Wednesday, 12 April 2017

So close!

Having had some success with the British Transport Police recently, where despite being in the Hope Valley and having to contend with tunnels and valleys, managed to get a message to the BTP who attended with just 15 minutes' notice and removed three fare evaders from my train.

This time, I thought I'd see if I could have a second 'textbook' removal of fare evaders on my train.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of 'those guards' who go looking for confrontation and seemingly thrive from antagonising people by being a typical jobsworth when the obvious thing to do it show discretion. In my relatively short time on the railway, and working trains in rural areas of Lincolnshire and the East Midlands, I'm all too aware that having the BTP attend my train is nigh on impossible. I once called them regarding youths congregating at Boston and causing a nuisance to the passengers leaving my train. The nearest police officer who could attend was "80 miles away", so I hoped that, at best, my call would be part of a larger picture, in building up a case against these anti-social youths at Boston, where eventually, action could be taken.

Yet last week I was still riding high from my textbook Sheffield event.

I was working a train from Skegness to Nottingham formed of a 156 and a 153, so three coaches in total. On departure from Grantham the 153 was leading. A large group of a dozen or so men in their early 20s boarded, as well as lots of others, keen to have a day's shopping in Nottingham. It was a Saturday and Nottingham Forest was playing at home so there was likely to be a decent BTP presence on Nottingham station.

I was in the process of checking tickets of those who'd boarded at Grantham and moved into the front coach, the 153. The large group of lads was at the very front and as I made my way towards them, checking others' tickets, I was mindful that three of the 'party' separately made their way past me, likely on a mission to visit the loo.

At the front I now issued tickets to the lads - a GroupSave 4 and a GroupSave 5 to nine people in total. I was going to get into a polite debate about the other three who'd walked past me but we were slowing for Aslockton station. I remained at the front and worked the doors. We were 1 minute early and while we were waiting, I stepped back onto the train and looked down the aisle only to see the three toilet-goers sneaking their way back towards the front. They saw I was watching them and all ran off back into the loo at the front of the 156. Their friends who'd paid saw this and looked at me for a response. I said they could come back and sit down but they'd have to pay like everyone else.

We departed from Aslockton and the nine lads at the front had no idea about any other people travelling with them when I questioned them. So, with there being a likely high presence of BTP on Nottingham station, and this being the location of said group of lads, I left it there and headed to the back cab to make the phone call. I even resisted forcing the toilet door open in the 156 where there was more than one person inside!

The call to BTP was very similar to all my others. I made the location of the group very clear - the front of the first coach - and that out arrival time was likely to be punctual.

Five minutes before Nottingham, I packed my things up from the back cab and walked to the rear cab of the 153 (the leading coach). I closed the gangway doors, so that those in the front coach couldn't move to any other coach. I used the 'spy hole' in the rear door to ascertain precisely how many lads there were in the group at the front. There were categorically 12, and I'd issued tickets to nine.

Hoping the BTP were on Platform 2 at Nottingham awaiting our arrival, my plan was to release the rear door of the 153 using the 'gas key' (as it's almost certainly no longer called) and to close it behind me and then escort the Police to the front of that coach and to let them on before the lads had a chance to leave and disperse into the ether. I'd have to be quick as I had a three-coach train full of people wanting to get off and a lengthy delay in the doors opening could result in passengers pulling an egress handle.

Anyway, as we approached the platform I stuck my head out of the window and saw no BTP officer(s) at all. Nothing. I kept my head out of the window until around 5 seconds before we came to a stand. "Oh well," I thought, "some you win, some you lose!" and I released the doors allowing everyone to leave.

Back in the mess room my driver said to me: "Do you know there was a BTP officer waiting for our train to arrive?" Now that threw me! He said the officer was stood against the railings behind the buffer stop, so square on to the train meaning there was no way I could have seen him. As I released the doors he said to the driver that he was going to walk to the back to have a word with me and then walked down the wrong side of the train to that which the doors were released. Platform 2 is a one-bay platform and the doors can theoretically be released on any side, but since the 2013 Nottingham Resignalling Project, doors are opened on the 1C side, not the 3C side and it was down the latter the BTP officer walked to meet me at the back of the train, when I was at the front of the leading coach.

In my defence, I'd made it very clear that the problem was in the front coach. I had to call the BTP to explain - mindful not to apportion blame, as tempting as it might be - and to clarify why me and the officer had seemingly missed each other. This was added to the log and I've heard no more about it.

Very frustrating and the company was £27 down in total.

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