15 July 2008

Robin Sisson 1955 - 2008

Somehow the news that my friend and Assistant Editor of Today's Railway UK (TRUK), Robin Sisson, had been killed following a collision between himself and a car as he crossed the road some 300yds from the Platform 5 offices in Heeley, Sheffield, had passed me by until today when I read the news, ironically, in one of TRUK's rival publications - Rail.

I was first introduced to Robin during the summer of 2000 when I was studying for a management CPC at Sheffield University. Dr Robin Sisson, who never told me he had studied to such a level of education to be awarded this title - such was his lack of imposed self-congratulation - came to give an informal chat to we 'students' about the role of integrated transport systems and that the world did not necessarily revolve around buses.

Seven years passed and on 1 July I found myself sat in a ridiculously overcrowded first class carriage on a GNER Class 91 train from King's Cross. The journey took place at the height of the floods that took hold of great swathes of the country - the ECML appearing as if it had been built on stilts above great open expanses of water. I remember Robin immediately congratulating the on board team personally for the great work they were doing in such extreme circumstances. He even managed to quell a potentially nasty situation when passengers were becoming most vociferous about the overcrowding of the train. He told them in a very informed yet simplistic fashion that the route trains would normally take north of Doncaster was flooded and that the only alternative route was not electrified and thus only half GNER's fleet could travel to York and beyond.

We reminisced about our initial CPC meeting and swapped numbered and have remained in touch ever since. I regularly purchased TRUK - a publication he was employed to assist its transformation from a 'train spotter rag' to an informed transport publication: buy a copy yourself, I think you'll see he's done a superb job!

Robin was a keen cyclist and knew the lanes well in Lincolnshire - especially in the Witham St Hughs locality, which was where his mother lives. I remember quipping that hed grown up in Lincoln and yet had never heard of the LEYTR!

Robin was instrumental, nay solely responsible, for the opening of Frizinghall rail station, a location he fought for years to re-open and to this very day numerous pupils at the Bradford Grammar School where Robin taught English use the station. Right up to his untimely death Robin was the main "adopter" of the station under Northern Rail's adoption scheme.

I most enjoyed our chats about railway scheduling - something Robin was as fascinated with as I am with bus schedules; unlike my equivalent knowledge, Robin's knowledge of rail schedules included a full, unmitigated history of every single National Rail timetable in the land; for example he was able to quote, with ease and without hesitation, precisely why the departures on First Transpennine Express trains from Doncaster to Cleethorpes are at xx42 past each hour - with full historic reasoning.

We'd met a couple of times since July last year and communicated by email, phone and text message.

He was very eccentric - able to provide a Handel quote for any occasion. He was a great lover of wine and classical music. We downed three bottles of red on the relatively short 1:40 journey to Doncaster where I alighted. It is an absolute tragedy that this very witty, clever, knowledgeable, educated fellow transport enthusiast and editor, died in such an abrupt and unjustifiable manner. At least those of us who knew Robin have some comfort from the fact that the person who drove the car that collided with him has been arrested and interviewed.

He always reminded me of the actor, satirist and writer John Wells - one of the very first contributors to Private Eye. They had a similarity about them in both looks and wit.

Robin will be very sadly missed indeed.

His death was well covered in the local online press as listed below. My only criticism is that they quoted him as aged 51 when he was in fact two years senior:
The South Yorkshire Star
Telegraph & Argus
Yorkshire Post - an obituary by one of Robin's former students, Ben Moore