As you may know, I’m a commuter. Every day I travel to London with Southeastern trains, who I think it’s safe to say are not the most popular or reliable train operator. Trains get delayed for all sorts of reasons, from extreme weather conditions to signal failures, drivers being unavailable or, occasionally, because there’s been a tragic accident.
Southeastern commuters are used to these delays, and the reasons behind them, and we don’t really have any choice but to put up with them (whilst taking to Twitter to have a good moan about the complete lack of communication for which the company are infamous).
But every once in a while you get something new. Like yesterday, when trains were delayed all day, from the early hours of the morning until about 8pm – because of a man in a tree.
The man in question was a burglary suspect, who ran away from police in Charlton, South East London, and to get away from them, climbed up a tree. (That in itself seems slightly illogical to me; I’d probably have kept running, but then I’m not a burglar so what do I know.) Unfortunately the tree was hanging over the railway line, which meant all trains on that line had to be stopped. The man then refused to come down for 17 hours, despite the combined efforts of British Transport Police, Met Police, the London Fire Brigade, Network Rail and Southeastern, and the consternation of everyone following the story, wondering how it’s possible that it could take so long to get a man down from a tree.
Here he is:
— News Shopper (@NewsShopper) August 13, 2014
I was lucky; I don’t live along that line and the delays to my journeys in both directions weren’t too bad. I do feel sorry for people who were severely delayed by the situation, and I understand why they were so annoyed (although I also think that suggestions like ‘burn the tree down’ were unhelpful and fairly counterproductive). I also think Southeastern could have handled it a lot better – by the evening rush hour there were still no announcements to let us know what was happening, and let’s not even mention the missed PR opportunities. But then that’s nothing new. Earlier this year, Southeastern came bottom in a poll of the UK’s train companies, and then tried to blame it on us, saying it was because we hate our jobs. Because that makes perfect sense.
But come on, how often do we get to say we were late to work because of a man in a tree? At least it’s more original than ‘leaves on the line’.