Last Friday on Merseyside – on the 16.36hrs service from West Kirby to Liverpool, to be precise – a young boy became seriously ill after suffering a seizure.
If Merseyrail’s plans to remove guards from their trains to cut costs had already been implemented, his mother – who also had his little sister to look after – would have had no assistance available except the driver. Happily, those plans have not yet been put into action and are being resisted by the RMT union.
The train guard – who had help on this occasion from a driver who was transferring on the train to another station – was able to assist the mother in making the little boy comfortable, making sure he was able to breathe as well as possible and in looking after the boy’s sister.
The ambulance – another symptom of Tory cuts – took 45 minutes to arrive.
Eyewitnesses described the events to the SKWAWKBOX:
We were on a six-car train on way back from West Kirby. A passenger went to find the guard and told him the little lad wasn’t well. As you’d imagine, the mum was very distressed at the lad having a seizure.
I’ve got kids, so you know when they’re not well – his face had gone blue and grey, he wasn’t breathing well. It was cold so he was all bundled up – he undid all his buttons and put him in the recovery position. Then he rubbed his back and kept checking on him – there was a 45-minute wait for the ambulance.
If this had been driver-only train? Well, the little lad was in the last carriage – there would have been nobody for passenger to go to in the carriages. All that makes extra time before he’d be getting any help.
When the lad came round, the ambulance crew asked the guard not to move him so they had to make him comfortable. He let him watch Peppa Pig on their phones, gave his little sister food out of his bag so she was happy. The mum was in a state, as you’d imagine – but once everything was in hand she was very grateful.
In the end, we were stopped for almost an hour.
A train driver from another affected company spoke to the SKWAWKBOX on condition of anonymity to give his perspective on such incidents:
For starters the driver’s going to be busy dealing with signalmen, if the train’s moving he’s going to have to bring it safely to a stop, make sure the signalmen are aware so everyone’s safe. These things can happen at any time across eighteen or more hours of operation and the safety of the train and all the passengers has to come first.
And these things do happen, frequently. We regularly get passengers taking ill, people on the line trying to commit suicide, other types of incident.
The driver and guard are a team and we work together – most drivers have been guards and work their way up. If I’d been the driver that day and we’d had no guard on board, it would have been a nightmare.
I dread the thought of having to deal with something like that on my own.
Passengers dread the thought too, with the vast majority of Merseyside rail travellers and those affected in other areas around the country wanting to keep guards on trains for passenger safety.
The only people who want to remove the guards are the rail companies looking to increase already substantial profits – even though they have admitted ‘DOO’ has higher risks.
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