Fire on one railway

On the 08:09 service from Ipswich to Norwich this morning I was lucky enough to experience a fire in the carriage I was sitting in.

Just North of Diss (the penultimate stop) I noticed smoke leaking from a vent in the middle of the carriage. A brief nod and the words ‘is that smoke?’ from a fellow passenger prompted me to bound up the train (I was in the carriage next to the buffet car – [in Norfolk dialect the buffy car]) to summon the guard who was part way through a tabloid in his guard’s office. The pair of us trawled through the carriages, hampered by the slow retracting doors and arrived back to find every passenger still sat there amongst what was now thick noxious smoke. He evacuated the carriage – to the adjacent one – and proceeded to attempt to turn something off. Within 5 minutes we were in Norwich and a fellow passenger indicated to me that the carriage was now ‘foggy’, it was more than that, it was filled with smoke so much so that you couldn’t see the other end of it.

I find it incredible that one continue to operate this ageing rolling stock and that such basic procedures such as a carriage fire are dealt with in a seemingly ad-hoc way. As Virgin roll-out their Pendolino trains across their service (though they do have their problems ), we’re stuck with their cast-offs. Back in the early part of the year, with the new livery being phased in, we were told to expect refurbished trains on the inter city line. This morning, a small fire could have gutted one of the carriages for them. Once it got to Norwich they should have shunted it to one side and let it burn.

What’s even more disturbing though is the passenger apathy. Anyone would think a fire to be a serious event. Not so the seasoned commuter, so used to train failures and train company ineptitude it’s now classed as all part of the experience. For my £200+ per month I’d expect more too but I’m not prepared to inhale smoke for 20 minutes just because it’s not worth making a fuss over.

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