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From headset to hard hat

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The RailStaff Awards is expanding year on year attracting more nominations, more interest and an ever growing stream of railway staff, friends and families to the event itself, all eager to celebrate the good fortune of being involved in this unique and dynamic industry.

It is a big night and a great chance to raise a glass or two to the 1000s of men and women who work on the railways often going far beyond the parameters of the traditional job description. The winners feature up on stage, in the local press and are rightly lauded by staff and bosses alike.

However it is only right to draw attention to the many runners up. Often these heroes have unique stories to tell, stories of lives saved, people helped and the railway made better and safer as a result.

The RailStaff Awards 2014 promises to be bigger and better than ever before. Like RailStaff the whole idea of the RailStaff Awards exists to serve the people at the sharp end, the track worker out in the rain, the cleaner walking to work at four in the morning, the guard, the cop, the driver, the information adviser on the phone, the helmeted engineer and surveyor.

In keeping with RailStaff’s readership base over the next few issues we take a look at a few of the runners up at last year’s awards. Whether you wear a headset or a hard hat the RailStaff Awards is for you.

Lifesaving Police Team

A team of Cardiff-based BTP officers were runners up in the Special Lifesaver Award. Their actions prevented a fatality and underscored a network- wide initiative to try and reduce railway suicides.

The Special Lifesaver Award, backed by the Samaritans, aims to recognise the pre-emptive actions of station staff, train crew, track workers and everyone involved in railways who, by timely intervention, prevented a potential fatality.

Prompt action by five Cardiff-based BTP officers, PCs Chris Jones, Kirk Taylor and Clive Ellaway, along with PCSOs Kumar Hirani and Guy Davies, prevented a disturbed man from taking his own life.

Police received a call from Whitchurch Hospital staying that a patient had just left the hospital in an agitated state and was going to Llanishen station to throw himself under a train. The station is quite busy and is on the Rhymney Line of the Valley Lines network in South Wales near Cardiff.

The five officers sped to the station. When they arrived they saw a man walking along the lines approximately 300 metres from the platforms. Although police control requested that all rail movements be halted, two trains were too near the station and could not be stopped at signals.

The man stood between the running lines in front of one of the trains.

The train driver had not seen him. However the officers reached the man and pulled him to safety with seconds to spare. He was returned to Whitchurch Mental Health Unit.

Says colleague David Carter, ‘The actions of the officers undoubtedly prevented this man from taking his own life and, as a result, prevented the trauma of being involved in a fatality to the train driver, conductor and passengers.’

‘The British Transport Police are real heroes,’ says RailStaff editor, Andy Milne. ‘The lives they’ve saved and protected are incalculable.’

The presence of a BTP officer on a station remains an enduring testimony to a railway that is safe and comfortable. Few recognise the hard work that goes in to policing Britain’s railways or the debt owed to former officers over a span of 180 years.

Driver Saved Child’s Life

The Train Driver of the Year is synonymous with the RailStaff Awards. Explain to a member of the public what the RailStaff Awards are all about and they’ll often say, ‘Oh right, you mean Train Driver of the Year?’ That’s exactly what we do mean.

Train drivers have a special set of skills, able to work alone, take serious decisions with minimum fuss. They do not suffer fools gladly. Every day drivers pilot 1000s of trains and passengers in safety and comfort; passengers who are largely unaware of the ceaseless vigilance and professionalism of these exceptional men and women.

Among the most vigilant is London Underground driver, Gary Dobkin, who saved a child’s life. Driving his train on an open section of the District line, Gary spotted a child on the track ahead.

He was able to stop in time and alert the Line Controller and have the train stopped in the opposite direction.

With power off Gary climbed out of his cab and went to the child. The ten year old seemed unresponsive and lost. Gary took the uninjured child to safety. It later emerged that the boy was autistic and had wandered onto the track.

Says colleague, Margaret Waite, ‘Gary was able to get the child onto his train without injury by coaxing and assisting him onto the train. He arranged for the child to be met by station staff at the next station.’ The child was later reunited with his parents. Mum and Dad were so grateful for what Gary had done that they insisted on meeting him to thank him in person.

The majority of the London Underground is in fact an above ground railway running through densely populated suburbs. Gary Dobkin was later awarded a gold ‘Make a Difference’ TfL award for his actions that day and was a runner up in the 2013 Train Driver of the Year.


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