its
confirmed that it is still to go there.
I depart Wimbledon at 22:17 - an hour and five minutes after
I should have left Richmond. But, as I come up from Wimbledon, the trains
being described as a High Street Kensington service. Now, I know Im late but
not THAT late - unless of course its going to be stabled early, so I call the
Controller from the phone at Putney Bridge. He confirms that the description is
wrong and tells me to reverse at Plaistow. The rest of the trips uneventful.
A quick change of ends at Plaistow and Im now back to being about fifteen
minutes late. A bit more time is recovered heading back and I finally stable twelve
As for the victim of the incident, I dont know whether
it was an attempted suicide or an accident but I believe it was not fatal, albeit that the
person was seriously injured. So, there we have it - three incidents, all possibly
accidental, two fatalities and three drivers (and not to mention any other staff and
passengers who may have witnessed the events) at least badly shocked and who may be absent
from work for quite a period of time. Some drivers cope quite well, but some will
never drive a train again.
I mentioned earlier that there are a number of prescribed
steps in dealing with such occurrences. The first is of course that the driver must advise
whats occurred and the normal method is a Mayday call over the radio.
Next the current must be discharged - this can either be done by the Line
Controller or by the driver using (in a tunnel station) the equipment provided for the
purpose. The driver will also lay Short Circuiting Devices (SCDs) to prevent it
The Controller will call the Emergency Services and get our
Emergency Response Unit (ERU) to attend. The Station Staff will assist in evacuating the
train and probably the whole station - or at least shut the affected platforms down.
Once all the initial steps have been taken the service has to be adjusted to try to
keep it running as best as possible as Ive tried to describe above.
The Controller may have put out one of two code messages to
trains - Code Red or Code Amber. The former means STOP wherever you are,
the latter means Proceed as far as you can and remain in platforms wherever
possible. The ERU are, in my opinion, often the heroes of these incidents.
They will often be involved in recovering the victims - maybe having to jack up
trains to free the victims and generally to assist the Ambulance crews and doctors should
they attend. Once the victim is removed they then have to clean up the site. Not a
job I think I could do.
Of course, others will attend too, such as the mobile duty
DMT. Recently a system has been introduced to look after the needs of the driver
whos been involved and a representative of this Trauma Support team may also attend
to support the driver and look after his situation.
Of course most passengers understand that following such an
incident there is going to be delay and disruption, but the number who seem to have no
concern beyond their own self-interest and the delay they are suffering frankly astounds
me. Many seem to think its been done on purpose to delay them - I even had one
say to me why cant the trains run? Im afraid I was rather
short and replied, What are we supposed to do? Run through over the remains and
staff can deal with the person between trains? - I think he took my point!
The number who get aggressive and violent is quite
unbelievable - though this tends to be late at night when alcohol is taking its toll.
So, if you do get caught up in such a delay, please remember that there is a person
at least seriously injured and probably dead under a train somewhere, that theres a
driver who is deeply shocked and others who have to deal with the aftermath of the
incident. We do what we can to deal with such incidents as quickly as possible, but
there will be delays and these may well last for hours after the actual incident has been