Discussing railway training with Grant McNab, Business Development Manager of Stobart Rail, has unforeseen consequences, Paul Curtis reports.
One cold morning in Cumbria I watched, shocked as a Pendolino sped past just three metres away. What shocked me most was the absolute silence before the train arrived and then the noise once it was upon us. It brings home to you the absolute importance of railway safety for all staff who have to go lineside.
Stobart Rail runs PTS, Lookout, IWA, COSS, Protection Controller & Engineering Supervisor courses. Grant McNab read about the Training Focus and suggested I come and do my PTS Course with Stobart Rail. This means when they are working on rail projects I could come along and report on them and inform the rest of the industry.
A few months later I was peeing into a bottle, hopping on one leg, reading an optician’s chart with a patch over one eye and listening to noises in both ears in a sound proof box at Healthcare Connections.
Here I was being tested to see if I was physically able to work on the railway. Claire Bainbridge, the training course administrator, organised my medical at a site convenient to me in Birmingham.
On my first morning with Stobart Rail near Carlisle I was greeted by George Jarvis, course tutor and a railwayman, man and boy. George shared his 34 years experience with me and my fellow trainees over the two days with passion and enthusiasm.
It was first suggested to me when I joined the rail industry four years ago that I was now part of a family. George made me and my colleagues on the course understand that we were embarking on a journey that may mean we are passing on our knowledge in 35 years time.
George explained the Sentinel Scheme and what it was like going on the railway today. He taught us what to do when walking and working in a group on or near the line. He instructed us how to communicate clearly and what to do in an emergency.
We were shown Safety 365 videos by Network Rail and there was plenty of time for questions and discussion.
The next day we got to make an emergency call as if we were using the emergency telephones to the signalman. Then we were taken to get our high visibility orange clothes, boots and blue hat before we were taken to a siding on the West Coast Main Line.
When we arrived at the site our COSS, Kevin Tinkler, gave us our first COSS briefing. Jeff Broadhurst acted as the Site Warden, whilst George, our trainer, acted as a regular worker. Once the PTS cards had been shown to Kevin he took us through the safety of the site and then prepared to take us lineside.
Nothing in my life could prepare me for watching a Virgin Pendolino from one mile away arrive upon us within 29 seconds. We were just three metres away.
What shocked me the most, and remains my abiding memory of that minute, was the absolute silence before the train arrived and the noise once it was upon us. I’ve been on a platform at Rugby station when one has gone through but being at ground level makes them seem ten times bigger.
After the experience with the West Coast Main Line we went off to the Plant Training Department where all manner of road rail vehicles were moving around with warning sirens flashing and audible warning signs going. Here we practiced walking across a Third Rail site and placed three detonators on a track 20 metres apart.
After the practical we made our way back to the training division where we sat the test. I haven’t taken an exam in years so I was hoping that I would remember everything from my Network Rail Guide to Personal Track Safety.
Forty minutes later I was informed I had passed the test with flying colours and after a company induction I would be a PTS Certified worker.
I would like to thank Claire, Grant, George, Jeff, Andy and Kirk for making this happen and I hope to see some of my fellow trainees out on a Stobart Rail possession some night or weekend where I will be able to now report on the work taking place.