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Opinion : One small fire and Marylebone station came to a standstill

| June 17, 2014


Over the past few days yours truly has been following the developments in the Marylebone signal fire saga.

Thankfully things have been put right now and trains are once again running into Marylebone but while the disruption was on an awful lot of people were inconvenienced.

It’s at times like these that yours truly is thankful that my work is in Wycombe and I don’t have to brave the chaos endured by the poor commuters who had to make their way into the Metropolis last Monday to earn their living.

It seems unbelievable to me that a fire which affected just two metres, or six feet in proper measurement, of cabling could bring a Mainline London station like Marylebone to a standstill.

In the good old days, when things were done properly, signals were operated by metal cables, rods and other robust mechanisms. Today’s railway may be modern and full of newfangled contraptions powered by electricity but as we have seen one hiccup and the whole show comes to a grinding halt.

When the station was closed trains on the Wycombe line were terminating at West Ruislip, commuters were left to endure the long and slow journey into London on the Central Line.

The signals may have been broken in the tunnels on the approach to the station but surely the rest of them worked? Signals exist to prevent trains crashing into other trains but surely if only one train is on the tracks at any time the risk of collision is negated?

Marylebone’s platforms are a quarter of a mile long so why on earth could they not run one long, say 16 or 32 coach train, in or out of the station? If they could have only managed one train every half hour arriving in the morning and leaving in the evening it would be better than nothing.

Come to think of it why weare trains turning around at West Ruislip when Wembley Stadium was closer? Surely there are points at Wembley Stadium or Neasden Junction, where the Aylesbury line meets the Wycombe line, to allow trains to change tracks and return in the opposite direction?

The modern signalling system seems so complicated indeed there are a plethora of tall, grey cabinets beside the track all playing their part in controlling the safe movements of trains. Apparently as we saw over the past few days all it takes is for one box to fail, be vandalised or catch fire and the whole she-bang grinds to a halt.

But what was the cause of the recent fire? So far no details have been published indeed it would be interesting to know after all what is the likelihood of another fire occurring again resulting in similar chaos?

Thankfully the engineers have got the signals up and running again, however the events of the past day or so have shown the fragility of modern railway signals.

It’s dumbfounding that a small fire could wreak so much havoc for so many.

What do you think?

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